Monday, November 5, 2012

My City In Ruins

            Nestled between New York and Philadelphia, New Jersey and the people who live here, are the Rodney Dangerfield of the 50 states.  It’s been that way ever since the 13 Colonies broke away from England.  Mocked for everything from our accents to our attitudes, viewed with disdain and condescension by neighbors across both the Hudson and Delaware, this state is often the butt of late night TV show jokes.  People who don’t know anything about New Jersey think we speak like characters out of the Sopranos and only understand geography when we can attach a highway exit to the map.  Like the caricatures on a dumbass show on MTV or Real Housewives capture the essence of who we are.
            But New Jersey is more than oil refineries on the Turnpike and gridlocked highways filled with rush hour commuters.
            For those of us who were born here, who grew up here, or who live here, this state is much more than that.  We are 127 miles of coastline and sandy beaches, the untouched beauty of the Pine Barrens, acres of farms, and rolling hills.  We are generations of families who have built lives here and raised children and made a difference in the world, in big ways and small.  We are tough and resilient, filled with hard-assed attitude, and we know what it takes to roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty, and get the job done.  We are the best of all people. 
            We are a state filled with courage – brave, spirited, caring people who love our families, friends, and neighbors with a fierceness nobody else can match.  Our identity is forged in the strength we find in each other.  We are the gritty toughness of a Springsteen song and the beautifully written words of a Toni Morrison novel.  We are a state of farmers, fishermen, truck drivers, blue collar laborers, doctors, lawyers, and executives – sons and daughters of immigrants from all over the world.  We identify with the underdog, and cheer on those facing the longest odds and toughest journey.
            We are everyman.
            So much of what I learned in life, I learned growing up in New Jersey.  This state is a part of me and who I am.  I am proud to be from New Jersey – full of that unique blend of edginess, attitude, energy, and strength, and filled with a love for the people around me.
            New Jersey will rebuild and restore what this storm tried to take away.  The spirit we own can never be broken.  Don’t tell us how hard it will be and don’t try to stop us from doing what needs to be done.  We are about overcoming odds and taking on all challenges.
We are more than a punch line in somebody’s joke.
            We are what this country is all about.

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