Commemorating the Life of Mario Cuomoby Representative Carolyn B. Maloney
Posted on 2015-01-12
MALONEY of New York. Mr. Speaker, I thank the
gentleman for yielding and for his leadership in so many ways, and I
thank the leader of the Democratic Party for leading us in this tribute
to our great Governor. We appreciate very much your presence and
support of Mario Cuomo on the floor.
It seems only fitting and proper for us to pay tribute to the late Mario Cuomo here in this historic Chamber, here where some of the most powerful and eloquent speakers in our Nation's history have changed the course of human events, not with swords but with words and ideas.
Mario Cuomo, the former Governor of New York, the liberal lion of the Empire State, the conscience of the Democratic Party, and a cherished friend, had few peers when it came to making the power of ideas and ideals irresistible forces for good.
His faith, his passion, his values, and his unique gifts produced in him an unrivaled ability to articulate the plight, defend the rights, and engage the hopes of ordinary citizens.
I had the great fortune to be a delegate when he gave one of the most storied speeches at the National Democratic Convention in 1984. I will never forget it. When Mario Cuomo spoke, it electrified the whole convention. We were transfixed by the power of his appeal right to the deepest reaches of our common humanity.
He made all of us feel like we needed to do more, work harder, and help others because that is what really came through when Mario Cuomo spoke: his deep, unwavering commitment to fundamental decency, justice, and humanity.
He spoke to a sitting President on behalf of the forgotten and the dispossessed. He spoke to the powerful on behalf of the powerless. ``There is despair,'' he said, ``in the faces you don't see and the places you don't visit.'' Mario Cuomo was right. He spent his life working and looking out for the hardworking people who build our shining cities, who supply our food, who teach our children, who staff our hospitals, people who are too often overworked, overlooked, and underserved.
His own family had owned a store in Jamaica, Queens, and he knew full well the value of hard work and of education. He lived the American Dream and spent his life trying to build the American Dream for others. Mario Cuomo worked his way into St. John's University. He attended St. John's University School of Law in New York and graduated first in his class.
He first rose to public attention when he came roaring out of Queens back in the 1970s to challenge city hall's condemnation of a working class neighborhood in Corona. People quickly began to appreciate that Mario Cuomo had the transformative power to inspire others to demand for themselves a more just and humane society and a better government. He insisted that representative government should be just that: a government for all the people.
Whenever he was on the ballot--and I remember as an active Democrat then--Democrat registration went up because everybody wanted to vote for and help elect Mario Cuomo. They knew he would do everything in his power to give them a fair shake.
He once told me--and I always had these terrible elections. He would always tell me that he was my fairy godfather, and he would grant me three wishes to win the election, but only on one condition, that I would go out and grant three wishes to someone else and help them do a better job in what they wanted to do.
He was a wonderful friend and a mentor, a husband, a wonderful father. As a parent, there is no question he did a remarkable job. One son is a Governor, another is a news anchor, one daughter [[Page H212]] is a physician, another active in continuing the family work in housing the homeless, and another is an attorney. If that was all that he ever did, that would be plenty for one lifetime.
Mario Cuomo did much more. He was secretary of state of the great State of New York, then Lieutenant Governor, and finally Governor for three terms. He led New York to provide health care for children. He began the Decade of the Child, an effort that used multiple health care and educational strategies to better the lives of our most vulnerable. He passed the child support enforcement bill.
Under his leadership, the most intense public health plan in the Nation was put in place to take on the AIDS epidemic. Under Mario Cuomo, New York State became the first State in the Nation to enact a seatbelt law. He was a great man, and I am proud beyond all telling to be able to say that he was a friend, a mentor, and a supporter.
I grieve his passing, and I send my most heartfelt condolences to his family and his friends. I shall miss the singular and remarkable man until the end of time. To know him was to love him.