I rise today to recognize the distinguished public service of the Honorable Thomas Howard Kean, 48th Governor of New Jersey, who will become 80 years old next month. Governor Kean is one of the most respected statesmen in the country due to his tremendous contributions to the civic life of New Jersey and of the Nation.
Governor Kean was born on April 21, 1935 in New York City to Elizabeth Stuyvesant Howard and Robert Winthrop Kean. His father served for 20 years in the House of Representatives and became the Ranking Member on the Ways and Means Committee. His grandfather, Hamilton Fish Kean, was United States Senator from New Jersey. Historians can trace his family’s long and proud history of public service to William Livingston, signer of the United States Constitution and first Governor of New Jersey. Governor Kean was graduated from Princeton University in 1957 and after military service returned to Livingston, New Jersey – named for his ancestor.
Governor Kean started his own career in public office with election to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1967. Known as a thoughtful and diligent legislator, he was elected to lead the chamber in 1972 when he became the youngest Speaker of the General Assembly in New Jersey history. Governor Kean’s two successful campaigns for Governor of New Jersey were each of historical significance: his 1981 election marked the closest margin of victory in state history, while his 1985 reelection was the largest margin of victory ever recorded in a gubernatorial race in our State.
New Jersey saw significant improvements to public education, environmental protection, access to high-quality health care and stable taxing and spending policies during the Kean governorship. His most defining legacy was his record of inclusive public engagement that facilitated progress, compromise and the advancement of the best interests of New Jersey. Following his time in Trenton, Governor Kean served for 15 years as president of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey where applications, the physical structure and the endowment increased dramatically.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush turned to Governor Kean and former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton to chair the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The two chairs led an exhaustive review of the intelligence, homeland security and governmental response before and after the acts of terror perpetrated against the United States. The 9/11 Commission’s work and leadership drew bipartisan acclaim and resulted in major reforms to improve our Nation’s security preparedness. The United States is safer today thanks to the tremendous work of Governor Kean and his colleagues.
I had the honor to serve as an assistant counsel to Governor Kean in Trenton and am honored now to call him a constituent in the congressional district I serve. I have learned continually from Governor Kean, whether through observation or instruction, and I am among the many New Jerseyans who consider him a mentor.
Governor Kean is a wonderful son and brother, husband, father and grandfather, educator, leader, colleague and friend. He and his wife, the former Deborah Bye of Wilmington, Delaware, have raised three fine children, twin sons, Thomas and Reed, and daughter, Alexandra. His son, Thomas H. Kean, Jr., is my successor as Minority Leader in the New Jersey State Senate.
On his 80th birthday, I congratulate Governor Thomas H. Kean and wish him many years ahead of good health and happiness. The United States of America owes him a significant debt of gratitude for all that he has done in service to the Nation.