A picture of Representative Louise McIntosh Slaughter
Louise S.
Democrat NY 25

About Rep. Louise
  • Commemorating the Life of Mario Cuomo

    by Representative Louise McIntosh Slaughter

    Posted on 2015-01-12

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    SLAUGHTER. I thank Mr. Crowley for yielding to me. There is so much on my mind as to what I could say about him.

    I knew him longer than the rest of the New Yorkers. I met him in 1973. I was a member of the Democratic State committee in Rochester, New York, and I was asked by the district attorney to come over to his house and meet a man from New York City who was thinking about running for Governor; so I joined my friends and sat in the [[Page H210]] living room for about an hour, awaiting the guest from New York to get off the telephone in the kitchen and come out and talk to us.

    He came out. He was perfectly charming, but he didn't know upstate New York. He started by telling us: ``A lot of people are talking to me about running for Governor, and I thought it would be a good idea if I came up here to see what all of you thought.'' I left the house that night, and I said to my friend that I was driving with: ``He is really a nice guy, and he is very smart, but, boy, he needs a lot of help.'' I was really pretty lucky, I think, that I got to do that. As it turns out, Governor Carey ran for Governor at that time, and Mr. Cuomo was appointed secretary of state.

    He had some great ideas for upstate New York. One of them was they were going to have an upstate coordinator, which is kind of an amorphous title, but I was very blessed that he let me try that job. I had been out of the workforce. I was home. My youngest child was about 12 years old. It was back in the day when one income could bring up a family and educate them.

    {time} 1945 And so trying to get back into work and to get back into all of that was pretty difficult for me. And I am not sure anybody else would have put up with me, other than Mario Cuomo, giving me every opportunity in the world to try to learn what it is we were trying to do.

    But, boy, did I ever teach him a few things. We had an old State car, a rattletrap. I drove him all over upstate New York, and the conversations we had would absolutely astound you.

    We stopped one day in one of our beautiful rural villages in upstate named Pavilion to get a cup of coffee. And a 16-year-old girl came out to wait on us. And here he was: a new person to speak to. Now, those of you who knew him know how exciting that would be. And he started in by asking her, What was the main business in Pavilion? What was the gross domestic product there? He was asking her all these questions. And all she wanted to do was get him a cup of coffee. And I felt a little sorry for her, so I said, ``He is the secretary of state.'' Unfortunately, I forgot the part to say secretary of state of New York. She went back into the kitchen, knowing this man was not Henry Kissinger, and never came back out.

    And as we rode around in this old red car, he would ask me about the cornfields. And I will tell you, if my agriculture people knew what a botch I made of trying to explain to him the life of the cornstalk, it was really awful. And he would say things like, How do they heat that house over there? What do you think they do? Where do they all go to school? Everything in the world interested him.

    He was the most extraordinary teacher that I have ever had. I just had those 2 years of showing him upstate New York. And then when he got elected lieutenant governor--I ran that upstate campaign--the State Police took over. But we still carried on all these great conversations we had. And I remember one of the policemen said once that no matter how upset Mario was, when he got off the plane and would go 10 miles or 10 rounds with Louise, they were off on a whole other subject.

    I learned so much from him. And I know that everybody thinks of him as a one-speech maker sort of a--but let me tell you, that was not it. The speech that he made at Notre Dame was so incredibly wonderful and so important and so instructive that everybody should read that as well. But one of my very favorites was when he made his speech about my hometown of Rochester on Lake Ontario.

    He described Rochester as a necklace of neighborhoods clustered around the lake. Now that is talking. And he also talked about life, that our life needed to be more than to just hope always to land on the safe squares. And we thought that was such an incredible thing to think about, that your life had to have more meaning than that.

    The people that we worked with at the secretary of state's office who were holdovers from the previous administration had said to me many, many times how wonderful it was for them to be able to work for such a first-rate lawyer. And believe me, he really was.

    He loved the country, as Nancy Pelosi pointed out. His love of his family was absolutely legendary. He was a man of deep conviction, of religious faith, who loved his family more than anything. But he also loved the great opportunity that this country had given to him.

    He talked so admiringly of his father and the strength that his father and mother had, coming here with literally nothing. And it was the manual labor that his father did to lift himself up and, consequently, his family to a better life, and the country.

    He loved New York. He loved its people. He loved its history more than anything. He loved the institution of governing.

    So I speak of him as somebody that maybe other people didn't get to know the way I did, but I admired him always. And I am pretty sure I would not be in elected office at all had I not had the opportunity to learn from him, the wonderful opportunity to represent our neighbors and to come down and to try to make law and to make some changes.

    So I thank you very much for the time, Mr. Crowley. We will not see his like again.

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