Mario M. Cuomo: Nominating Clinton for the Presidency

Following is the transcript of Ex-Governor of New York State, Mario M. Cuomo's Nominating Speech for Bill Clinton for the Presidency. This speech was delivered at the Democratic National Convention in New York City, NY on July 15, 1992.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight, I will have the great privilege and honor of placing before you the name of the next president of the United States of America, Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas.

It seems to me that it's not a matter of our wanting Bill Clinton. It is much, much more than that. We need Bill Clinton because he is our only hope for change from this nation's current disastrous course. Eight years ago, in San Francisco, some of us tried to convince America that while President Reagan was telling us we were all one "Shining city on a hill," there was another city, were people were struggling, many of them living in pain.

And we tried to tell America that unless we changed policies, unless we expanded opportunity, the deterioration of the other city would spread. Well, we Democrats failed to reach enough Americans with that message, and now the nation has paid an awful price.

We cannot afford to fail again.

The price is too high.

For the first time in their lives, millions of Americans who took for granted the basic right to make a living with one's own hands and mind and heart have been denied the dignity of earning their own bread. Today, a 50-year old father lives nearly in terror at the prospect that if he is laid off now, as so many around him have been, in addition to losing everything else, he will lose his health insurance too.

"What if I'm struck by cancer?

"My God, what about the mortgage?

"What about my son in college?

"And my daughter who's graduating high school?

"How will they get an education?

"And will they find a job even if they get an education"?

How could it have happened? In a country where the executives of companies that fail, the presidents and chairmen of companies that make profits by trading solid American jobs for cheap labor overseas, can make 5 million, 10 million, 15 million dollars a year? How did it happen? How can our middle-class workers be in such terrible jeopardy?

A million children a year leaving school for the mean streets, surrounded by prostitutes and drug dealers, by violence and degradation of all kinds. Some of them growing up familiar with the sound of gunfire before they've even heard an orchestra. Becoming young adults, only to be instructed by the powerful evidence of their surroundings that there is little hope for them, even America. Nearly a whole generation surrendering in despair to drugs, to having children while they're still children, to hopelessness.

How did it happen, here, in the most powerful nation in the world?

It's a terrible tragedy. Not only for our children, but for all of America. They are not my children, perhaps. Perhaps they are not your children, either. But Jesse is right, they are our children. We should love the. That's common sense. Bur even if could choose not to love them, we would still need them to be sound and productive. Because they are the nation's future. It would be bad enough if we could believe this is all the result of a terrible but only a temporary recession. But this, ladies and gentlemen, is more than a recession.

Our economy has been weakened fundamentally by 12 years of conservative Republican supply-side policy. In fact, supply was just another version of the failed Republican dogma of 65 years ago, then called "trickle down," which led to the Great Depression. And it has failed us again.

Think about Supply-side.

Supply-side operated from the naive Republican assumption that if we fed the wealthiest Americans with huge income tax cuts, they would eventually produce "loaves and fishes" for everyone. Instead, it made a small group of our wealthiest Americans wealthier than ever, and left the rest of the country the crumbs from their tables.

Unemployment, Bankruptcies, Economic Stagnation.

Today, as we've heard so many times, a $400 billion annual deficit and a $4 trillion national debt hang like great albatrosses around our nation's neck, strangling our economy, menacing our future. Remember, we became a great nation by making things and selling them to others for their marks and their yen. But today, we buy from Japan and Germany and other nations the things we used to make and sell to them -- automobiles and radios and televisions, clothing -- giving them our dollars for their goods. Then at the end of the year, because we spend more than we collect in reduced taxes, we borrow back those dollars, paying billions more of our dollars in interest, increasing our debt, decreasing our ability to invest in our children, our schools, perpetuating a mad economic cycle that threatens to spin us totally out of control.

In no time at all, we have gone from the greatest seller nation, lender nation, creditor nation, to the world's largest buyer, borrower and debtor nation. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the legacy of the Bush years; the slowest economic growth for any four-year presidential term since Herbert Hoover. An economy crippled by debt and deficit. The fading of the American Dream. Working-class families sliding back down toward poverty again, deprivation, inexplicable violence. After 12 years, Americans are disillusioned, angry, an fearful. And Americans showed that -- with the quick embrace they gave to the sudden appearance on television of a provocative, wealthy businessman who said he'd like to be president. Before he told anyone what he would do or how he would do it, he uses one word and applause broke out all over America -- the word was "CHANGE."

Of course the American people want change! Of course we want something better than George Bush and the politics of decline, decay and deception. And beginning with this convention, we -- you and I -- must demonstrate to all the American people that change for the better is at hand ... ready, able and eager to serve in the person of, yes, Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas. And this time, we cannot afford to fail to deliver the message, not just to Democrats but to the whole nation. Because the ship of state is headed for the rocks.

The crew knows it. The passengers know it. Only the captain of the ship, President Bush, appears not to know it. He seems to think that the ship will be saved by the imperceptible undercurrents, directed by the invisible hand of some cyclical economic god, that will gradually move the ship so that at the last moment it will miraculously glide past the rocks.

Well, prayer is always a good idea; but our prayers must be accompanied by good works. We need a captain who understands that, and who will seize the wheel before it's too late. I am here tonight to offer America that new captain with a new course, before it is too late, and he is Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas

Bill Clinton understands that a great political party must apply the best of its accumulated wisdom to the new configurations of a changing reality. He cherishes the ideals of justice, liberty and opportunity, fairness and compassion that Robert Kennedy died for. But he knows that these, ideals require new implementations, new ways to provide incentive, to reward achievement, to encourage entrepreneur ship, to develop jobs. Bill Clinton believes, as we all here do, in the first principle of our Democratic commitment; the politics of inclusion, the solemn obligation to create opportunity for all our people. Not just the fit and the fortunate. For the aging factory worker in Pittsburgh; the school child in Atlanta; for the family farmer in Des Moines; the eager immigrants, sweating to take their place alongside of us her in New York City, and in San Francisco.

For all the people, for the bright young businesswoman in Chicago. All the people, from wherever. No matter how recently. Of whatever color, of whatever creed, of whatever sex, of whatever sexual orientation, all of them equal members of the American family, and the neediest of them deserving the most help from the rest of us. That is the fundamental Democratic predicate. Surrender that Democratic principle and we might just as well tear the donkeys from our lapels, pin elephants on instead, and retreat to elegant estates behind ivy-covered walls, where, when they detect a callus on their palms, they conclude it's time to put down their polo mallet.

Bill Clinton believes that the closest thing to a panacea that we have is described by a simple four-letter word: WORK! He has been living that truth all his life. So Bill Clinton believes that what we most need now is to create jobs by investing in the rebuilding of our cities; the shoring up of our agricultural strength; investing to produce well-trained workers, new technologies, safe energy; entrepreneur ship; laying the foundations for economic growth into the next century, with free enterprise for the many, not free enterprise for the few; pulling people off welfare, off unemployment, giving people back their dignity and their confidence.

And unlike the other candidates -- and they all talk about jobs -- Bill Clinton has a solid, intelligent, workable plan to produce these jobs. Presidents Bush disagrees with Bill Clinton. President Bush says we cannot afford to do all that needs to be done. He says we have the will but not the wallet. Bill Clinton knows that we have the wealth available. We have proven it over and over, every time dramatic catastrophes strike.

Remember the savings and loans?

Governors and mayors had gone to Washington -- and I was among them -- to plead for help for education, for job training, for roads and bridges, for drug treatment. "Sorry, there is none," said the President, "We're broke. We have the will but not the wallet."

And we put our heads down.

And then Americans discovered that wealthy bankers, educated in the most exquisite forms of conservative Republican banking, through their incompetence and thievery, and the government's neglect, had stolen or squandered everything in sight!

The world's greatest bank robbery!

And we heard no moralizing about values then from our Republican leaders ... did we?

Instead of castigation, mirablile dictu, all of a sudden, the heavens opened and out of the blue, billions of dollars appeared. Not for children. Not for jobs. Not for drugs treatment or for the ill or for health care. Bu hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out failed savings and loans. Billions for war. Billions for earthquakes if they strike. God forbid, and hurricanes. Bill Clinton asks; If we can do all of this for these spectacular catastrophes when they occur, why can't we find the wealth to respond to the quiet catastrophes that every day oppress the lives of thousands, that destroy our children with drugs?

All the quiet catastrophes that kill thousands with terrible new diseases like AIDS, that deprive our people of the sureness of adequate health care, that stifle our future? Bill Clinton asks the question: Bill Clinton has the answer.

And America needs Bill Clinton, too, because he understands we must deal with what could be, eventually, the most lethal problem of all: a degraded environment. One that kills life in our lakes with acid rain, allows cancer-causing rays to pierce a deteriorated ozone shield and threatens to convert the entire planet into a cosmic hothouse. Bill Clinton made clear how well he understands that, when he announced Senator Al Gore would be the next vice president of the United States of America.

Americanneeds Bill Clinton for still another reason. We need a leader who will stop the Republican attempt, through laws and through the courts, to tell us what god to believe in, and how to apply that god's judgment to our schoolrooms, our bedrooms and our bodies. Bill Clinton knows the course from here past peril to a new era of growth and progress for this nation that will enable us to share our power and our abundance with the world community. He was born and raised with all the personal attributes needed for leadership: God-given intelligence; vitality. And an extraordinary quality of character that allowed him to survive the buffeting and the trauma of a difficult youth.

He was born poor in Hope, Arkansas. Now, the accents were different, even the colors may have been a tint different, but the feelings were the same feelings that many of us experienced on the asphalt streets of some of the nation's great cities; the same pain; the same anguish; the same hopes. He has lived through years of hard challenges since that difficult youth. With each new challenge, he has grown wiser and stronger, as he demonstrated with his remarkable resiliency in the recent bruising Democratic primaries. In the world of fragile and thin-skinned politicians, he was an admirable aberration.

Bill Clinton has always been driven by the desire to lift himself above his own immediate concerns; to give himself to something larger than himself. His entire life has been devoted to helping others through public public service. And for 11 years now, he has been the governor of his beloved state, protecting Arkansas from a federal government that has been depriving the states and cities for over a decade; balancing 11 budgets in a row, doing the things that governors and presidents are supposed to do; enforcing the laws; providing education and opportunities for children and young adults; expanding health care; attracting new jobs; and reaching out to heal wounds caused by 300 years of unfairness and oppression.

He has done it so well that the nation's other governors, both Democratic and Republican, have repeatedly acknowledged him to be a national leader. All this time, Bill Clinton has worked to relieve other people's discomfort because he remembers his own struggle. That's why we need Bill Clinton; because Bill Clinton still remembers. Because he is equipped to break the awful gridlock in Washington and to deliver effective government. Because he will remind this nation that we are too good to make war our most successful enterprise. That's why we need Bill Clinton. We need Bill Clinton because he does not believe that the way to win political support is to pit one group against another.

Bill Clinton does not believe in the cynical political arithmetic that says you can add by subtracting, you can multiply by dividing. He rejects that. Instead he will work to make the whole nation stronger, by bringing people together, showing us our commonality, instructing us in cooperation, making us not a collection of competing special interests, but one great, special family -- the family of America. For all these reasons, we must make Bill Clinton the next president of the Unites States of America.

Ladies and gentlemen, a year ago in this great city, led by our great mayor, Mayor David Dinkins, we had a great parade in New York City to celebrate the return of our armed forces from the Persian Gulf. I am sure you had one, too. But as joyous as those parades were, I'd like to march with you in a different kind of celebration -- one, regrettably, that we cannot hold yet.

I'd like to march with our behind President Bill Clinton through cities and rural villages where all the people have safe streets, affordable housing, and health care when they need it. I want to clap my hands and throw my fists in the air, cheering neighborhoods where children can be children, where they can grow up and get the chance to go to college, and one day own their own home. I want to sing proud songs, happy songs, arm in arm with workers who have a real stake in their company's success; who once again have the assurance that a lifetime of hard work will make life better for their children than it had been for them. I want to march behind President Bill Clinton in a victory parade that sends up fireworks, celebrating the triumph of our technology centers and factories, out-producing and out-selling our overseas competitors. I want to march with you knowing that we are selecting justices to the Supreme Court who are really qualified to be there.

And justices who understand the basic American right of each individual to make his or her own private moral and religious judgments. I want to look around and feel the warmth, the pride, the profound gratitude of knowing that we are making America surer, stronger, and sweeter. I want to shout out our thanks because President Bill Clinton has helped us make the greatest nation in the world better than it's ever been.

So step aside, Mr. Bush!

You've had your parade!

It's time for change! It's time for someone smart enough to know; strong enough to do; sure enough to lead.

The Comeback Kind. A new voice for a new America.

Because I love new York, because I love America, I nominate for the office of the President of the United States, the man from Hope, Arkansas, Governor Bill Clinton!

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