By Rachel Stengel
The presidential race and teachers’ tenure reforms were the main topics for Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Mitch Daniels, who have both been in the national spotlight as potential presidential candidates, during a question-and-answer session hosted by the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics on Thursday.
Approximately 350 Rider students, faculty and community members attended the event in the renovated BLC theater. Benjamin Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute referred to the governors in his opening address as the “dynamic duo.” “When each of these men speaks, people pay attention and rightfully so,” Dworkin said. “The future of the Republican Party as well as our nation is being impacted by the leadership of these two gentlemen.”
Topics within the discussion included healthcare, honesty in government, the debt crisis and Daniels’ accomplishments as governor.
Daniels served as senior advisor to President Ronald Reagan and as director of Office Management and Budget for President George W. Bush. Contrary to popular belief, these positions did not prepare him for a gubernatorial career as much as his experience in business, Daniels said. The roles of CEO for the Hudson Institute and as president of Eli Lilly and Company’s North American Pharmaceutical Operations, among other management positions, taught him “how to make ends meet and how to find ways to identify
those things that separate the must-do from the nice to-do items.”
Former Gov. Jon Corzine attempted and failed to follow Daniels’ lead to draw on the private sector to lease toll roads. Daniels’ 10-year, $10 billion Major Moves plan; leased toll roads under strict regulations and rebuild infrastructure, in order to generate income for Indiana and expand Indiana highways.
“It is something that if government does it well, it enables the private sector to flourish,” said Daniels.
Corzine was reluctant to completely lease New Jersey roads. The plan was too complicated to explain to citizens.
“Simplicity matters,” he said.
Education was another hot topic for the two politicians. Christie’s proposed teacher tenure reforms are similar to those recently passed by Daniels. An audience member asked the governors about repairing their relationships with teachers “before continuing with confidence in education reform.”
“I’m willing to repair a relationship that’s willing to be productive,” Christie said. “My position regarding the teachers’ union has been the same from the time I got into the race until today. That is, when they’re ready to come forward and be participants in meaningful reform that will improve, especially, urban educational opportunities for our kids, thenI will sit at a table with them any time. If they want to continue to pass on to me warmed-over protections of a failed status quo, then they can continue to stand outside my office and look in the window.”
Both governors have stated that they will not be running for president in 2012.
“It’s got to be something that you and your family really believes is not only the right thing to do, but I think what you must do at that time in your life both for you and for your country,” Christie said. “And for me, the answer to that is, ‘It isn’t’.”
Daniels has pushed for Christie to run for president, but respects his decision not to join the race.
“I’m not taking, ‘No,’ from Christie…I’m taking, ‘Not yet.’”
Christie and Daniels discussed their views of politicians vying for the White House. They agreed that “politicians on a national stage underestimate the American people, in both parties.” In response to why they have been repeatedly asked to announce their candidacy, Christie said that Americans are looking for honest politicians.
“I think that what the country is thirsting for more than anything else right now is someone of stature and credibility to look [Americans] in the eye and tell them that, ‘Here’s where I want us to go to deal with this crisis.’ The fact that nobody yet who’s run for president has done that effectively is why we continue to hear people ask Daniels if he’ll reconsider and if I’ll reconsider.”
The Rebovich Institute has two objectives: to raise the level of political discourse and to train the next level of political leaders, according to Dworkin. The Institute’s reputation of acquiring high-profile speakers continues to draw students to Rider.
“Honestly, the reason why I picked Rider was because of events like this,” freshman Michael Ward said. “I’m a political science major and when I heard about the Rebovich Institute, I knew I had to come here. There’s just so many high profile people. Just the exposure [Rider] has to politics is great.”
The Institute gives students, faculty and the community the chance to bear political figures first hand, which is an opportunity not many people experience, according to Dworkin.
“You have what you learn in the classroom then you come here and you get to meet and interact with the people you’re studying.” Political Communication minor Charles Measley said. “You get that extra edge once you leave [Rider}.”
Gov. Mitch Daniels’ book Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Truting Americans was available for purchase after the event. Those who attended the event could get their copy autographed by Daniels in the Fireside Lounge.