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Scam, kidnap by South African police

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Eddie Rivera Commentary

Why I Love New Jersey and its Politics. Eddie Rivera. MJoTA 2013 v7n2 p1024

I was born and have only lived in New Jersey.

There have been a lot of jokes about my home way too often. Some would call the Garden State as the armpit of the Northeast. I am offended by it because New Jersey is much more than that Remember the slogan, “New Jersey and you, perfect together?” I sure do!

New Jersey is a perfect state for business and recreation. Our state is smack dab between New York and Philadelphia with so much history and tradition that I cherish. 

In Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” they sang about counting cars on the New Jersey Turnpike. On the Turnpike, I like to count the rest stops that are named after famous New Jersey residents. No other highway in America has ever thought of that. There are rest stops named after Thomas Edison, Molly Pitcher, Vince Lombardi, and Woodrow Wilson, Walt Whitman.

Maybe in the next few years, I would live to see other celebrities have their names on rest stops. However, the Turnpike is already taken. Why not the rest stops on the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway? I would love to see the names of Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Jack Nicolson, or Frank Sinatra on rest stops. One can only hope!

Aside from driving through the Turnpike, a whole lot of other things that makes me proud to be a Jersey boy.

As a Rutgers graduate, I enjoy watching the Scarlet Knights play to defend our New Jersey. Doesn’t matter which sport I’m watching I just enjoy my school winning.

I’m proud of the fact I received my Master’s from Rutgers because of the name Rutgers brings prestige, honor, and character.

Whenever I do go to New Brunswick, I enjoy all the sights and sounds this city has to offer. There’s Stuff Yer Face where they have a variety of strombolis. The Barnes & Noble is close to the train station and the clock above their entrance way is a work of art.

The Rutgers campus is so big that there’s always something to do. I enjoy going to the New Brunswick/Piscataway vicinity to enjoy not just being Rutgers alum but to explore one of New Jersey’s exquisite areas.

Whenever summer comes around, I enjoy going to the Jersey Shore. From Sandy Hook to Cape May, I just enjoy walking on the boardwalk, eating salt water taffy, and playing the arcades. After the devastation that was Hurricane Sandy, my appreciation for the shore has only grown stronger. I felt bad for those who lost their home. It was a storm that almost took away the heart and soul that was the shore. As we slowly progressed and cleared away all the debris that was left over, the shore was back to its original form.

I can definitely say that New Jersey is “stronger than the storm.” I mean it because our state is tough and we unite to pull ourselves out of the gutter.

Speaking of the Jersey Shore, I am a fan of New Jersey related television programs. Yes, I am a fan of the show Jersey Shore. I know not many people are fans of characters like Snooki or the Situation, but I’m always fascinated with the show's antics. The shows like Jersey Shore bring in tourists. Other shows like Jersey Couture, Jerseylicious, Real Housewives of New Jersey, and Cake Boss to name a few has brought our state into a wider audience. But it’s not just the reality TV I enjoy but also the fictional storylines from HBO. I’m talking about the Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. I know might be forgetting a few others, but it’s important that New Jersey continue to spotlights not just on a national stage but a global stage. Whether one of the shows or films is a detriment to the state’s image is clearly up to the viewer and I respect everyone’s opinion. Regardless, I enjoy watching New Jersey-based entertainment.

Now that I have talked about why I love New Jersey in general, now I must discuss a more general topic, politics.

New Jersey has always had a teeter totter effect in regards to their political system. In a state that has traditionally been Democrat, I am proud to say that I am a true blue New Jersey Democrat.

I believe in a state where issues such as woman’s rights, gun control, and marriage equality should be the norm. The truth of a matter is New Jersey has always had a very vibrant political system whether if its good or bad for the state. I have read a copy of Bob Ingle and Sandy McClure’s Soprano State book. Their book details a significant amount of detail about the corrupt nature of New Jersey politics. I had the chance to meet Ingle and McClure when I was at Rowan and had the extinct honor of having them autograph my book. I’m not saying all New Jersey politics is corrupt, I just find it interesting to how much goes on in the Garden State. The critics would argue that New Jersey is like an everyday episode of the Sopranos and our governor is Tony Soprano. Whoops! Did I refer Governor Chris Christie as a mob boss? I mean did anybody see his picture on the cover of Time magazine? Sure she has some Italian in him, but the picture of him pretty much says it all. Don’t get me wrong I’m a fan of the Sopranos but New Jersey is not always a corrupt society. We are just trying to craft our niche in American society.

This year is an election in New Jersey. There’s an election for governor, US Senate, legislature, and other local municipalities. I have been interested into politics for a very long time. I look up to these figures as inspiration for the community. The way these law makers address the issues that matter and brings the people together demonstrates the power of leadership. The reason why want to get into politics is to become a leader. By building leadership credentials, I can empower those around me.

Just like our federal government, New Jersey state government has executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The Governor presents the executive branch, the State Legislature represents the legislative branch, and the Supreme Court presents the judicial branch. My favorite governor in New Jersey is Jim McGreevy. I’ll explain to you why. When McGreevy came out of the closet in 2004, I was shocked at first but only McGreevy had the courage to do what he had to do. Coming out as a gay governor was unexpected and he decided to step down his governorship. In my opinion, McGreevy should have stayed in office regardless of his sexual orientation. He should have stayed as governor in an effort to legalize same sex marriage in New Jersey early. McGreevy could have been the poster boy for marriage equality in New Jersey. But I understand why he had to do. I guessing it would have hurt his chances for reelection the following year. Flash forward to today, New Jersey has embraced the ideal of marriage equality even though our current governor, Chris Christie, is still a traditionalist between a man and woman. I’m sure McGreevy is happy that New Jersey has come a long way since he broke the news nearly ten years ago. After watching his HBO documentary, Fall to Grace, I still consider him a influential force in our state.

I’m a history buff and I appreciate New Jersey history. In fact only two of our nation’s presidents have been elected president, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson. Many pundits are saying that Chris Christie is a frontrunner for the 2016 president election.

However, the next presidential election is only 3 years away and my pick for governor was state senator Barbara Buono.

Barbara Buono is one of those political leaders I have looked up to all my life. She is the definition of the ultimate underdog. Her life story is remarkable at every aspect.

Daughter of Italian immigrants, losing her father at 19, lived on food stamps while trying to get her way in college, lost her house in a fire, slept on a friend’s couch. Her rise to power is incredible as she made her way onto the NJ State Assembly and NJ State Senate. Her powers only increased as she becomes the chairwoman of the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee and the Senate Majority Leader. In her quest to the governorship, I understand that she had to overcome huge odds. She did not win. However, win or lose, I always have my trust in Bully Busting Barbara.

Another hero I also look up to is former Newark Mayor and US Senator Cory Booker. How many politicians are as social media savvy as Booker is? His presence on Twitter is amazing just as he was amazing as a Mayor rescuing people from house fires. Now since he is going to Washington to shake things up, I look forward to how he will leave his mark in Congress. New Jersey has never elected a Republican to the US Senate since the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon.

I’m this sure this tradition will continue as the team of Cory Booker and Robert Menendez are making history. With an African-American (Booker) and a Hispanic (Menendez) as US Senators, they represent New Jersey with the most diverse line up of Senators with different backgrounds.

Here’s another reason why I’m proud to be a Democrat. My party demonstrates such diversity where our elected officials represent various backgrounds. Many of our officials are African-American, Asian-American, Indian-American, and Hispanic-American. I look forward to Booker’s stint as US Senator as I know he will bring a fresh mindset to the Congressional stage.

My interest in New Jersey and its politics is strong. I enjoy being a resident of it. I take for granted that I don’t pump gasoline in my car or there’s a shopping mall within a 20 mile radius of all of us. I love my state.

I also love the political scene in Garden State. I dream of the day where I can one day represent New Jersey either as a member of the State Legislature or US Congress. Perhaps maybe become governor one day myself.

The possibilities are endless for me as I continue to seek new horizons in my quest to be a part of New Jersey history. I have the energy needed to take on any challenges that step in my way. New Jersey and myself are perfect together.