Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Mario Cuomo

American Politician, Governor of New York

"You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose."

"If you can manipulate news, a judge can manipulate the law. A smart lawyer can keep a killer out of jail, a smart accountant can keep a thief from paying taxes, a smart reporter could ruin your reputation- unfairly."

"There are only two rules for being successful; one, figure out exactly what you want to do, and two, do it. "

"The price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is that someday they might force their beliefs on us."

"Almost all Americans accept some religious values as a part of our public life. We are a religious people, many of us descended from ancestors who came here expressly to live their religious faith free from coercion or repression. But we are also a people of many religions, with no established church, who hold different beliefs on many matters."

"Decide exactly what you want to achieve. Do you want to help people, or do you want to be powerful?"

"Do you blame me, ladies and gentlemen, for being reluctant to deliver to them the message that is traditional on commencement day?"

"Do we have the right now to tell them that when Saint Francis begged the Lord to teach him to want to console instead of seeking to be consoled ? to teach him to want to love instead of desiring to be loved ? that he was really being selfish? Because he knew the only way to be fulfilled and pleased and happy was to give instead of trying to get."

"Entertainers and sports figures achieve fame and wealth but find the world empty and dull without the solace and stimulation of drugs."

"For me to make lasagna would be a desecration of a great Italian dish.... I don't mess with sacred things."

"Every time I've done something that doesn't feel right, it's ended up not being right."

"He was agonizingly long... but don't make the mistake thinking that is a fatal error. I've known him as a governor for a long time and I think he's extremely talented. He has the strength of being able to focus. He has a single ambition, and he has always had this ambition, and it is to someday be president of the United States."

"How can we tell our children that ? when we have ourselves so often cried out in bitter despair at what we regarded to be the injustice of life ? and when we have so often surrendered?"

"I can offer you no final truths, complete and unchallengeable. But it's possible this one effort will provoke other efforts ? both in support and contradiction of my position ? that will help all of us understand our differences and perhaps even discover some basic agreement. In the end, I'm convinced we will all benefit if suspicion is replaced by discussion, innuendo by dialogue; if the emphasis in our debate turns from a search for talismanic criteria and neat but simplistic answers to an honest ? more intelligent ? attempt at describing the role religion has in our public affairs, and the limits placed on that role. And if we do it right ? if we're not afraid of the truth even when the truth is complex ? this debate, by clarification, can bring relief to untold numbers of confused ? even anguished ? Catholics, as well as to many others who want only to make our already great democracy even stronger than it is."

"How simple it seems now. We thought the Sermon on the Mount was a nice allegory and nothing more. What we didn't understand until we got to be a little older was that it was the whole answer, the whole truth. That the way ? the only way ? to succeed and to be happy is to learn those rules so basic that a shepherd's son could teach them to an ignorant flock without notes or formulae."

"How do we tell them that one not be discouraged by the imperfection of the world and the inevitability of death and diminishment. How do we tell them when they lose a child, or are crippled, or know that they will themselves die too soon ? that God permits pain and sickness and unfairness and evil to exist, only in order to permit us to test our mettle and to earn a fulfillment that would otherwise not be possible?"

"I am a trial lawyer. Matilda says that at dinner on a good day I sound like an affidavit."

"I have no plans, and no plans to plan."

"I protect my right to be a Catholic by preserving your right to believe as a Jew, a Protestant, or non-believer, or as anything else you choose. We know that the price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is that they might someday force theirs on us. This freedom is the fundamental strength of our unique experiment in government. In the complex interplay of forces and considerations that go into the making of our laws and policies, its preservation must be a pervasive and dominant concern."

"I talk and talk and talk, and I haven?t taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week."

"I said I didn?t want to run for president. I didn?t ask you to believe me."

"I think it's already apparent that a good part of this Nation understands ? if only instinctively ? that anything which seems to suggest that God favors a political party or the establishment of a state church, is wrong and dangerous."

"I told them that my grandfather had died in the Great Crash of 1929 ? a stockbroker jumped out of a window and crushed him and his pushcart down below."

"I watched a small man with thick calluses on both hands work fifteen and sixteen hours a day. I saw him once literally bleed from the bottoms of his feet, a man who came here uneducated, alone, unable to speak the language, who taught me all I needed to know about faith and hard work by the simple eloquence of his example."

"I?d say, ?That?s it, Charlie, you?re going to be by yourself for a hundred years.?"

"I wish I could say he was the product of a developed politics here that is so strong, but he wasn't, ... And, neither was Hillary. Hillary was an import from Washington who chose, to our benefit, to come to New York. Yeah, they are New Yorkers now and very much so, but not a product of New York politics."

"I would like to tell them, the graduates, all of this, and I know that if we thought they would not be embarrassed by hearing it, we would all be telling them about how proud we are of them and how much we believe in them and their future. But again maybe we don't have to tell them; maybe they know. Maybe they can tell just by seeing the love in our eyes today."

"In the end, I'm convinced we will all benefit if suspicion is replaced by discussion, innuendo by dialogue; if the emphasis in our debate turns from a search for talismanic criteria and neat but simplistic answers to an honest ? more intelligent ? attempt at describing the role religion has in our public affairs, and the limits placed on that role."

"Indeed, as I think about it, I have to conclude that these young people before me today are the best reason for hope that this world knows."

"If you were Merlin and you had taken a young boy with a fragile build and dipped him into the cauldron of boiling juices from lizards' insides and produced a knight with the biggest, broadest sword ever seen, you wouldn't have a better miracle than Giuliani produced by 9-11,"

"It was anticipating self-defense."

"It seems to me he has everything it takes to make a really great candidate. I'm delighted and pleased we're endorsing him, and I'll do everything I can to help."

"I've been taking a closer look at these graduates. They are actually taller, stronger, smarter than we were, smart enough maybe to take our mistakes as their messages, to make our weaknesses their lessons, and to make our example ? good and not so good ? part of their education."

"Lincoln isn?t a man with ingrown toenails, he?s an idea."

"Most of us have achieved levels of affluence and comfort un-thought of two generations ago. We've never had it so good, most of us. Nor have we ever complained so bitterly about our problems. The closed circle of materialism is clear to us now ? aspirations become wants, wants become needs, and self-gratification becomes a bottomless pit. All around us we have seen success in the world's terms become ultimate and desperate failure."

"Oh yes, Ed prefers to think he beat himself rather than somebody else beating him. He thanked me for saying that."

"Our public morality, then ? the moral standards we maintain for everyone, not just the ones we insist on in our private lives ? depends on a consensus view of right and wrong. The values derived from religious belief will not ? and should not ? be accepted as part of the public morality unless they are shared by the pluralistic community at large, by consensus. That those values happen to be religious values does not deny them acceptability as a part of this consensus. But it does not require their acceptability, either."

"People expect Byzantine, Machiavellian logic from politicians. But the truth is simple. Trial lawyers learn a good rule: 'Don't decide what you don't have to decide.' That's not evasion, it's wisdom."

"Scott Stringer has a record of standing up to special interests and getting results for the people of Manhattan. I know a real reformer when I see one and Scott Stringer is the real deal."

"Tell me, ladies and gentlemen, are we the ones to tell them what their instructors have tried to teach them for years? That the philosophers were right. That Saint Francis, Buddha, Muhammad, Maimonides ? all spoke the truth when they said the only way to serve yourself is to serve others; and that Aristotle was right, before them, when he said the only way to assure yourself happiness is to learn to give happiness."

"The closed circle of materialism is clear to us now ? aspirations become wants, wants become needs, and self-gratification becomes a bottomless pit."

"The American people need no course in philosophy or political science or church history to know that God should not be made into a celestial party chairman."

"The mugger who is arrested is back on the street before the police officer, but the person mugged may not be back on the street for a long time, if ever."

"The Republicans believe the wagon train will not make it to the frontier unless some of our old, some of our young, and some of our weak are left behind by the side of the trail. We Democrats believe that we can make it all the way with the whole family intact."

"The values derived from religious belief will not ? and should not ? be accepted as part of the public morality unless they are shared by the pluralistic community at large, by consensus."

"There are few things more amusing in the world of politics than watching moderate Republicans charging to the right in pursuit of greater glory."

"Way down deep the American people are afraid of an entangling relationship between formal religions ? or whole bodies of religious belief ? and government."

"We believe in a government that is characterized by fairness and reasonableness, a reasonableness that goes beyond labels, that doesn't distort or promise to do things that we know we can't do. We believe in a government strong enough to use words like "love" and "compassion" and smart enough to convert our noblest aspirations into practical realities."

"We believe as Democrats, that a society as blessed as ours, the most affluent democracy in the world's history, one that can spend trillions on instruments of destruction, ought to be able to help the middle class in its struggle, ought to be able to find work for all who can do it, room at the table, shelter for the homeless, care for the elderly and infirm, and hope for the destitute. And we proclaim as loudly as we can the utter insanity of nuclear proliferation and the need for a nuclear freeze, if only to affirm the simple truth that peace is better than war because life is better than death."

"We believe in a single fundamental idea that describes better than most textbooks and any speech that I could write what a proper government should be: the idea of family, mutuality, the sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all, feeling one another's pain, sharing one another's blessings ? reasonably, honestly, fairly, without respect to race, or sex, or geography, or political affiliation."