New Jersey Governor Chris Christie challenged Rowan’s graduating class of 2014 to use their degrees to not just better their own lives but also the lives of those around them.
Christie stressed the importance of hard work in this year’s Rowan undergraduate commencement address on May 16, saying that an education is not a guarantee of anything except the creation of opportunities.
“Today what you are receiving in that opportunity is something that sets the stage, gives you the moment now to decide what your life will be,” he said to the combined 2,500 graduates watching either in person at Pfleeger Concert Hall or through a live video feed provided by both Rowan and the Rowan Television Network. “I believe in the end what will determine your success or your failure will be how hard you’re willing to work.”
Christie then shared a story about the hardest working person he knew – his grandmother.
“She taught me that your life is not determined by what you don’t have but by what you are willing to do,” he said.
Born on a boat traveling from Sicily to the United States, Christie’s grandmother raised three children on her own in Newark after divorcing her adulterous husband, the governor said. She supported her children by getting a job with the Internal Revenue Service, and even worked hard enough to eventually save up money to travel the world.
“The things that I learned from her, most importantly, was that her life was full, despite all of its challenges, because of the experiences she had and how hard she worked to get those experiences,” he said. “You wouldn’t have looked at her and thought she had a successful life given where she began.”
Christie shared the story of his grandmother as a reminder to the graduates to be grateful for what they have.
“We tend these days to focus on the negative,” he said. “We tend to complain about what we don’t have or what hasn’t been provided to use.”
After his speech, he was given an honorary degree along with Senators Steve Sweeney and Donald Norcross. The three were praised by both President Dr. Ali Houshmand and Board of Trustees Chair Linda Rohrer, who called the honorees “the three musketeers.”
All three men played a role in Rowan’s new status as a research university by passing the 2012 New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act. The act also created a partnership between Rowan and Rutgers-Camden and interrelated Rowan with the School of Osteopathic Medicine.
“We are grateful that these initiatives benefited Rowan of course, but they also benefit our entire state,” Houshmand said.
Concluding his address, Christie told the students that graduating from Rowan has given them a “leg up” on graduates from others schools, and they must now decide how they want to use that advantage.
“Because of everything else you’ve achieved here I believe you too will experience a great American life just like my grandmother did, just like I have,” he said. “although very different, they’re both great American lives, and you will now write your story.”
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