New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy took a few moments out of a busy schedule to drop in on a 5th grade class at Wilson School in Westfield on Thursday, May 24.

“Fifth grade is one of the coolest grades,” said the governor as he greeted the students.  “What are you studying today?”

A brief discussion of the formulas for surface area and volume needed to build an aquarium followed.  Governor Murphy then gave an impromptu civics lesson, noting New Jersey’s population (the 11th largest in the U.S.) and geography (4th smallest).

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“We’re packed in so we need to treat the environment well,” he told the attentive gathering which included 19 students, their teacher Alexander Schmidt, principal Joseph Malanga, superintendent Margaret Dolan, and representatives of the Wilson PTO.

Governor Murphy extolled what he called New Jersey’s great strengths, among them public education and diversity.  

“This is one of the great American states,” he said.

He praised his parents and siblings (he is the youngest of four) for their dedication to public service and said he was inspired by them and many of his role models including former presidents Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy (and members of the Kennedy family) along with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The governor answered questions from the students during the approximately 20-minute visit, ranging from “Do you travel a lot?” (“I travel literally every day.”) to “What inspired you to become governor?” (“I grew up in a family where public service was talked about and encouraged.”).  

Asked “What are some of the challenges as governor?” Governor Murphy answered “New Jersey has a lot of challenges,” adding “so far, so good. I’m an optimist. This is a great state.”

As to his favorite aspect of being governor?  “Hanging out with young people like you,” he said before exiting the classroom where Wilson students and staff lined the hallways, applauding as he smiled and waved good-bye.