Today, once again, the people of New Jersey have given me the opportunity to serve. And I thank each and every citizen for that honor. And once again, I have taken an oath where I have sworn to promote the peace and prosperity of our great state and its citizens. It is an oath that I have lived by for the last four years. It is the oath I will live by for every day I am privileged to call myself your Governor.
The oath though, is just a symbol of the bond we have created with each other over the last four years.
We have endured the worst economic recession of our lifetimes and we have begun to triumph over it.
We have confronted entrenched interests and their endless stream of money that have previously stood in the way of fiscal sanity for our state, and educational excellence for our children. Together, we have pushed those interests back, and put our children’s future first.
We have survived the worst natural disaster in our state’s history and worked together to restore, renew and rebuild the state we love.
Each one of these challenges has been met by a new, unified force in public life – a New Jersey setting the tone for an entire nation. A tough New Jersey. A resilient New Jersey. A Proud New Jersey.
A New Jersey that has put aside political partisanship on the important issues to our people to take advantage of the opportunities each of these challenges has presented us with every day. A New Jersey that has brought pride to our people and leadership to our country.
Finally, this past November, New Jerseyans had the chance to decide if the bonds we have formed were strong enough to endure the heat of today’s political campaigns. Would our elections confirm that the change we said had arrived on this stage four years ago was truly beneficial for all of our citizens?
You see, elections are about more than TV ads and debates and rallies. Each vote cast is an act of faith and trust. Faith in the strength of the bonds we have built. Trust in the hope that tomorrow will bring a better job for us, a better education for our children and a better day for all of our citizens.
The people have definitively set the course for the next four years. They have affirmed the decision to take on the big problems. They have validated the idea that our answers to our problems must be bold. They have rewarded the principle that we must tell the truth about the depths of our challenges and the difficulty of real solutions.
And it wasn’t just some of our people who affirmed this course. It was not a vocal plurality like four years ago. No, this time, it was the largest and loudest voice of affirmation that the people of our state have given to any direction in three decades.
Suburbanites and city dwellers. African Americans and Latinos. Women and men. Doctors and teachers. Factory workers and tradesmen. Republicans and Democrats and Independents.
Together, they have demanded that we stay the course they have helped set. To stand up for what is right. To fight the fights worth fighting. And, most of all, to work together to make government work for each and every one of those voices of affirmation.
You see, the people of this state know that the only way forward is if we are all willing to take on what is politically unpopular. If we are all willing to share in the sacrifice. If we are all willing to be in this together.
We have no moral option but to heed the voice of the voters and that is exactly what I intend to do.
Today, I thank all those who have once again placed their faith and trust in me and I make this promise: I will not let up, I will insist we work together and I will make this government truly work for those who pay for it.
I do not believe that New Jerseyans want a bigger, more expensive government that penalizes success and then gives the pittance left to a few in the name of income equity. What New Jerseyans want is an unfettered opportunity to succeed in the way they define success. They want an equal chance at the starting; not a government guaranteed result.
Why? Because through hard work, and being rewarded for hard work, they know they are part of their own success.
We should make sure that government pursues policies that believe in the effort, talent and optimism of New Jerseyans, not in the power of almighty government to fix any problem, real or imagined.
Let’s be different than our neighbors. Let’s put more money in the pockets of our middle class by not taking it out of their pockets in the first place.
One of the lessons that I have learned most acutely over the last four years is that New Jersey can really be one state. This election has taught us that the ways we divide each other – by race, by class, by ethnicity, by wealth, by political party is neither permanent nor necessary. Our dreams are the same: a good job, a great education for our children, safe streets in our neighborhood and core values which give our lives real meaning. Those dreams are not unique to any one group in our state.
And, while government has a role in ensuring the opportunity to accomplish these dreams, we have now learned that we have an even bigger role to play as individual citizens. We have to be willing to play outside the red and blue boxes the media and pundits put us in; we have to be willing to reach out to others who look or speak differently than us; we have to be willing to personally reach out a helping hand to a neighbor suffering from drug addiction, depression or the dignity stripping loss of a job. New Jersey came together as one community when it mattered most and now we must stay together – people of every background and belief – the government and our people – to help our fellow citizens reach their dreams.
There are times when we need to get along and get things done. Because as Pastor Joe Carter said this morning at the New Hope Baptist Church, all of us “may be one ‘yes’ away from our miracle.” That is true for each of us as individuals, for our state, and for our nation.
For the fact is that every one of God’s creations has value. Every person, no matter what challenge they are facing, must believe that they have inside of them all of the God given ability needed to be happy. They will not believe that if all they hear is that life is unfair and that only government can fix that unfairness. They must first believe that self-worth comes from inside each of us. Government cannot solve every one of these problems – government can only be one part of that solution. The unity our people have felt in the last year as we have confronted tragedy and challenge must be a unity we build on to give every person a chance to reach their dreams.
Those dreams begin with a growing economy. This growth will not happen by following the path that some of our neighbors seem prepared to pursue. For those who prefer economic growth and opportunity to government redistribution and higher taxes, I say this: come to New Jersey. You will be welcome here.
In addition to a growing economy, here is how our government will lead the effort to create opportunity in New Jersey.
We will make it our priority to have every child in New Jersey have a chance to get a good education. No matter what adult we have to offend, no matter where you came from, no matter what sacred cow we must slay, no matter how much we have to change the conventional thinking, we will not stand for the achievement gap which exists between our best and least educated children.
We will end the failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse. We will make drug treatment available to as many of our non-violent offenders as we can and we will partner with our citizens to create a society that understands that every life has value and no life is disposable.
We will fight to continue to change government so that we value our differences and honor the strength of our diversity. We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, DC. The attitude that says I am always right and you are always wrong. The attitude that puts everyone into a box they are not permitted to leave. The attitude that puts political wins ahead of policy agreements. The belief that compromise is a dirty word. As we saw in December regarding the DREAM Act, we can put the future of our state ahead of the partisans who would rather demonize than compromise. As your Governor, I will always be willing to listen, as long as that listening ends in decisive action for the people counting on us.
In the end, I have had no greater honor in my life than having twice been elected by my fellow citizens to be the Governor of the state where I was born and raised. With that honor comes solemn obligations – to make the hard decisions, to raise the uncomfortable topics, to require responsibility and accountability, to be willing to stand hard when principles are being violated and to be willing to compromise to find common ground with all of our people. To work every day, night and day – to make New Jersey all it can be. In short, to be the Governor.
My fellow New Jerseyans, we started this journey together in a dark and foreboding time in our history when hope was at a premium and trust had been squandered by a government who had been unwilling to tell you the truth. Today, we enter the final leg of this journey together with more hope than we have had in years and the trust that comes from partners who have shared with each other the hard truths that come from decisive action. We are at the dawn of new age of pride and growth in our state and its people. Let us move forward with the strength that comes from the belief we have in each other. I believe in you New Jersey – and I always will.
God Bless you, God Bless America and God Bless the great state of New Jersey.