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Paul Elisha: Mario Cuomo

On the eve of the most difficult and demanding chapter in this democratic republic’s history of having to mount and maintain military defenses of absolute necessity, it’s distressing to learn that those responsible for providing the financial support , our defenders can’t do without, are trying to force them to do it, ‘on the cheap.’  What this really represents, as outlined in a recent issue of the New York Times, amounts to a phony alibi for breaking a vow made to all combat veterans, who’ve literally put their lives at risk for our nation, that no matter the cost, funds needed to treat their resultant disabilities would be found and allocated, to restore their limbs and lives to reasonable levels of independence.

One elected leader, who understood and honored such commitments to the utmost, was New York State’s unforgettable Governor, Mario Cuomo, who epitomized Polonius’s advice to his son, in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Hamlet,” with the admonition: “This above all, to thine own self be true…and it follows…thou cannot then be false, to any man.”  Having reached his maturity, Mario Cuomo was a magnificently attuned progressive pragmatist, who understood the sound and effect of metered rhetoric on the human brain.  He was a politically persuasive poet of the highest order; a human instrument as rare as a Stradivarius violin, from the Cremonese workshop of one of his father, Andrea’s gifted Italian precursors.  He was also endowed with an indomitable ethical conscience, that would not allow him to ignore a social obligation, once undertaken.  More than anything, this explains his unwillingness to entertain ideas of higher office or extreme honor, like a seat on the nation’s highest court, as long as his constituents had need of his helpful leadership, which they had accepted.

When he was deprived of a fourth term, as Governor, by voters who resented his stubborn opposition to the ‘Death Penalty’, which he said was an act of pure vengeance, with no provable deterrence of crime, he established a Committee on Equal Opportunity, to honor the Reverend Martin Luther King’s call for equal justice, from the Nation’s Capitol.  He, in fact, told one interviewer, he did not believe there wasn’t at least one African-American, intelligent enough to match the intellect of a Mario Cuomo, in their own neighborhoods outside of his, in Jamaica/Queens, if they were only given an equal opportunity.  Such was the strength of his commitment.

Mario Cuomo was and remains the embodiment of such steadfastness.  Alas, we will not see someone of his stature soon, again.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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