New Jersey Governor Chris Christie became the 14th Republican to announce his candidacy for President. He made his announcement speech on June 30, 2015 at his hometown high school, Livingston High School, Livingston, New Jersey.
Christie spent the first few minutes of his speech thanking the people of Livingston and reflecting on growing up there. He moved to Livingston when he was four years old. He told of how his father and mother had both lost their fathers at a young age. His father, although admitted to Columbia University, could not go because he could not afford it.
After being drafted and serving in the Army, his father took a job at Breyer’s Ice Cream Plant and went to school at Rutgers at night for six years to get a degree in accounting. He told of the photograph taken of his father and mother, who was six months pregnant with Christie at the time, when his father graduated from college. His two grandmothers loaned money to his father to buy their first home in Livingston.
“The smiles on both of their faces that day were indicative of what, not that they had accomplished, but what they saw coming ahead of them. Their smiles were about the fact that they thought that nothing was out of reach for them now. They had each other, they were building a family, they worked together, and then with the help of both of those strong women, they gave them $5,000 each, probably all the money they had in the world, to put a down payment on a house in this town to give their children a chance to take the dream they had started to build and to make it even bigger and even better.”
Christie used the story of his parents as an example of the American dream.
“One of the things my mother always used to say all the time to me was, Christopher, if you work hard enough, you can be anything. She said God’s given you so many gifts, if you just work hard enough, you can be anything.
That story is proof, it’s proof, parents who came from nearly nothing, except for that hard work; parents who brought little to their marriage except for their love for each other and that hard work. That hard work not only produced a great life for me and my brother and my sister, but think about how amazing this country is, that one generation removed from the guy who was working on the floor of the plant of the Breyers Ice Cream plant, his son is the two-term governor of the state where he was born and raised.”
He told how New Jersey represents the most ethnically diverse state in the country and the most densely populated state in the country. Christie was laying the foundation for the central point of his campaign speech – working together.
“What has come from that, what has come from that, is the absolute belief that not only can all of us achieve whatever dream you want to achieve because of the place where we live and the opportunities it gives us, but that we not only can do it together but we have to do it together. We have no choice but to work together, this country needs to work together again, not against each other.”
Christie then explained the conditions that he inherited when he became Governor of New Jersey. He also showed how some were cynics and the accomplishments that they achieved by working together.
“When I became governor six years ago, we had a state that was in economic calamity; an $11 billion dollar deficit on a $29 billion dollar budget, a state that had a taxes and fees rates raised on it 115 times in the eight years before I became governor, a state that no longer believed that any one person could make a difference in the lives of the people of this state.
And so we rolled up our sleeves and we went to work and we balanced six budgets in a row. We’ve refused to raise taxes on the people of this state for six years. We made the hard decisions that had to be made to improve our education system. We reformed tenure for the first time in 105 years. We made the difficult decision to reform pensions and health benefits and continue that fight today.
We have stood together against each and every person, every cynic who said, ‘Why are you wasting your time? This state is not governable.’ The last six years we proved not only can you govern this state, you can leave it to a better day and that is what we have done together.”
He transitioned from what he has done in his home state of New Jersey to talk about America. He emphasized that Americans are not angry, but anxious. They are anxious because of the dysfunction in Washington.
“And now we face a country, we face a country, that’s not angry. When I hear the media say our country is angry I know they are wrong. Last year I went to 37 different states across this country in one year. I met people in every corner of America and they are not angry. Americans are not angry. Americans are filled with anxiety.
They are filled with anxiety because they look to Washington, D.C. and they see a government that not only doesn’t work anymore, it doesn’t even talk to each other anymore. It doesn’t even try to pretend to work anymore. We have a President in the oval office who ignores the Congress and a Congress that ignores the President. We need a government and Washington, D.C. that remembers you went there to work for us, not the other way around.”
Christie built on his foundation of working together to criticize both parties in Washington. In particular, he pointed out how the lack of willingness to compromise has led to the problems of today.
“Both parties, both parties, have failed our country. Both parties have stood in the corner and held their breath and waited get their own way. Both parties have led us to believe that in America – a country that was built on compromise – that somehow now compromise is a dirty word. If Washington and Adams and Jefferson believed compromise is a dirty word we’d still be under the Crown of England.
This dysfunction, this lack of leadership, has led to an economy that’s weak and hasn’t recovered the way it should. It’s led to an educational system that has us 27th in the industrialized world in math and 24th in science. It’s led us, it’s led us to weak leadership around the world, where our friends can no longer trust us and our adversaries no longer fear us. This weakness and indecisiveness in the oval office has sent a wave of anxiety through our country but I am here today to tell you that anxiety can be swept away by strong leadership and decisiveness to lead America again.”
His approach is what could be described as plain talk. He believes that Americans want a new path and Americans know that new path. He spoke with a resolve in his voice about the need to face the truth and make the hard decisions today.
“We just need to have the courage to stand up and say enough. We need to have the courage chart a new path for America. America knows that new path. It knows where we need to go. It must start with this: We must tell each other the truth about the problems we have and the difficulty of the solutions but if we tell each other the truth, everybody, we recognize that truth and hard decisions today will lead to growth and opportunity tomorrow for every American in this country.”
Christie then addressed the truths that he sees that Americans must face. He spoke in the manner of a therapist talking to a patient who needed to make the first step of admitting that there is a problem and understanding that the solution lies within.
“What are those truths? What are those truths? Those truths are that we have to acknowledge government isn’t working anymore for us. We have to acknowledge that and say that out loud. And we have to acknowledge that it is the fault of our bickering leaders in Washington, D.C. who no longer listen to us and no longer know they are supposed be serving us.
We need to acknowledge that all of that anxiety and those failures are not the end. There the beginning. The beginning of what we can do together. What we need to decide is that we can make a difference; that we can stand up and make a difference in this country.”
Building on the platform of making a difference, Christie talked about how he enjoyed talking with elementary age children. He said that they always asked him two questions. One question was always, “What is your favorite color?” The other question was what he thought was the best part of his job as governor.
“I always tell them that it’s that I wake up every morning knowing that I have an opportunity to do something great. I don’t do something great every day, I’m human, but every morning I wake up with an opportunity to do something great. That’s why this job is a great job and that’s why President of the United States is an even greater job for a greater number of people.”
Christie transitioned to his formal statement of announcing his candidacy by referring to his role as US Attorney and Governor of New Jersey. In those roles for the past 13 years, he has fought for the people of New Jersey. He said that the fight has prepared him.
“I have spent the last 13 years of my life as U.S. Attorney and Governor of this state, fighting for fairness and justice and opportunity for the people of the state of New Jersey. That fight has not made me more weary, it has made me stronger and I am now ready to fight for the people of the United States of America. America is tired of handwringing and indecisiveness and weakness in the oval office. We need to have strength and decision-making and authority back in the oval office and that is why today I am proud to announce my candidacy for the Republican nomination for President of the United States of America.”
He said that we need a campaign of big ideas, hard truths, and real opportunities. His first hard truth was the broken entitlement system.
“We need to fix a broken entitlement system that is bankrupting our country. We have candidates who have said we can’t confront this because if we do we will be lying and stealing from the American people. Let me fill everybody else in, the lying and stealing has already happened. The horse is out of the barn. We gotta get it back in and can only do it by force.”
His next subject was the economy and growing it by at least 4%. He emphasized that it was important because only economic growth would present the opportunities again to their children.
“We need to get our economy growing again at 4% or greater and the reason we do is because we have to make this once again the country my mother and father told me it was. As hard as you work, that’s as high as you will rise.
That’s not the case anymore, we can’t honestly look at our children and say that to them because we have an economy that is weak and doesn’t present them with the same opportunities that Mary Pat and I were presented with in the mid-1980’s when we graduated from college.
When we graduated, we didn’t worry about getting a job, we worried about picking which job was the best for us. We didn’t worry about whether we were going to be successful, we knew it we worked hard we were going to be successful. This country and its leadership owes the same thing to my children and yours and I am ready to give it to you.”
He called for a simplified tax system and less regulation.
“We need a tax system, we need a tax system that’s simplified and will put CPAs like my dad out of business. We need to get the government off the back of our people and businesses with regulation and we need to encourage businesses to invest in America again, not overseas. Invest in our country and our people.”
Christie then addressed international relations. He specifically made a pointed remark about Obama and warned against handing the wheel to Hillary Clinton.
“And in a world that is as dangerous, as dangerous, and as frightening as anytime I’ve seen it in my lifetime. There is only one indispensable force for good in the world and it is a strong, unequivocal America that will lead the world and not be afraid to tell our friends, ‘We’ll be with you no matter what,’ and to our adversaries, ‘There are limits to your conduct and America will enforce the limits to that conduct.’
Well, here it comes, after seven years, after seven years, I heard the President of the United States say the other day that the world respects America more because of his leadership. This convinces me, this convinces me, it is the final confirmation that President Obama lives in his own world, not in our world.
And the fact is this: After seven years of a week and feckless foreign policy run by Barack Obama, we’d better not turn it over to his second mate, Hillary Clinton.
In the end, in the end, everybody, leadership matters. It matters for our country, and American leadership matters for the world. But if we are going to lead, we have to stop worrying about being loved and start caring about being respected again both at home and around the world.”
Chris Christie has the reputation of saying what he thinks and not worrying about what others might say. He said that he is not running to be prom King of America. He used his reputation to explain how he would lead as President just as he has successfully led as Governor.
“I am not looking to be the most popular guy who looks in your eyes every day and tries to figure out what you want to hear, say it, and then turn around and do something else. When I stand up on a stage like this in front of all of you, there is one thing you will know for sure. I mean what I say and I say what I mean and that’s what America needs right now.
Unlike some people who offer themselves for the Presidency in 2016, you’re not going to have to wonder whether I can do it or not. In New Jersey as governor, I have stood up against economic calamity and unprecedented natural disaster. We have brought ourselves together. We have pushed back that economic calamity and we are recovering from that natural disaster and that’s because we have lead and we’ve worked together to do it.
As governor I’ve proven that you can stand up and fight the most powerful special interest this state has to have and stand up and stop them but at the same time reach across the aisle to our friends in the Democratic party and say if you have a good idea, I’m willing to work with you because that’s what our country needs.
As governor I never wavered from telling you the truth as I see it and then acting to make sure that you know that it’s the truth as I believe it in my heart.”
He talked about how he would campaign. In doing so, he touched on the subject of what I would call “phoniness” in political campaigns today as well as the negativity and personal attacks.
“As a candidate for President, I want to promise you just a few things. First, a campaign without spin or without pandering or focus group tested answers. You’re going to get what I think whether you like it or not or whether it makes you cringe every once in a while or not. A campaign when I’m asked a question, I’m going to give the answer to the question that’s asked, not the answer my political consultants told me to give backstage. A campaign that, every day, will not worry about what is popular but what is right because what is right is what will fix America, not what’s popular.
A campaign that believes, that believes in an America that is as great as the hopes and dreams that we want every one of our children to have. Not a campaign that tears people down, but a campaign that rebuilds America to the place where you and I grew up and where we want our children to grow up in again and where we want free people around the world to grow up in an their countries as well. That’s what America has always stood for and that’s what this campaign will stand for.
All the signs say telling it like it is. There’s a reason for that. We are going to tell it like it is today so that we can create greater opportunity for every American tomorrow. The truth will set us free, everybody.”
Christie came to the end of his speech with his belief that in America one person can make a difference. He believes that he is that person who can work together with all Americans to restore the American dream.
“I don’t seek the Presidency for any other reason than because I believe in my heart that I am ready to work with you to restore America to its rightful place in the world and to restore the American dream to each one of our children whether they live in Livingston or Menden, Newark or Camden, Patterson, or Jersey City, no matter where they live across this country, we need to make sure that every one of those children believes that they have a President who not only speaks to them, but who hears them.”
He closed with a promise of commitment to all Americans.
“If you give me the privilege to be your President, I will wake up every day, not only with my heart strong and my mind sharp, but with my ears open and my arms open, to welcome the American people no matter what party, no matter what race or creed or color, to make sure that you know this is your country too. We are going to go and win this election and I love each and every one of you. Thank you very much.”
Chris Christie’s name was tossed around as a potential candidate for President in 2012. Being a Republican elected to statewide office in New Jersey was viewed as a positive. Many in the Tea Party movement expressed support for him. Christie chose not to run that year.
Governor Christie received criticism when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in October of 2012. He was not criticized for his response to the storm. He was criticized for praising President Obama for providing aid and coming to New Jersey. There were some who felt that Christie’s praise may have handed the election to Obama.
Christie’s response was that New Jersey needed help and Obama gave it. He felt that it was right to give credit where credit was due. That is Christie’s style for doing what he believes is right, not politically expedient.
There were some who perceived Christie’s praise as going overboard in the hopes of getting more federal aid for New Jersey. In politics, the saying is that perception is reality. The image of Christie giving Obama a bear hug just a few days before the Presidential election is one that is indelibly etched into the minds of many conservative voters.
Then there is the “Bridgegate” where it is alleged that traffic was intentionally congested in an area that did not support Christie in his re-election. Christie was never directly tied to the actions but the media raised the cloud of suspicion. In the Republican primary, Bridgegate will probably cause fewer problems for Christie than his praise for Obama during Hurricane Sandy.
Christie’s strategy is a unique mix of straight talk with willingness to compromise. He had pointed words to say about the current administration, particularly with foreign policy, but he also had pointed words to say about both parties.
His approach of calling for compromise and working together is less palatable today than it may have been in the past. The actions of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi have created an atmosphere where a call for compromise on the part of Republicans is viewed as caving to the left by many who will be the voters in a Republican primary.
His reputation for straight and blunt talk; however, does help to counteract any perception of weakness and caving in his willingness to call for compromise. His emphasis on no spin, answering the questions, and no focus group answers presents an honest, straight forward, approach that the average Republican Presidential primary voter values.
Christie has an uphill climb in this race. Four years ago, he was a unique commodity. Today, he is competing with a host of strong conservative candidates.
He has no natural constituency in the first caucuses in Iowa. The second test, New Hampshire, is in his New England backyard. All of the key candidates will be focused on New Hampshire as a state to make a name or keep momentum from Iowa moving forward.
Christie must have a strong showing in New Hampshire. By that time, he will know if his straight, blunt, talk with a desire to find compromise will be the product that Republican primary voters are buying in 2016.
I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts. Please forward these to your friends and share on Facebook. Also, let me hear from you. I always enjoy hearing back from you and I try to respond when you take the time to write me.