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Brian H.
Democrat NY 26

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  • Honoring the Life and Legacy of Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo

    by Representative Brian Higgins

    Posted on 2015-01-07

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    HIGGINS of new york in the house of representatives Wednesday, January 7, 2015 Mr. HIGGINS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the life and legacy of Governor Mario Cuomo, who passed away on January 1, 2015 at the age of 82. A highly respected public servant and brilliant orator, Mario Cuomo served as Governor of New York State for three terms, from 1983 to 1994.



    Governor Cuomo was born on June 15, 1932, in his beloved Borough of Queens. Hailing from a family of Italian immigrants, he worked in the family's grocery store in South Jamaica growing up. The governor graduated from St. John's Preparatory School, and went on to play baseball on the freshman team at St. John's University. An aggressive player, he showed great talent and promise. Indeed, he was signed as a prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, earning a signing bonus [[Page E23]] that exceeded that of a contemporary prospect--Mickey Mantle--that was later the subject of joking between the two men.

    Shortly after beginning to play for the Class D Brunswick Pirates in Georgia, the young future Governor Cuomo was struck in the head by a fastball, forcing his retirement from baseball. He then returned to St. John's University, graduating in 1953. There he met his wife, a fellow student, Matilda Raffa Cuomo. Together they had five children: Andrew Cuomo, the current Governor of New York, Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo, Maria Cuomo Cole, Madeline Cuomo O'Donohue and Christopher Cuomo, a journalist at CNN; and fourteen grandchildren.

    Upon graduation, Cuomo enrolled in St. John's Law School on scholarship, where he graduated at the top of his class. Cuomo experienced success in his law career early on, often fighting on behalf of many blue-collar and middle class families like his own.

    His success did not go unnoticed, and in 1974 he was the Democratic Party's choice for Lieutenant Governor of New York. Although he lost the primary election, newly elected Governor Hugh Carey named him New York's Secretary of State. In 1978, Governor Carey asked Cuomo to be his running mate as Lieutenant Governor, and the pair won the election handily.

    In 1982, when Carey did not run for re-election, Cuomo sought and won the office of Governor of New York. In his inaugural speech, Cuomo called on the state government to be ``a positive source for good,'' espousing an energetic optimism and true belief in government. An elegant spokesman for liberal politics, his keynote address at the 1984 Democratic National Convention is widely regarded as one of the finest political speeches of our time.

    Gov. Cuomo served proudly as New York's 52nd Governor for three terms, leading the state with a philosophy of ``progressive pragmatism'' that resulted in fiscal and ethics reforms for the state, and a broader economic reach for the state in the global marketplace. At his lead, New York became renowned for passing more ``first in the nation'' types of legislation than any other state. From automobile safety to education reforms to public safety, Mario Cuomo's leadership, more than anyone else's, succeeded in ensuring New York's rightful place at the Empire State.

    On a personal level, I was always an admirer of Governor Mario Cuomo, from his first election right up until his unfortunate passing. Shortly after my initial election to Congress in 2004, I made an appointment to meet with Gov. Cuomo at his New York law office. Scheduled as I was for a brief meeting, I was surprised to spend nearly two hours in the Governor's office, absorbing his advice and hearing of his many experiences in government and private life. To this day, to gain inspiration and to learn more about how to say what is on my mind, I consult many of Gov. Cuomo's writings. His voice still teaches and his message still resonates all these many years later.

    Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me a few moments to honor the life of Governor Mario Cuomo. I ask that my colleagues join me in expressing our deepest condolences to the Cuomo family, and our most sincere gratitude for his dedication to creating a better state and nation.

    ____________________

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