Delivers Speech Defining Challenges and Solutions New Legislature Must Tackle
Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) delivered the following speech at the Trenton War Memorial on Tuesday after being ceremonially sworn in as the new Assembly Majority Leader for the 215th Legislature:
“I am truly honored to stand here before you today and to welcome both my colleagues of many years and the new members joining us here today.
“Let me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Louis Greenwald. And the privilege of being selected by my friends and colleagues as your new Majority Leader of the 215th legislative body is underscored by the challenges facing our neighbors, friends and constituents all across New Jersey, even today.
“It is also underscored by great tragedy and great loss, as we mourn our friend and colleague, Alex DeCroce, who departed us in this world too soon. Alex brought a selfless and tireless passion to advocating for his beliefs and his constituents even in the most difficult of times, and it is this dedicated spirit we remember today and take with us into the challenges of a new legislative session.
“Today in New Jersey, middle class families are struggling.
They have faced the loss of income.
They have felt the fear of uncertain job security.
They have had sleepless nights worrying about what the future will hold for their children.
“They wonder if they will be able to continue calling New Jersey home, or if instead they will be forced to move away because they can no longer afford to stay. They question whether they will be able to afford a college education for their kids or whether they will have health care when they need it. But as with any questions, there are answers.
“Whether we believe history and its challenges repeat themselves or whether we believe we have overcome more difficult problems in the past, New Jersey’s great strength comes from the generations of our families who have had the strength to overcome and succeed.
“Woven into each of us is the strength of our history, a rich and diverse foundation that comes together to form the building blocks of our society.
“The building block for my family and for this moment in time for me is my mother, Maria Barnaby Greenwald. She was born 71 years ago in the city of Camden. Her father died of cancer when she was only 3 years old, and she was raised by her mother and her Italian immigrant grandparents, in a home where English was not spoken.
“When she attended kindergarten for the first time, the teachers told her she must learn the English language. She did and also taught her grandparents. She worked hard in school and even though she graduated at the top her high school class, she and her family could not afford to send her to college.
“To help support her family, my mother took a job with a company in Camden called American Acceptance Corporation. She trained young executives, all men, to climb the corporate ladder–the same ladder she, as a woman, would never be permitted to set foot upon.
“One of these young men was my father. They fell in love, got married and had two sons; my brother and myself.
“My mother became a stay at home mom, pinching pennies, raising her boys and struggling every day to give her children a greater opportunity than she had. Frustrated by the unrelenting difficulties of living in New Jersey as a lower middle class family, she mustered up the courage to answer an ad in the newspaper that called for citizens interested in change and good government to run for office.
“My mother answered that ad and went on to become the first woman mayor of Cherry Hill Township. Her legendary life of public service spanned almost two decades before her untimely death in a car accident. That was her journey. Little did I know it would be the foundation and beginning of my own journey into public life.
“From the age of 9 years old until I was 28, I witnessed firsthand her philosophy of public service–an approach and a set of values I carry with me to this day:
- Face problems head on – do not push them down the road where they only wait for us another day
- Govern from life experiences– because if it can happen to our family, it can happen to any family
- A hand up is always better than a handout
“When she passed away on January 11, 1995, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection from our community. I watched as people stood in line for five hours in the snow to pay their respects. Children, seniors, men and women; people of all walks of life, economic backgrounds, and religious creeds whose lives she had touched and done her best to improve.
“When I decided to run for the State Legislature that year, I ran to keep her memory alive. I was elected to this House and sworn in on the first anniversary of her death.
“Sixteen years ago on that day, I could never have imagined that I would be standing before you today. But I never doubted for a second that I would still be standing for the values, principles and beliefs that her spirit embodied.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I continue to stand for and fight for her values, because her story is the story of families all over New Jersey.
“Seventy-one years ago, a poor girl in Camden was raised by a single mother in an immigrant household who could not speak the English language and could not afford to go to college. History repeats itself–this is a story and a struggle faced by thousands and thousands of our families today.
“Fifty years ago, a young newlywed mother sacrificed and desperately pinched pennies, struggling to make ends meet so she could afford to give her children a better life.
History repeats itself–her struggle is the struggle faced by countless middle-class families today who are being squeezed out of our state.
“Thirty-five years ago, my mother gave her first inaugural speech, which I brought with me today. She wrote about the crushing burden of property taxes and wondered how her parents and loved ones would be able to afford to remain in New Jersey. And yet 35 years later, history repeats itself–our families face the same difficult, uncertain future.
“These problems can be overwhelming and too often today we allow partisan bickering and supercharged rhetoric to divide the members on this stage and prevent us from the solving these historic problems.
“But let me be clear: I am a Democrat for a reason and the voters of this state sent us back here for a reason.
“I am not shy about our beliefs and what we stand for:
“We stand for protecting and empowering the middle class.
“We stand for ensuring that the next generation always has the opportunity to do better than preceding generations.
“We stand for guaranteeing that every single New Jerseyan – and not just those at the very top – is able to get the best access to healthcare, the best education possible and a shot at a secure retirement.
“These values are our values because they are the values of those who sent us here today. Those who are sick and tired of grandstanding, of divisiveness and of sound bite answers to life and death problems.
“The challenges that our constituents face cry out for more than the petty politics of the past. Each of us represents thousands of middle and working class families. These families worry about their quality of life. They worry about their job security. They worry that New Jersey may be becoming too unaffordable. They worry whether they will be able to give their kids a better future.
“These are the problems we must, as my mother taught me, face head on and find sustainable solutions on behalf of those we represent. It is why as an initial step in this direction, the Speaker and I have created a committee dedicated to the challenges facing the women and children of New Jersey.
“We cannot ignore the troubling fact that our unemployment continues to
exceed the national average. We cannot ignore that the women of our state who make up more than 50% of our residents also make up a disproportionate share of the unemployed. We cannot ignore the dreams of children, too many of whom are denied the opportunity to get a great education.
“Three out of five jobs in the last 30 years have been created and driven by healthcare in this state. We should maximize this growth industry in research, technology and the evolution of care in both delivery and utilization. This could contribute greatly in our efforts to solve our unemployment crisis and remain committed to a fundamental moral imperative–that access to quality healthcare is not a privilege but a right; that a healthy society is a productive society and an economically successful society.
“We can no longer ignore that too many children born in cities like Camden, Trenton and Newark remain prisoners of poverty. Access to a good education is not a privilege but a fundamental right guaranteed to every child.
“That is why I am proud that last week, the Urban Hope Act was signed into law as a pilot program with the participation of educational experts representing these cities and our State. And while I recognize that this is not the complete solution to this problem, it is one example to the people of this state that we can work together to find compromise to build a better future.
“Ladies and gentleman, a cynic would say history repeats itself because New Jersey’s problems are too great to be solved. I don’t believe that.
“I say–join us on this journey to improve the lives of New Jersey’s children, senior citizens and middle-class families.
“Ladies and gentleman, if you believe as I do that every problem has multiple solutions, that every problem can be solved, then join us on this journey, recognizing that our destination may change but our goal will be to ensure that the dreams of all of our children can be achieved.
“For my family and friends who brought a memory of my mother and father with them today, I am eternally grateful. I wish they were here and I can only hope that they would be proud. I want to thank them for molding me into the man I am today because without them this great challenge and great opportunity would not have become the mission that I embark on today.
“The sum total of these life experiences, values and the ethics I adhere to, are the framework within which I intend to define the agenda of the Democratic Party, which I am proud to serve. It is my fervent hope that these values can become the basis for bi-partisan agreement as the hard work towards compromise and accomplishment proceeds.
“We have work to do! Let’s continue our journey. God bless you and may He continue to shine His blessings on the Great State of New Jersey,” concluded Greenwald.