Former N.J. governor speaks in Houston Hall
James Florio discussed his years in office, encouraged "intellectual courage"
October 16, 2013, 9:00 pm · Updated October 16, 2013, 9:35 pm·
Ali Harwood | DP
Sometimes a politician’s achievements can’t be measured by his approval ratings.
Last night, former Governor of New Jersey James Florio spoke to a group of about 50 in Houston’s Hall of Flags. Brought to Penn by the Government and Politics Association, Florio spoke of his own occasionally controversial career and gave students some input on the current state of affairs in our government.
In office from 1990 to 1994, Florio made splashes as governor by passing both the highest tax increase and one of the strictest pieces of gun legislation in the country — drawing strong criticism from New Jersey Republicans during his term.
He also served in the House of Representatives for a number of years and says his proudest accomplishment while in office was the strides he made in passing environmental protection legislation.
During his talk, Florio emphasized the rapid nature of change in today’s political atmosphere.
“Change is a constant, but there are certain periods of time in which change is more disruptive, more alienating and more confusing. We are in such a time,” he said. Florio argued that we need to start planning for the future now by adapting our policies to the current times instead of “relying on old policies to fix new problems.”
The former governor ended his talk with his thoughts on what he calls “intellectual courage” — our ability to think about and address the tough questions of today. He asserted that we need to challenge the notion of “traditional wisdom” if we want to really change things. “Taking on the status quo is not for the faint-hearted, but it is what today’s world needs. Being a citizen today means being engaged and informed and unafraid to take those risks,” he said.
Students said they left Florio’s talk with a greater knowledge of the current political situation in the country and felt empowered to do something about it.
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“I really wanted to hear an actual politician speak about current events, and I thought Governor Florio did a really good job emphasizing both those events and how our policies need to change to fit them,” College freshman Kenneth Zhou said.
College sophomore and GPA co-president Louis Capozzi said his organization was honored to host a politician like Florio because “he’s a real example of a doer, and he paid the price for it,” citing the politician’s devastating loss of support during his run for re-election in 1994. “It was a wonderful talk and we hope to host more events like this in the future.”