Being a Good Citizen

This was my sixth speech in the Competent Toastmaster series. It was originally given in 2002.

In the early 1980s, Joe Piscopo built his career at the expense of New Jersey with his Saturday Night Live skit “I’m from Joisey. Are you from Joisey? What exit?”.

The armpit of America was the battle cry across the land.

The Sopranos, a fictional cable television show, has again given New Jersey a sour taste in others’ minds. We apparently are nothing more than a bunch of mobsters here.

Yet, it is hard to fault those who pick upon us when we elect folks who do so little for us and so much to reinforce the stereotypes.

Robert Torricelli, now the senior senator from the Garden State, was severely admonished for breaking Senate ethics rules. He was found to have accepted gifts from a man who is currently in jail for funneling money illegally to Totricelli’s campaign in 1996. Totricelli stated before the probe on 16 January 1999, “I think there is a concern about the dignity of the Senate.”

Indeed, Senator, there is. The dignity of the Senate and our fair state is at stake. This is not a late-night comedy skit or concern over a television show. This is real life. Torricelli’s problems reflect upon all of us.

There was a time when the senator was on all the Sunday morning talk shows and at the Capitol’s microphones sounding off about impeachment. We should have known then.

The admonishment from his peers is telling. It says plenty that our senator cannot keep the appearance of impropriety from splashing the front pages. Torricelli has no reasonable explanation for the Rolex, the suits, and the quick money made on that IPO at his buddy’s bank. He has brought shame upon us.

James Madison wrote,

“It is a misfortune incident to republican government . . . that those who administer it may forget their obligations to their constituents, and prove unfaithful to their important trust.”

The obligation, Sen. Torricelli, is to represent New Jersey and her citizens in a manner that commands trust. Federal investigations do nothing to instill trust.

Newsweek detailed a senator who pales in Madison’s description: tirades against other senators, jet-setting with the rich and famous, politics to enact personal revenge, and disturbingly similar politics from his college days.

In a time when our young are so in need of men and women to respect, it is unfortunate that New Jersey elected a man who is derelict in his responsibility.

The senator is now running for re-election. Regardless of one’s politics, Torricelli has done nothing to represent New Jersey well. He does not deserve to represent New Jerseyans for another six years.

Let us not forget our obligation to elect a senator who will make New Jersey proud. James Madison has set the bar for elected officials. Robert Torricelli does not measure up.

Also blogged on this date . . .

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