Gov. Chris Christie hit the ball out of the park in Tuesday night's keynote speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. He was inspiring, challenging and real.
He spoke plainly about where we are as a nation. We simply cannot afford to continue down the self-destructive path our country is traveling. He made it clear that it is time to end the political manipulations that continue to plague Washington.
The line that brought it all home for me was when he talked directly to the camera and said, "Real leaders don't follow polls. Real leaders change polls."
Mr. Christie effectively highlighted the difference between a politician and a statesman. A politician is self-centered, petty and fake. His focus is always on the next election and how the media covers him.
A statesman, on the other hand, is charitable, principled and truthful. His focus is not on the next election, but on the next generation. He takes no shortcuts and does what is right. He is guided by his convictions and respects the office he holds. As Mr. Christie put it, "Our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to know that social acceptance and popularity is fleeting and that this country's principles needed to be rooted in strengths greater than the passions and emotions of the times. Our leaders today have decided it is more important to be popular, to do what is easy and say 'yes,' rather than to say 'no' when 'no' is what's required."
The message was powerful in no small part because Mr. Christie has modeled it in his governorship of New Jersey. He has taken the hard road time and time again to bring his state back from the brink of bankruptcy to financial stability. He was told repeatedly that it couldn't be done, yet he did it. "They said it was impossible to cut taxes in a state where taxes were raised 115 times in eight years, that it was impossible to balance a budget at the same time with an $11 billion deficit. Three years later, we have three balanced budgets with lower taxes. We did it," he said. "They said it was impossible to touch the third rail of politics, to take on the public-sector unions and to reform a pension and health benefit system that was headed to bankruptcy. With bipartisan leadership, we saved taxpayers $132 billion over 30 years and saved retirees their pensions. We did it. They said it was impossible to speak the truth to the teachers' union. They were just too powerful. Real teacher tenure reform that demands accountability and ends the guarantee of a job for life regardless of performance would never happen. For the first time in 100 years, with bipartisan support, we did it."
Despite the gloom and doom we hear on the news every night, Mr. Christie made a convincing case that, with great leadership, we have an opportunity to turn things around. Hope was part of what Mr. Christie delivered Tuesday. He made it very clear it's a hope that requires much sacrifice. He also called us to live up to the principles of our founding and step up with dignity and tenacity, "We've never been a country to shy away from the truth. History shows that we stand up when it counts, and it's this quality that has defined our character and our significance in the world."
A few commentators took exception to the fact that Mr. Christie did not focus much on Mitt Romney. Others complained he didn't really zero in on President Obama.
He was living out the very content of the call he was delivering -- to rise above the usual political calculations and think big. It worked for me.
"I know we can be the men and women our country calls on us to be. I believe in America and her history. There's only one thing missing now. Leadership."
Amen, Governor. Amen.
Mario Diaz is legal counsel for Concerned Women for America.