Powerful Words, Lasting Results

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Mario Cuomo a number of times. The first was as a young reporter for the then fledgling Legislative Gazette—he took the time to really engage and listen, making it more of a conversation than an interview, and I will never forget his graciousness toward a young college kid. I think all the “young Gazette” reporters from those early days have memories of Mario: how his press secretary would guard his time but somehow always found a few minutes for one of us; how Cuomo, who never went “out” as far as we could tell (and we all lived by legislative receptions!), spent hours at the Lark Tavern during our first Legislative Gazette fundraiser, as we tried to scrape together enough money for darkroom equipment.

Later, when I became an advocate working on children’s issues, he was challenging, yet principled and pragmatic, and he would meet with us as he hammered out new and expanded programs for those in need. Prenatal care for poor uninsured women? Of course we can! (Took a few years, but it happened.) Child Health Plus? Definitely! Nutrition assistance? He told us to work that out with Dr. Axelrod, his commissioner of health. The Child Assistance Program? Yes, families should have more financial support—Mike Dowling took the lead on that one—and on it went. Cuomo surrounded himself with amazingly talented and committed policymakers. And how I remember his State of the State address announcing the Decade of the Child: I had to sneak into the Assembly Chambers for that one—I never did get an official pass to any of his State of the States but I always seemed to get in somehow!

He was a true statesman who believed in and led the family of New York. Well beyond the power of his words were the results of his actions—lasting, real results. Even if we wished then that they could be more, they were so much more than we realized!

Anne Erickson is president and CEO of the Empire Justice Center.

NEXT STORY: Down to Earth, Larger than Life

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