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Chris Christie on His Life and Career: "How The Hell Did This Happen?"

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ): Let me conclude with two things. First off, not only do I have some old political friends here who I’ve known for a long time and I appreciate you all coming and being supportive. Not only do I have my wife here for her fifth town hall appearance out of 132. But I’m riding here for my last set of meetings before I was coming and I’m in the car and I had a couple of conference calls I had to do so I was doing those. I get done with the conference calls and I had about six minutes before I was going to arrive here where I had absolutely nothing to do. This is an unusual thing, so I get on my phone and I log onto my Facebook page and what do I find when I get onto my Facebook page, but that a number of my high school classmates decided to come and invade the town hall meeting today to show support to their old high school classmate. Members of the Livingston High School Class of 1980, stand up, stand up, stand up. Come on. You’re close enough, you’re close enough.

Now, now these are good friends, right? We in like two weeks, three weeks, are having our 35th high school reunion. No, don’t applaud for that. I mean 35 years, Jesus, it doesn’t seem that long ago. They all look a lot better. They obviously have aged significantly better than I have. But it’s great to have friends who knew you when. One of the things that can become really difficult in a job like this is you kind of start to lose touch with reality, right? I mean think about it.

Today I went to my office in Newark, I got into the elevator and four state troopers got into the elevator with me. I was by myself and four troopers got in with me. I looked at the trooper who’s in charge of my security today and I go, is today the day someone’s going to try to kill me? There’s four of you in this elevator and there’s only me. Please tell me exactly what’s going on here. They told me I had nothing to worry about that they knew of. And I don’t get to drive myself anywhere anymore, which given the way I used to drive is probably a blessing. But I get driven everywhere, so no matter what, like on the weekend all of you know go and do your errands on the weekend that you don’t get to when you’re working all week, right? You go to the bank or you go to the dry cleaners or you go to the deli. Like I go with two black Suburbans and three state troopers. It’s so subtle, it really is. You know you walk into the dry cleaners and two guys come in in front of you, right? And you’re like, make sure those shirts are done right, you understand?

If you do all those things your life can become, you know a bit unreal and these town hall meetings are one of the ways that I try to keep in touch, because also I never go in the front door of anywhere anymore, right? No matter where I go it’s some weird side door and I walk through every kitchen. I know every kitchen worker at every hotel in New Jersey and now a few other states too. You just go through these places—you never go through the front door. I walk through side doors. They got flashlights and I’m walking up rickety stairs and then all of a sudden I walk in and there’s a room of 350 people. Oh hi how are you. You never go through the front door of anyplace anymore.

All the things that are normal in life kind of get pared back away, so the town hall meeting idea sprung from in 2010 me talking to my staff about how concerned I was about not being able to be in touch with real people anymore, to only see either elected officials or important people who are donors or are elected officials in other states and not getting the real feeling from people, not hearing from real people in the state who I work for every day. That only gets attitude when I have people who knew me well before I was Governor and well before anybody thought I was going to be Governor. Now, this is a unique opportunity for all of you today because I made them stand up. They have stories about me that if they tell them they’re dead, it’s over. It’s over. So they’re here today. One of them was raising their hands. The guy who was raising his hand to ask a question, I wouldn’t have taken a question from him when I was president of the senior class at Livingston High School let alone while I’m Governor of New Jersey.

Jim Mignone no chance I’m taking a question from you, absolutely not. But I will tell you one thing that I think they know and would back up for you is that I feel so extraordinarily lucky to have had the opportunity that you all have given me over the last five and a half years. I was born here, I was raised here, except for the four years that I left to go to the University of Delaware and I came back with a wife so it was a pretty good four years, right? But in those four years, except for that I have been here for my entire life and I love this state and this is where we’re raising our children and this is where I hope they raise their children and I care deeply about the job you’ve given me to do and feel so extraordinarily lucky that you gave it to me not once but twice, and so that’s why every day when I go to Trenton—you know in the beginning the troopers used to take me to the back door of the Statehouse. Now when you go to the back door of the Statehouse you go in a back door, you go up some ramp, you go through two sets of metal doors, then you go up through a wooden door, you go up these really smelly stairs and then all of a sudden you wind up in the Governor’s suite.

And so one day I was riding to work and I just said, you know, I want to go in the front door today. So whoever the poor guy was driving he goes, umm, he wants to go in the front door, talking into his sleeve to the guy who’s in charge who’s in the car behind me, and so the trooper turns to me and goes, why sir? I don’t know I would just like to go in the front door today. He still wants to go in the front door. All right sir. If you’re sure. I’m like yeah, I’m really sure. I’d just like to go in the front door of the Statehouse today. So they pulled up to the front of the Statehouse. I got out of the car. They had like two guys waiting on the sidewalk for me and so they go walking me in. I walk in the front door of the Statehouse, and for any of you who have ever been there, you walk in the front door of the Statehouse and by the way it’s the second-oldest continuously operating statehouse in America. Only the state capitol in Annapolis has been continuously operating longer than the state capitol in New Jersey. It’s a place where Abraham Lincoln stopped on his way to his inaugural from Illinois, and it’s typical of why the governor and the legislature never get along. The governor invited him to make a speech when he came to the capitol. The president of the senate invited him to make a speech. The governor said OK. Make the speech in my office. The president of the senate said no. You make the speech down in the Senate Chamber or you’re not coming, and so you know what Lincoln did. This is why he was genius. He gave two speeches. He gave one in the Governor’s Office and one in the Senate.

I walk in the front door of that place. I walk by the Lieutenant Governor’s office and the Treasurer’s Office and then I walk into this magnificent rotunda with the portraits of my oldest predecessors, from Governor William Livingston, the first governor of New Jersey, through the first seven or eight around that rotunda, and then I keep walking straight ahead and over to the right is the Governor’s Office, and on the door it says Chris Christie, Governor, and every time I see that—now every day I go through the front door, ever since that first day I now every day I go in the front door. I never go in the back door unless MSNBC’s at the front door. Then I don’t go in the front door, but other than that, other than that exception every day I go in the front door and when I get to that door and I see Chris Christie, Governor, I shake my head. Every time I’m telling you I shake my head and I say how the hell did this happen, right?

And by the way, when the Legislature’s in town, if you’re really quiet and you stand there, you hear them saying exactly the same thing. How the hell did this happen? And I walk in and I walk in past the portraits of my most immediate predecessors, everybody from Governor Cahill through to Governor Corzine, and I walk into the office where Woodrow Wilson sat and governed from that very office, the same place. My staff got me a picture of Wilson sitting in that office in 1911 as governor of New Jersey and I think to myself, a guy whose mom graduated from high school in West Side High School in Newark and never went to college, from a single mother, worked her whole life, and my father, who worked at the Breyers Ice Cream plant in Newark to put himself through Rutgers at night for six years and become the first person in his family ever to go to college, one generation removed from those two people is the governor of the state where they were born and raised and lived their lives. That’s a great, great story and a great feeling to have, that all of you trusted me enough to do this job, so for as long as I have it I will work as hard as I can every day to do it well and I will tell you that I am proud every day to call myself the Governor of the State of New Jersey. So thank you all for coming today. I appreciate it very much.

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