Pelosi Floor Remarks Honoring Gov. Mario Cuomo
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding. I thank the distinguished – I don't want to say senior member – but the longest-serving, member of longest serving in the New York delegation for getting us all to a start, to sing the praises of Mario Cuomo. It's my honor to join the New York delegation. I feel honored to do so – four of my five children were born in New York, so that gives me some standing on the subject.
“Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor to join the New York delegation in paying tribute to the memory of Governor Mario Cuomo and I am reminded of Ecclesiasticus. We all know this but think how appropriate it is for Mario Cuomo. In Ecclesiasticus it says: ‘Now let us praise great men, the heroes of our nation. They led the people by their counsel and their knowledge of the laws. From their font of wisdom, they gave instruction. These godly men, whose righteous deeds will not be forgotten. Their wealth is their descendants and their inheritance is their children's children. Their bodies are buried in peace and their names will live forever. The people will tell of their wisdom and the congregation will continue to sing their praise.’
“Does that remind you of Mario Cuomo? Is that perfectly appropriate for him? Surely those words apply to the life and legacy of our great departed friend, Mario. As a fellow Italian-American, I have taken great pride in his leadership. As a San Franciscan who hosted the Democratic convention, we in California had some kind of a claim on Mario Cuomo, because of the great speech that Mr. Rangel referenced that he made at that convention.
“But my observing of his greatness goes farther back than that. It was during a trip to Italy that we were invited by President Carter in 1980 to bring the sympathy and support of the American people to Italy at the time of the earthquake where they lost 2,700 lives and left 265,000 people homeless. I mentioned that because we went by helicopter from village to village to village where villages were devastated.
“Mario Cuomo – here's this person who had such a large spirit and a good soul – could sympathize with these people in English and Italian; places where, for example, in a village where the first communion class was rehearsing for first communion, all the seven-year-olds in that village were in that church when the earthquake hit. The roof came down; every seven-year-old in the village was lost.
“Imagine the grief of those individual families and of that community to lose those children. But as you would expect, he was up to the task, knowing that words are completely inadequate and no sympathy can meet the pain that they were feeling. But nonetheless, this beautiful, sympathetic man identifying with these people from a region that his family had come from, from Southern Italy.
“Mario Cuomo was a pillar of strength for his community, his state and our nation. His values, his vision, his effectiveness for the people of New York – that was an inspiration around the world. He was a man of principle and eloquence – that was good. And all the world saw, again, that manifested in the ‘Shining City on the Hill Speech’ at the 1984 Democratic Convention. With those soaring words, Gov. Cuomo summoned the best of America and called us to empower the working people and middle class families who are the backbone of our nation. He asked us to remember how futures are built.
“We know Mario Cuomo's language and leadership will echo through the ages – just as vital, just as urgent, just as energizing as his words were that day. In word and deed, Governor Mario Cuomo challenged us to make real the American dream. He had it for his family, he wanted it for everyone else – for all who strive to realize it – and to open the doors of opportunity to every American family.
“Family: family meant everything to him. He was a proud Governor of New York for three terms, but his proudest achievement was his beautiful family. No one could miss the pride and inspiration he found in his immigrant parents, how he talked about them so beautifully, or his boundless dedication to Matilda and his children. Our country has lost a great leader, but his family has lost a devoted husband to his wife of over 60 years, Matilda, a loving father to five children, Margaret, Andrew, Maria, Madeline and Christopher, and a doting grandfather to some really lovely grandchildren.
“My husband Paul and I, and our entire family, are heartbroken. We're really heartbroken by his passing. We continue to extend our deepest sympathy and love to Matilda and their family. I hope it is a comfort to them that so many people – really in their own state, and in the country, and really throughout the world – mourn their loss and continue to pray for them, and continue to be inspired by this great man.
“As Ecclesiasticus says, ‘The people will tell of [his] wisdom and the congregation will continue to sing [his] praise.’ With that, I thank the gentleman, Mr. Crowley, for yielding, and yield back to him, and thank you for bringing us together to sing the praises of Mario Cuomo. Thank you.”