Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thoughts before meeting Governor Christie

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, from "New Collossus"

A few cool things happened the past couple of days. At least one of our pair of red-tailed hawks that hang just north of the high school returned. I found deer tracks on the Bloomfield Green, a first, I think (though we did have a turkey feasting on acorns there a couple of years ago). And Governor Christie's coming to visit our school.

Our principal caught me in the hallway and asked if I'd like to join a few other teachers in a meeting with him.

After being assured it was not a big media event (just a get together for discussion), and that I did not have to dress up (I squeeze into my suit for funerals and weddings only these days), I said I'd be glad to be part of it so long as I could speak freely. His smile spoke volumes. "Of course."


The last first Jersey governor I met was DiFrancesco, on a beautiful but sad day in September 2001. We were waiting in the shadows of the Statue of Liberty for wounded that never came, and he came around to check on us. There wasn't much to say--the city kept burning, and we kept waiting.

I was a pediatrician then, and would be for a few more years, but I think that my decision to teach was made soon after that long day. DiFrancesco had little to say, but to be fair, there was little to be said.

There's a difference between having little to say and saying nothing.

Democracy depends on discourse. Democracy depends on trust. Democracy depends on keeping the concept of the commons alive. I keep copies of the Declaration of Independence and The Bill of Rights on the wall of our classroom.

Most of us work hard at what we do, and most of us love what we do.

So while many in my field may fantasize about moments with Governor Christie, about what they would do given the chance, I still fantasize about a functioning republic, which, of course, depends on truly public schools doing the hard work that needs to be done.

I owe it to my students, to my town, and to our republic to practice civil discourse. And I will. No matter how quaint that may sound in an age of soundbites, fury, and the "new normal."

Statue of Liberty torch photo from
My memory's had a few too many concussions:
I met Governor McGreevey at some function, and I chatted briefly with Gov. Corzine when he flew on the saqme flight as mine.
Whatever else you might think of Corzine, he flew coach, and he flew alone. 

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