Mario Cuomo, a three-term Democratic governor of New York, passed away yesterday at 82 of natural causes due to heart failure. In tributes and obituaries, he was remembered as a passionate, transformative politician with a gift for public speaking.
A powerful address at the 1984 Democratic National Convention thrust him into the national spotlight. Cuomo publicly challenged then-President Ronald Reagan’s vision of America as a “shining city on a hill.”
“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,’” he said at the San Francisco convention.
The address earned him praise among Democrats, many of whom hoped for a presidential run that would never transpire.
Later that year, Cuomo, who served in office from 1983 to 1995, delivered another historic speech: “Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective.” The address was delivered on Sept. 13 at the University of Notre Dame near South Bend, Ind.
In it, Cuomo, a Roman Catholic educated in Catholic schools, discussed the “hard questions” about separation of church and state as it relates to morality. He also shared his views on legalized abortion.
“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.’”
In guaranteeing others’ right to abortion, Cuomo argued, “they guarantee our right to be Catholics: our right to pray, to use the sacraments, to refuse birth control devices, to reject abortion, not to divorce and remarry if we believe it to be wrong.”
Cuomo said he accepted Catholic teaching on abortion, but as governor did not believe he should impose the church’s moral teaching on society. He asked:
I accept the church’s teaching on abortion. Must I insist you do? By law? By denying you Medicaid funding? By a constitutional amendment? If so, which one? Would that be the best way to avoid abortions or to prevent them?
Cuomo’s liberal, pro-abortion views upset Catholics so much so that New York’s cardinal once considered excommunicating him.
Just hours before his death, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his son, was sworn in for a second term and delivered a speech that mentioned his father.
He couldn’t be here physically today. But my father is in this room. He is in the heart and mind of every person who is here. He is here and he is here, and his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what has brought this state to this point.
Prior to giving that speech, Mario Cuomo told his son that it was “good, especially for a second-termer.”
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