NJ gov. to Delaware graduates: Heed your passion

(FILE) New Jersey Gov. elect Chris Christie announces Thursday, Dec. 16, 2009, in Trenton, N.J., that he is appointing Kim Guadagno, right, who will be New Jersey's first lieutenant governor, to pull double duty in the new administration by also serving as secretary of state. (Mel Evans)

January 9, 2011 4:40:30 PM PST
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie returned to his alma mater on Sunday to receive an honorary degree and give a commencement address in which he urged University of Delaware graduates to be open to the possibilities their futures hold.

Christie picked up an honorary doctor of laws degree before delivering the winter commencement speech to 1,334 graduates.

"You live a lot of your life inside your own mind, so fill it with things that make you appreciate all there is beside that which you already know," Christie told the class. "Consider what's familiar, then furnish your mind with the unfamiliar.

"The scientist needs to make a place for art in their lives," he continued. "The number cruncher ought to make room for literature and the master of reason needs to understand the undefinable pull of human emotion."

Christie, who graduated in 1984 with a degree in political science, said he once enrolled in a class on American and English poets at the suggestion of a girlfriend and found that, much to his surprise, he was genuinely interested in the material.

"Has this made me a better lawyer? Probably not," he said.

"But what it did was help to take off the blinders. It opened my mind to other things - that I might actually enjoy something different than the path I had chosen for myself at 18 years old."

Christie, a former student body president, was lauded during his introduction as "a bold reformer and steadfast leader" by A.

Gilchrist Sparks III, chairman of the school's board of trustees.

In his 17-minute speech, Christie encouraged the graduates to look beyond life's traditional paths.

"That's freedom," he said, "the freedom to look beyond the path you're on to recognize something better for your soul.

"So, I say to you as you graduate today with this splendid and prestigious degree, as you go through life, do whatever it is you enjoy."

The Republican governor, who defied the odds to beat an incumbent Democrat in New Jersey a year ago, acknowledged that following one's passion is not always easy.

"When you've got a comfortable life and a routine, it's going to take a lot of courage to listen to your heart and decide to begin to climb another hill," he said.

However, he warned, "life is too short for the color and the timbre and the tone of your days to be determined by nothing more than the view from your own two eyes."

The 48-year-old has warm memories of his time at Delaware. He met his future wife, Mary Pat, there and won early election to the student body. (Mary Pat was on the slate as student body secretary.) Christie gave the commencement address in 2004 while serving as U.S. attorney for New Jersey and was elected to the Alumni Association's Hall of Fame last year. He's been a Blue Hens football season ticket holder for 21 years.

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