In memory of Mario Cuomo's remarkable legacy, listen to his inspirational speech. American Rhetoric ranks it as one of the 100 greatest speeches in American history. Some background:
Cuomo was responding to Ronald Reagan's dismissal of those who were concerned about the future of the United states and our income inequality problems by falling back on lofty hand-waving rhetoric, saying that "this country is a shining city on a hill." Cuomo picked up on the image and responded with a rousing vision of what this country is and what it should be:
But the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city's splendor and glory. 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. But there's another city; there's another part to the shining the 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.
In this part of the city there are more poor than ever, more families in trouble, more and more people who need help but can't find it. Even worse: There are elderly people who tremble in the basements of the houses there. And there are people who sleep in the city streets, in the gutter, where the glitter doesn't show. There are ghettos where thousands of young people, without a job or an education, give their lives away to drug dealers every day. There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces that you don't see, in the places that you don't visit in your shining city.
In fact, Mr. President, this is a nation — Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a "Tale of Two Cities" than it is just a "Shining City on a Hill."
The former New York Governor died today, hours after his son was sworn in to a second term in that office.