At the end of my dad’s term, I would like to pay tribute to his work as governor of New Jersey. Last week, watching my father walk through the beautiful statehouse in Trenton to deliver his final State of the State address to the Legislature, I was moved by the historic nature of the occasion and by my father’s words. My dad called it “his highest honor” to serve the people of New Jersey as governor. When I think about Jon Corzine as a father, and as a governor, compassion is the first word that comes to mind. Listening to his speech, I saw the father I’ve always known. He even made the same kind of jokes, remarking that it was difficult to write his last State of the State while movers were taking his desk out of the office.
He spoke honestly of things he wished he could have finished and admitted to not executing the job “flawlessly.” He spoke of the things he cares most deeply about: education, healthcare, child welfare. And he talked of the progress, as he saw it, that had been made during his term as governor of New Jersey.
He spoke just as I’ve always known him – with a soft-spoken voice, humbly and with a thoughtful passion for making the world better for the future of our children.
I admit I am not in the political field, but I do believe that his nine years in public life speak to the ways in which government can make a real difference in people’s lives. My father cut state spending and reduced the size of state government for the first time in over six decades. Yet, he maintained funding and greatly improved many government services: reforming the child welfare and foster care systems (which with the help of the Legislature has gone from being one of the worst to one of the best in the country), expanding early childhood education, providing for new school construction, reforming school funding, expanding children’s health care, building infrastructure and improving highway safety (the best highway safety record since 1940), as well as increasing funding for homeless shelters and soup kitchens which have been hit by the recession.
During his time in Washington, my father raised an early voice against the genocide in Darfur. He voted against the authorizing the war in Iraq. As a former Marine, he also always shared his support of with the soldiers. He visited Iraq and Afghanistan several times and spent time with the families of soldiers back home.
There’s an old Italian saying that I think is very true: one can best judge a society’s success by how well it cares for its children, the elderly and the most vulnerable. I believe that my dad has done very well by this statement. Though sometimes he found it challenging to communicate who he was through the mass media, anyone who has ever met him in person knows him as a warm, intelligent guy who brought to the job the highest level of commitment and principle. With time, I hope that his tenure as governor will serve as an inspiration for those who are committed to building a more compassionate and progressive world.
In his own words: “public service was not about what kind of politics to practice, but rather what kind of principles I would follow. For me, the most compelling reason to enter public life was to seek a better world for our children.” I believe his grandchildren will be very proud. NJN