Mario Cuomo Remembered as Giant In Political Rhetoric

Mario Cuomo (Fred R. Conrad)
Mario Cuomo (Fred R. Conrad)
While former Gov. Mario Cuomo served three terms as the chief executive of the Empire State, his greatest legacy to national politics may have been his 1984 keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

The address, known as the “Tale of Two Cities” speech, was a full-throated rebuttal of President Ronald Reagan, who would go on to a landslide victory over the Democratic nominee Walter Mondale.

But in San Francisco that July evening, Cuomo, 82, who died on Thursday, offered what is widely considered one of the finest pieces of political rhetoric in recent memory.

Cuomo’s speech came 10 days after Reagan referred to the USA, which wallowed in recession for much of Reagan’s first term, as the “shining city on a hill.”

“A shining city is perhaps all the president sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well,” Cuomo responded from San Francisco. “But there’s another city; there’s another part to the shining city; the part where some people can’t pay their mortgages, and most young people can’t afford one; where students can’t afford the education they need, and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate.”

The tributes poured in on Thursday with politicians from Upstate New York to Hawaii, where President Obama is vacationing, recalling the former three-term governor’s rise as a great American story. The son of immigrants, Cuomo became one of the most important voices of liberalism in America.

“An Italian Catholic kid from Queens, born to immigrant parents, Mario paired his faith in God and faith in America to live a life of public service – and we are all better for it,” Obama said in a statement. “He rose to be chief executive of the state he loved, a determined champion of progressive values, and an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity.”

Like Obama, who rose to prominence with a stirring address to fellow Democrats at the Boston convention in 2004, it was the speech at the San Francisco convention that cemented Cuomo’s place as a legend in Democratic politics.

“I used to try and model speeches after him and even used to practice his cadence from the ’84 Democratic National Convention speech,” former New York Gov. David Paterson recalled on Twitter.

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Aamer Madhani

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