In a commencement speech at Rowan University in Glassboro, the Garden State’s governor described his boyhood, spending two weekends a month with his mother’s mother in her apartment. Together they borrowed books from the library and attended Mass. She restricted the eight-year-old’s viewing of television to two broadcasts: One college football game and “Meet The Press” on Sunday mornings. She dragged him to museums and the opera.
“Imagine me at the opera,” Christie, a 51-year-old Republican, told the audience. “Even then it seemed incredible.”
Born aboard a ship bound for the U.S. from Sicily, committed to a marriage arranged by her parents, she bore three children before she discovered her husband was unfaithful. In 1942, she threw him out of their home and filed for divorce — no small step at the time, financially or socially. She got a job at the Internal Revenue Service, riding three buses to work and leaving a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old to the care of the eldest girl, just 10, who shepherded everyone to daycare and school.
The 10-year-old grew up to be Christie’s mother, Sondra, whom the governor often credits for his tell-it-like-it-is personality. She died in 2004, as Christie was serving as U.S. attorney, the highest federal prosecutor in the state. His grandmother died at 92, shortly after his appointment as federal prosecutor by then-President George W. Bush.
With not a protester in sight, Christie showed no sign today of his argumentative side. No Rowan graduate will leave today with a story about being called “jerk” or “numb nuts” by the New Jersey governor, insults he’s reserved for lawmakers.
“I know — know today that my grandmother looks down and shakes her head — often, probably — at some of the things that come out of my mouth, and at some of the extraordinary opportunities that life has already presented to me,” he told the graduates. Today, he said, was the “the opening of that door” to their own opportunity.