The Remarks Of Speaker Sheldon Silver

Honoring the Late Mario M. Cuomo, Governor

Assembly Chamber
Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My thoughts right now are with our former First Lady, Matilda Cuomo, who loved and shared a life with her husband, Mario for sixty years and must carry on without him.

My heart continues to be with the Cuomo Family during this difficult time.

I'm not going to pretend that the great Mario Cuomo and I were as close as brothers.

He was my friend. I considered him a mentor, a role model and the second best point guard working in the Capitol.

Like all public figures, I admired his gift for oratory.

I admired the swiftness with which he could wrap his mind around even the most complex subject.

I admired his artfulness as a debater and the tenacity with which he argued every point.

In his eulogy, his son Andrew hit the nail on the head when he observed that Mario Cuomo was not really a politician…

And to that I would add, certainly not by the standards of this social media age.

To my mind, our 52nd governor was a working class man in his heart, an academic in his mind, a theologian in his soul and a centerfielder in his bones.

He treasured family and considered the lessons he had learned from his immigrant parents a precious inheritance, as do I.

Many have observed that Mario Cuomo appreciated that New York's diversity is our greatest strength, but few realized how utterly fascinated he was by each individual segment of the mosaic he so often lionized.

He was a devout Catholic, but Mario Cuomo also had a mischievous side as well; calling staff at their homes - 6:30 on a Saturday morning - just to explain to them the difference between a Franciscan friar and a Vincentian priest, and then hanging up.

Classic Mario Cuomo.

Like many Americans of that generation, I can still hear the 1984 Convention speech resonating through the San Francisco convention hall, a message as true today as it was electrifying more than 30 years ago.

So many memories, but Andrew expressed it best when he referred to his father as a philosopher and a poet.

Like all true philosophers, Governor Mario Cuomo wrestled with reality:

Two national recessions, the devastating emergence of "crack" cocaine, the heartbreaking explosion of HIV/AIDS, the violence, the depth of poverty and despair in so many of our communities.

Being a governor and a humanist forced him to constantly argue with himself.

He struggled with the thought of people suffering and the poet in him strived to find the words that could bring New Yorkers together in furtherance of a common goal, something as simple and non-partisan as raising the quality of life for our children.

He believed that if we could all just pull together in the same direction, not only would our problems be solved, all New Yorkers would benefit.

If you read his speeches you will understand that he had found the joy in service and in doing so, had discovered the love of service.

The American scholar and teacher, William Arthur Ward once observed that each of us will one day be judged by our standard of life … not by our seeming greatness, but by our simple goodness.

Simply, Mario Cuomo was a good man.

Regardless of your politics, he was a remarkable New Yorker of great vision and character who tried his best to unite us as a family.

In the process, he inspired generations of leaders with his eloquence and his integrity.

He was one of the greatest governors in the history of our state.

I am proud to have known and worked with him, and I commend him for his service and for his leadership.

May he rest in peace.