EXCLUSIVE: Interview with the Governor


New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy

On Saturday, Feb. 3, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was interviewed by telephone by Olatunji Adewole UD1, a SBP student, from the Publications Newsroom of the school. The Governor had a lot to say, and covered a wide variety of topics. These were the highlights.

On Education:  We’ve got among the best school systems, regardless of how you define it, in the United States, and we have to keep it that way… We have underfunded public education. Based on a very forward-leaning, groundbreaking, national model formula, we have underfunded public education by about $9 billion over the past eight-plus years… In some cases we are going to have to be creative. There aren’t automatic recipes in the cookbook for some of the challenges we have, and that extends to private schools — religious or otherwise. Other states, I think, have been more creative, more aggressive in trying to find those solutions, and I want to be a Governor who can sit at the table, with all of the interests in education, not just some of them, and figure out the common ground and make sure we are going forward together with the best schools in America.

On What Makes New Jersey Special: We enter this period with some of the attributes that most other states would die to have… Our location… Our broadband accessibility. Newark sits on the biggest broadband trove in the world, not just in the United States… Our public education… Our institutions of higher education. Our density… gives us a huge leg up in the innovation, technology, health sciences economies which are beginning to dominate. We are the most diverse state in the nation by many measures. We wear that as a badge of honor. That gives us a huge leg up. We sit next to the largest market in the world in New York and one of the largest in the country in Philadelphia. So when you look at all of that together, we are a proud, progressive state politically. We are a state of grassroots activism, community service, community organizing. We have more communities per capita than in any state in the nation, which gives young people a lot more potential opportunity to look to get elected and appointed. So when you look at all of that, whether it is education or commerce or politics or organization or advocacy and community organizations, I don’t think there’s any better state in the nation, in terms of how we are situated than New Jersey.

On the Future of New Jersey:  I’d say the overarching message is that New Jersey’s best days are ahead of us. I’m an unbridled optimist. And that doesn’t mean we don’t have challenges. We do have challenges… [but] I don’t think there’s any better state in the nation, in terms of how we are situated than New Jersey. But forget me, ‘cause I’m 60. Folks in your generation should look at that and say, ‘Man, this is the place to be over the next, you know, 20 to 50 years. And that’s the state that I think we have before us. And that’s where our objective is… we stand for… a stronger and fairer New Jersey that works for everybody. That means our economy has to grow again… We have to have a fair society and economy… We have to make sure that there aren’t just a few us us who do well when this economy goes well. But we have to make sure that all of us benefit. And we have to get back to standing for the right things again as a state.  We used to be the state that others states looked to… when they wanted a progressive role model. No state was more progressive than ours — that funded women’s health, that accepted the reality of climate change and did something about it, that signed sensible gun safety laws, that led the nation in so many respects. We’ve slipped in too many areas. So I’d say what we are all about is to make this state strong again. Make it fair. Make it work for everybody, and that means all 9 million residents of this state, regardless of their status, as long as they are law-abiding… We want to be a state again that stands for the right thing… But when the rest of the country says: ‘You know what, if you want to look for models of  good government, of good environmental stewardship, where women and children and immigrants, regardless of their status, are treated fairly and embraced, look at New Jersey.’ That’s the state I want to lead.

On His Predecessor:  I’ll leave Governor Christie’s years to the historians.

On why he wanted to become Governor: I have spent my whole life running into buildings that are on fire when people are running out of them… I was brought up with a culture, with an ethos, of service, by my parents… We had the Kennedys as our role models, also, in particular Martin Luther King Jr. and others. …Service is the  highest calling… The fact of the matter is that if you have some perspective and you’ve got some ability to see the horizon, I think we have enormous potential….I am a huge optimist. So if you combine all that, count me as ‘all in.’

On St Benedict’s: Well, I am a big fan of St. Benedict’s. It’s a unique school with a unique history… And it’s extraordinary that Father Edwin is still there, going strong and doing great work with his fellow faculty members. Great sports program, great character-building school. The “60 Minutes” piece, I think, captured the school exceedingly well. I think (St. Benedict’s) is a badge of honor, as well as sort of a point of pride, not just in Newark, but in our state.