|From the keynote address delivered by New York
Governor Mario Cuomo at the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco:
days ago, President Reagan admitted that although some people in this country seemed to be
doing well nowadays, others were unhappy, and even worried, about themselves, their
families and their futures.
The President said he didn't understand that fear. He said, "Why, this country is
a shining city on a hill."
A shining city is perhaps all the President sees from the portico of the White House
and the verandah of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well.
But there's another part of the city, the part where some people can't pay their
mortgages and most young people can't afford one, where students can't afford the
education they need and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children
In this part of the city there are more poor than ever, more families in trouble. More
and more people who need help but can't find it.
There are ghettos where thousands of young people, without an education or a job, give
their lives away to drug dealers every day.
There is despair, Mr. President, in faces you never see, in the places you never visit
in your shining city.
Maybe if you visited more places, Mr. President, you'd understand.
Maybe if you went to Appalachia where some people still live in sheds and to Lackawanna
where thousands of unemployed steel workers wonder why we subsidized foreign steel while
we surrender their dignity to unemployment and to welfare checks; maybe if you stepped
into a shelter in Chicago and talked with some of the homeless there; maybe, Mr.
President, if you asked a woman who'd been denied the help she needs to feed her children
because you say we need the money to give a tax break to a millionaire or to build a
missile we can't even afford to use maybe then you'd understand.
Maybe, Mr. President.
But I'm afraid not. . . .
The difference between Democrats and Republicans has always been measured in courage
and confidence. 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 President has asked us to judge him on whether or not he's fulfilled the promises
he made four years ago. I accept that. Just consider what he said and what he's done.
Inflation is down since 1980 . . . reduced the old-fashioned way, with a recession, the
worst since 1932. More than 55,000 bankruptcies. Two years of massive unemployment. Two
hundred thousand farmers and ranchers forced off the land. More homeless than at any time
since the Great Depression. More hungry, more poor, and a nearly $200 billion deficit . .
. a mortgage on our children's futures that can only be paid in pain and that could
eventually bring this nation to its knees. . . .
Where would another four years take us? How much larger will the deficit be? How high
will we pile the missiles? Will we make meaner the spirit of our people?
We Democrats still have a dream. We still believe in this nation's future.
It's a story I didn't read in a book, or learn in a classroom. I saw it, and lived it.
Like many of you.
I watched a small man with thick calluses on both hands work 15 and 16 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 learned about our kind of democracy
from my father. I learned about our obligation to each other from him and from my mother.
They asked only for a chance to work and to make the world better for their children and
to be protected in those moments when they would not be able to protect themselves. This
nation and its government did that for them.
And that they were able to build a family and live in dignity and see one of their
children go from behind their little grocery store to occupy the highest seat in the
greatest state of the greatest nation in the only world we know, is an ineffably beautiful
tribute to the democratic process. . . .
I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters for the good of all of us,
for the love of this great nation, for the family of America, for the love of God. Please
make this nation remember how futures are built.