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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Funeral For Former NY State Governor Mario Cuomo Today - Beautiful Eulogy By His Son, Governor Andrew Cuomo

The funeral of former NY State Governor Mario Cuomo took place earlier today.

NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered a beautiful eulogy for his father. An excerpt (full transcript here):

... he wasn’t really a politician at all. Mario Cuomo’s politics were more a personal belief system then a traditional theory. It was who he was. Not what he did. In his early life, my father was never interested in politics in his early life. In general, he disrespected politicians and the political system. He never studied politics or joined a political club. He never campaigned for anyone and his early life, until his late 30s, was all about becoming a lawyer and practicing law. Once in practice he became quickly bored with the typical corporate practice. My father was a humanist. He had strong feelings of right and wrong based on his religion, philosophy and life experiences. He was very concerned with how people were treated and that was the arena that drew him in. The bridge from law to politics arrived for him when he took on the representation of the homeowners in Corona, Queens, whose homes were being condemned by the City to build a ball field. They were poor, working families and they couldn’t possibly fight City Hall. They were poor, working family ethnics, who literally had no ability to fight City Hall. He took on their cause to right the injustice that he saw. Central to understanding Mario Cuomo is that Mario Cuomo was from Queens.

Mario Cuomo was from Queens. For those not from New York — Queens is an outer borough, like Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island. Interestingly, there is no borough referred to as the “inner borough,” only outer boroughs: and that’s probably the point. There are insiders and outsiders, and one defines the other. There are those from the other side of the tracks, there are those from the other side of town. An outer borough is where the working families lived: the tradesmen, the civil servants, the poor. Mario Cuomo was the son of Italian immigrants who were part of the unwashed masses, who came with great dreams but also came with great needs. Who struggled but ultimately succeeded due to the support they received in this great state of New York.

Mario Cuomo’s birthmark from the outer borough was deep and he wore it with pride. He had a natural connection with the outsider looking in, the person fighting for inclusion, the underdog, the minority, the disenfranchised, the poor. He was always the son of an immigrant. He was always an outsider and that was his edge....

... Mario Cuomo did not fit neatly into any political category. He believed that government had an affirmative obligation to help the excluded join the mainstream. He believed it was the country’s founding premise and that more inclusion made the country a stronger country. Better education, better health care, economic opportunity and mobility, helped the new immigrants progress and made the community stronger. Not to invest in the progress of others was a disservice to the whole. He believed in compassion for the sick and the needy. This was also the essence of Christianity and Jesus’ teachings. But there were no giveaways, responsibility and hard work was expected from all. He was not a spend thrift and came from a culture of fiscal responsibility. He was an executive and as Governor needed to balance a budget. He cut taxes and he cut the workforce. When he took office the top tax rate in New York was 14%. When he left office 12 years later, it was 7%. The state workforce 12 years later was smaller than when he took office.

Mario Cuomo, intellectually, was all about subtlety and nuance. He was called the great liberal. He resisted the label. His philosophy defied a single label, especially an undefined one. An undefined and nebulous one. My father called himself a progressive pragmatist. Progressive values, but a pragmatic approach. He believed he needed to separate the two separate components, the goals and the means. His goal was progressive, but his means were pragmatic. I told him at the time, it was too complicated to communicate and no one would understand what he was saying. Frankly, I still don’t understand what he was saying. But he said he didn’t care and that he wouldn’t be reduced by the shortcomings of others, including mine. My father was skeptical of the people and organizations that profited from government — to whom government was a business, rather than an avocation. And he always focused on the goal of government rather than the means — the product not the process — to help the people, the student, the parent, the citizens....

Governor Mario Cuomo created the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) in 1984.