Mario Cuomo: The Italian Who Made America Better

Ottorino Cappelli (January 02, 2015)
Remembering Mario M. Cuomo, 1932-2015.

We want to remember Mario Cuomo by offering you this video of his hyper-famous "A Tale of Two Cities" speech (read the full text here).

It was the keynote address by which Mario Cuomo,  then Governor of the State of New York, opened the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. At the time Cuomo was on the rise as a figure of presidential stature in the Democratic Party. It was the Reagan era, and Cuomo was considered one of the best anti-Reagan orators in town, a Great (Democratic) Communicator.

In that speech, he attacked President Reagan for saying that he didn't understand the fear of many Americans who were "unhappy, even worried, about themselves, their families, and their futures." "Why?" Cuomo reported Reagan as asking, rhetorically, his audience, "This country is a shining city on a hill!"

And here came the lunge: "Mr. President -- Cuomo erupted -- you ought to know that this nation is more a "Tale of Two Cities" than it is just a "Shining City on a Hill." Then he elaborated:

It’s not by chance that such speech came from an American of Italian origin. For Mario Cuomo, in fact, the “Two Cities” argument was strictly connected to a “Tale of Immigration.” Here is how he elaborated it, turning the story of his Italian immigrant family into a universal symbol:

It should not be forgotten that by that speech Mario Cuomo was introducing to the Democratic Convention the Mondale-Ferraro ticket, where fellow Italian American Geraldine Ferraro was to be, in his words: “America's first woman Vice President, the child of immigrants, and she -- she will open with one magnificent stroke, a whole new frontier for the United States.”

True, the Mondale-Ferraro ticket was defeated. And seen 30 years later from the perspective of the Obama era, all this may seem political archeology. But we like to think that Mario Cuomo’s 1984 keynote address did contribute to future events in the Democratic Party and in this country at large. And it proved that the Italian-American community is capable of generating political figures of high profile who can mobilize the dreams and hopes of the American public at large. 

Definitely this was a man who made America better.







Select one to show comments and join the conversation