Governor Cuomo: “Let’s stand up and demand respect for our community. Let’s lead the way by taking action and let’s build a memorial to Mother Cabrini – and I pledge my full support tonight.”
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:
NEW YORK, NY — October 13, 2019 — Good evening, everyone. What a great event this always is. First to Maria Bartiromo, what a great emcee – whatever the Italian American community needs, Maria Bartiromo is always there. Let’s give her a big round of applause, la regina per gli italiani, Maria Bartiromo. To his eminence, to his honorary Italian tonight – I don’t know if he speaks Italian but I’ve been with him and he eats Italian, I can tell you that – let’s give the eminence a big round of applause, Ambassador Varricchio, it’s a pleasure to be with you. To Angelo Vivolo, Marian Pardo, all the members of the Board of Directors of the Columbus Club who do such a great job, let’s give them a round of applause. And to Giovanni Colavita, Rosanna Scotto, who is one tough interview let me tell you but she is a smart great New Yorker and an Italian American and a great journalist. To the Brunos, for their great contribution and Massimo Ferragamo, I’m wearing my Ferragamos tonight. Don’t tell Kenneth Cole. Let’s give them all a round of applause.
And last but never least, to my Mother, Matilda Cuomo, who was honored here last year for her work on Mentoring, let’s give her a round of applause. I’ll tell you a secret. My mother has five children but I am my mother’s favorite child. I know this because she told me. She just told me don’t let the others know. That’s why it’s our secret. But I’m still your favorite mom – tell the truth. Nod your head. Please, mom. Please. There it is.
Tonight is a great night and it’s a night for a lot of fun. But I also have a serious message to convey to you. As Maria Bartiromo alluded these are serious times and the message comes down to two words but first I have to give you the background.
As we all know too well, we are in difficult times in this country. There is a fear, there’s an anxiety, there’s a divisiveness that you see and feel every day. It’s not about politics. I wish it was that easy. It’s an increasing tension among different ethnic groups and different religions. We see anti-African American activity and growth in the KKK. We see anti-gay activity, anti-Muslim activity. I wish we could say it’s somewhere else in the country and it’s not here in New York but it’s even here in New York. This week, on the night before Yom Kippur, a Holocaust Memorial in Westchester County was desecrated with swastikas. Now, as Italian Americans, when we see discrimination of anyone, we rise up and we condemn it. This state has zero tolerance for discrimination, and I am proud of that fact as Governor and I’m proud of it as an Italian American, because we understand all too well the pain and the injustice of discrimination because we have lived it – we have felt its sting and we have endured its stain.
But as Italian Americans, we must also remember that we ourselves are not immune from attack. The ugliness of Italian American stereotyping is still alive and well, our battle is not over. For all our progress, for all our efforts we must still be vigilant and active in demanding respect for the Italian American community. We have seen disrespect for our community when they wanted to take down the statue of Christopher Columbus and thanks to the people in this room, the statue was saved. We have seen it just recently. A New York City commission was created to erect statues of accomplished women. They took a public poll to see which great New York women should be honored. They offered a list of 300 names. The leading vote getter by far was Mother Cabrini. Despite that, the city commission picked seven other women to honor, and excluded Mother Cabrini.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has said that this is an affront and the Brooklyn Diocese wants to build a memorial to Mother Cabrini. They are right. We should applaud their courage and their activism. But my friends, we should even do more. We should support them. Let’s join with them tonight. Let’s stand up and demand respect for our community. Let’s lead the way by taking action and let’s build a memorial to Mother Cabrini – and I pledge my full support tonight.
Just recently, I myself have felt how mean stereotyping can be. A few weeks ago, my brother Christopher, who is a journalist with CNN, was taunted by some men in a restaurant – don’t give him applause, it’ll go to his head. But Chris was in a restaurant and he was taunted by some men as the “Fredo” of the Cuomo family. Now, Chris got offended and he reacted very harshly. The three men were videotaping the incident on their cellphones, they put the exchange on the internet, and it went viral. The next day, the New York Post printed a front page picture of my father, myself and Chris as the Godfather family. On the front page. The Albany Times Union’s Casey Seiler wrote an offensive story perpetuating the stereotype, and the story ran in other papers. First of all, to liken my family to organized crime is so offensive that I have no words. When I saw that front page of the New York Post, I was so outraged and I wanted to say such things to the Post, that if it wasn’t for my father’s voice saying, “don’t do it, don’t let them lower you,” I would have.
My father gave his life to public service and you can disagree with his politics, but you could never question his personal integrity. And the same is true for me. Chris is an accomplished, professional journalist on national television. The stereotype of the Italian American as the mafioso, the thug, the gangster, is so untrue and so demeaning – but it still exists – and the ugly stereotype must be attacked every time it rears its head. Compounding this, and even more troubling, was the reaction to the New York Post front page. The reaction was a deafening silence. The fact that there was not more outrage, that more people didn’t speak up, highlights the injustice and it highlights our challenge.
There was only one voice that was raised. One voice that spoke the truth and said, how dare you perpetuate an ugly stereotype and demean the Italian American legacy? One voice that said that our legacy is not the Godfather and the Sopranos and Goodfellas – it is Da Vinci and Michelangelo, and Lee Iacocca and Antonin Scalia, and Joe DiMaggio, and Ferragamo, and Pavarotti and Fiorello LaGuardia.
One voice that said, the false stereotype of Italian Americans as scoundrels and criminals was a burden inflicted on our parents and grandparents, but we will not allow it to survive to punish our children and our grandchildren just because they have a vowel at the end of their name. One voice that said Italian Americans never tolerate discrimination of anyone based on race, ethnicity, color or creed. That we stand in solidarity saying the three words our Italian forebears loved to say: God Bless America. And that we expect the same understanding, respect and solidarity in return.
That one voice that was raised, that defended Italian American honor, was the voice of Angelo Vivolo and the Columbus Club. And the two words, the two words I came to say tonight are: thank you. Thank you for my family, and for yours.
Thank you and God bless you.
SOURCE: New York State | Executive Chamber | Press Office