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Governor Tom Kean: The Politics Of Inclusion

kean autograph
Governor Kean signed my book in 1988. (Craig Allen photo)

Governor Chris Christie is all over the tube…whether you’re watching the entire sit-down with Oprah, or catching clips on the news and the talkshows.  This is not new for the Garden State.  Christie is just the most-recent New Jersey governor to find himself, and his policies, in the media spotlight.

Back in November, I blogged about New Jersey governors I have met over the years, including Tom Kean.  In the late 1980s, Governor Kean was seen as a rising star in the Republican party, much like Governor Christie is today.  In 1988, Kean wrote “The Politics Of Inclusion.”  The moment it hit the bookstores, I grabbed a copy, and the governor was kind enough to sign it.

Oprah’s Chris Christie interview prompted me to scour my bookshelves.  The Kean book, dedicated to “The People Of New Jersey,”  is part biography. Part lays out the philosophies and major policy decisions driving the Kean years (1982-1990).  Part of  ”The Politics Of Inclusion” lays out Kean’s 1988 vision for the post-1980s: emphasizing American values, education and welfare reform, environmental preservation, and indivdualism.

Few readers today will remember that Tom Kean ran a longshot campaign for the governor’s mansion: he faced stiff competition in the 1981 Republican primary, and was declared the loser to Jim Florio by a major TV network on election night.  In reality, Kean won by the smallest margin in state history: 1,797 votes out of 2.3 million cast! Four years later, Governor Tom Kean won re-election by the biggest landslide in New Jersey history.

On the lighter side, did you know that Governor Kean is related to a signer of the Declaration Of Independence? And, New Jersey’s first governor? And that his father was a New Jersey congressman? Probably not, as Governor Kean consciously keeps his life, and (like Chris Christie) his family life, out of the public view.  Kean writes of his childhood shyness, and an early determination to stay out of the family business (politics).  He was a schoolteacher, worked on Wall Street, and ran his own realty company before being drawn into the public arena, as a state assemblyman.

The book is also full of stories about, and personal insights into, some of New Jersey’s biggest movers and shakers of the late ’60s, the ’70s and 1980s.  And, while those faces have changed, many of the issues Kean faced then, we still face as a state (and nation).  As the old saying goes: The more things change, the more they stay the same!  Therefore, I recommend reading “The Politics Of Inclusion” to any Jersey ‘political junkie,’ or armchair historian.  That is….if you can find a copy.  Visit your library.  Or, at last check, eBay has 1 copy…and it will cost you! Hurry…

Kean Book
(Craig Allen photo)

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