When I first got the letter I was to be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame I was a little suspicious. New Jersey Hall of Fame? Does New York have a hall of fame? Does Connecticut have a hall of fame? I mean, maybe they don’t think they need one.
But then I ran through the list of names: Albert Einstein, Bruce Springsteen… my mother’s going to like that. She’s here tonight. It’s her birthday and it’s the only time she’s going to hear those two names mentioned in the same sentence, so I’m going to enjoy it.
When I was recording my first album, the record company spent a lot of money taking pictures of me in New York City. But…something didn’t feel quite right. So I was walking down the boardwalk one day, stopped at a souvenir stand and bought a postcard that said “Greetings from Asbury Park.” I remember thinking, “yeah, that’s me.”
With the exception of a few half years in California, my family and I have raised our kids here. We have a big Italian-Irish family. I found my own Jersey girl right here in Asbury Park. I’ve always found it deeply resonant holding the hands of my kids on the same streets where my mom held my hand, swimming in the same ocean and taking them to visit the same beaches I did as a child. It was also a place that really protected me. It’s been very nurturing. I could take my kids down to Freehold, throw them up on my shoulders and walk along the street with thousands of other people on Kruise Night with everybody just going, “hey Bruce….” That was something that meant a lot to me, the ability to just go about my life. I really appreciated that.
You get a little older and when one of those crisp fall days come along in September and October, my friends and I slip into the cool water of the Atlantic Ocean. We take note that there are a few less of us as each year passes. But the thing about being in one place your whole life is that they’re all still around you in the water. I look towards the shore and I see my two sons and my daughter pushing their way through the waves. And on the beach there’s a whole batch of new little kids running away from the crashing surf like time itself.
That’s what New Jersey is for me. It’s a repository of my time on earth. My memory, the music I’ve made, my friendships, my life… it’s all buried here in a box somewhere in the sand down along the Central Jersey coast. I can’t imagine having it any other way.
So let me finish with a Garden State benediction. Rise up my fellow New Jerseyans, for we are all members of a confused but noble race. We, of the state that will never get any respect. We, who bear the coolness of the forever uncool. The chip on our shoulders of those with forever something to prove. And even with this wonderful Hall of Fame, we know that there’s another bad Jersey joke coming just around the corner.
But fear not. This is not our curse. It is our blessing. For this is what imbues us with our fighting spirit. That we may salute the world forever with the Jersey state bird, and that the fumes from our great northern industrial area to the ocean breezes of Cape May fill us with the raw hunger, the naked ambition and the desire not just to do our best, but to stick it in your face. Theory of relativity anybody? How about some electric light with your day? Or maybe a spin to the moon and back? And that is why our fellow Americans in the other 49 states know, when the announcer says “and now in this corner, from New Jersey….” they better keep their hands up and their heads down, because when that bell rings, we’re coming out swinging.
God Bless the Garden State."
— Bruce Springsteen
— Don Draper, Mad Men