Governor Cuomo: "Let New York say that the federal government may shut itself down but it will never extinguish the Statue of Liberty's torch or erase the words of her poem, they will never close our harbor, they will never close our hearts, and they will never close this hall of dreamers or disrespect the legacy they left.
It is New York's duty, it is New York's destiny, once again, to bring the light that leads the way through the darkness. To show the nation the way forward and upward. And we will.
That is my pledge to the people of the State of New York, and we begin today."
In Speech on Ellis Island, Governor Cuomo Pledges to Propose Progressive Agenda to Legislature That Delivers Voting Reform, Strengthens Gun Laws, Protects Health Care, Legalizes Marijuana, and Reforms the Criminal Justice System
Earlier this evening, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was sworn in for a third term as Governor of the State of New York and delivered his inaugural address on Ellis Island. Entering into the 2019 legislative session, with the nation facing a social crisis, Governor Cuomo proclaimed New York would chart a different course for the nation to follow - showing that desperation has an alternative to hate: hope.
AUDIO of Governor Cuomo's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Happy New Year to everyone. Great way to start the New Year. Let's thank the staff here at this magnificent Ellis Island for keeping it open today for us and for their service.
Actually, come to think of it, the state is now paying them to keep Ellis Island open. And we are proud to do it because it would have been terrible is Ellis Island closed, that will never happen.
Let me thank our great Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Janet DiFiore.
To Reverend Richardson, who we'll hear from in a moment, and Rabbi Schneier, thank you so much for your service to New York and your inspiration to all of us.
Congratulations to my great partner in Albany, Kathy Hochul, who has been phenomenal.
Congratulations to our great new history making Attorney General - first woman elected Attorney General in the history of the State of New York. And she wears two hats, she's also the first person of color ever elected to Attorney General of the State of New York.
For your information, I was Attorney General at one point, it's one of those facts that nobody else would know. The proper protocol for the Attorney General is General James. So, I salute you General James. Congratulations.
To Thomas DiNapoli, who has been a phenomenal state public servant. He served in the New York State Assembly. If you ever want to feel intimated, come to the State of the State and have to enter the hall and hear the applause of TomDiNapoli compared to everyone else. The Assembly loves him and his applause dwarfs everyone else. He's been a phenomenal Comptroller, 32 years of state public service. Tom DiNapoli - God bless you and thank you.
I want to thank my whole family that's here today. Rabbi, we would say in Italian, 'the whole mishpahhah is here.' And I'd like to thank them, let's give them a round of applause.
We also have our elected officials, and the Lieutenant Governor mentioned them.But let me begin with the greatest team that has ever served the State of New York, in my opinion, headed by Melissa DeRosa and Rob Mujica and Alphonso David and Stephanie Benton and Jill DesRosiers. Let's give them a round of applause.
Again, to the Court of Appeals, thank you for being here. Let's give them a round of applause. And the Members of Congress. And the Members of the State Assembly and the Senate. Mayor Bill de Blasio, thank you very much for being here, Mayor.
Congressman Charles Rangel, the Lion of Lenox Avenue. Mayor David Dinkins, who brought us such pride as Mayor of New York. All our brothers and sisters in the labor movement, I thought you were here, but I can't hear you. I don't know. Thank you for being here. We've done great work together and we're going to do more.
Today, the first day of this new year, in this new term, as we together face a new reality, it's a day that not only calls for celebration but perhaps even more importantly, my friends, for perspective. Because when they write the history books about this time and place, I believe they will record this period as one of global and national unrest. A time that saw thousands of new immigrants reaching for our borders in search of hope. A time that saw troubled, frightened, American citizens frustrated by economic stagnation and a deteriorating democracy, have grave new doubts about where our country is headed.
There is now a fundamental questioning of the viability of the American promise. A covenant that created our nation's founding 242 years ago and reached full flower right here in this Great Hall for our ancestors yearning to breathe free, illuminated by the torch of our great Lady in the Harbor. A land that would work with you to lift you up to reach new heights, as high as your wings and work could carry you, with individual freedom and equal rights for all. An American promise grounded on the theory that we would work together.
This sacred compact has held firm through the centuries, through world wars, internal dissension, and economic depressions. Through it all, we overcame, we rallied as one, and we built the strongest nation on the globe. There is no other nation that can threaten us. America's only threat is from within: it is the growing division amongst us. The threat is when we see ourselves as black or white, foreign or native born, instead of as Americans. As Christians or Jews or Muslims, gay or straight, instead of as Americans. That, my friends, is truly frightening.
And that is the threat that we face today. As our nation once confronted a great economic depression, we now confront a great social depression. People's frustration is turning to fear and the fear is turning to anger and the anger is turning to division. It is impossible to overstate how dangerous, how malignant this condition is. It is like a cancer that is spreading throughout our society, a disease that causes one cell in the body politic to attack other cells, to turn one against one another.
We see it almost every day now in the spreading anti-Semitism, in the growing number of white supremacist groups, in the KKK at Charlottesville, in the rage unleashed in the mass shootings from San Bernardino, California to Parkland, Florida. We see it in the homophobia that erupted into violence and death inside an Orlando nightclub. In the cruelty that breeds in the anonymity of the internet, in the misogyny and xenophobia and nationalism that for some now constitutes the political currency of the day.
It may surprise you, but I don't fault our federal government for causing the underlying fear and frustration, but I fault them for something worse. I fault them for a failure of leadership and government malfeasance. I fault them, I fault them for manipulating and using the fear and deepening the divisions for their own political purpose. Like looters during a blackout, they didn't cause the darkness, but they exploited it. People's fear and frustration is caused by real problems in their lives and there are two options for government leaders to take.
The hard, but true path is to confront and actually solve the problem. The easy, but false path is to use the anger to blame someone else, and the easiest target to blame is always the people who are different. And this federal government has sought to demonize our differences and make our diversity our greatest weakness, rather than our greatest strength. We always knew, we always knew that the concept of E Pluribus Unum, forging one people from many different origins would be difficult, we knew it.
Pope Francis has said, differences among people always scare us. But the differences create tension and resolving that tension moves humanity forward. That tension has always been with us. And the notion of inciting it to try to divide and conquer is neither new nor novel. In fact it is old and ugly. New York knows the challenge well. With our density and diversity we have lived with it daily. But New Yorkers have always risen above hatred. When racism, or sexism, or discrimination rears its ugly head in our state we come together. All of us united to oppose the division.
When they bring fists of fear and hate, we bring an embrace of love and hope. We know that when we come together at our darkest hours that our finest days can follow.
When they write the history books, and they ask us, 'Well, what did you do in the face of anger and division? What did you do when people were disillusioned?' Let New York's answer be that in that defining moment we brought healing and light and hope and progress and action.
Let us say that New York did not seek to blame or use people's anger, but rather chose the hard but true path to resolve the fear by solving the problems that were causing the frustration in the first place. Just as FDR turned the frustration of the economic depression into a movement that passed the New Deal, let New Yorkers' frustration of the social depression to pass a new justice agenda - advancing social racial and economic justice - and let us address our issues, our very real issues with a progressive agenda - not a regressive agenda - an agenda that moves us up, forward and united, not down, backwards and divided.
Within my first 100 days, I will propose to the new Democratic Legislature the most progressive agenda this state has ever seen, period.
From voting reforms, to Roe v. Wade for New York, to protecting a woman's right to choose. To better gun laws, to healthcare protection, to legalizing marijuana, to protecting the labor movement, to a green new deal, to real criminal justice reform - we will make history and New York will move forward. Not by building a wall, my friends, but by building new bridges, and building new airports, and creating new middle class jobs and an economic future for the next generation and showing us how good we can be at our best when we are together.
My friends, our new legislature is thankfully now governed by Democrats. I feel liberated. I felt like I was fighting with one arm tied behind my back. And we will not repeat mistakes of the past. We know hollow campaign rhetoric and false political posturing only aggravates the frustration. New Yorkers are smart. They know there is no magic wand that we can wave, there is no single silver bullet. My father used to say, 'We don't need ideas that sound good, but rather ideas that are good and sound.'
New Yorkers know the difference between rhetoric and results. We either perform by delivering real solutions that restore hope and progress in people's lives or we fail. It is that simple. Either the government works or the government doesn't work. Either the government delivers or the government delivers. And if we don't deliver, we fail. But, in New York failure is not an option, my friends.
We will get it done. And it won't just be what New York got done at this defining moment, but how we did it. The way we're going to do it is by bringing people together. Democrats and Republicans. Upstate and downstate. Young and old. All of us together because we believe, in New York, that we can be a people truly guided by our better angels. Because New York believes that our interconnection and interdependence come from our essential goodness.
New York believes that your child's success is my child's success. That your acceptance is my acceptance. That your rejection is my rejection. That your respect and dignity is my respect and dignity. That is what we call community and connection.
Our official state seal -- our official state seal proclaims us the "Great State of New York." The question before us is how do we define great? Now in New York we define great by the size of one's heart and the depth of one's character. That's what great means in New York. What makes New York great is that we will not tolerate hate in our state. That's what makes us great.
What makes us great is what we believe. And our credo is not only I love New York, but New York loves you. That's what New York is about. That we reject the path of divide and conquer and we accept the path that says unify and grow. That is what New York has done time and time again throughout history.
Whenever this nation was in a dark period, whenever this nation was searching for its soul, they look to New York and New York showed the way. We showed the way when we led the women's' suffrage movement at Seneca Falls and were the first call for women's equality. We led the way right after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire when we said safety for all workers and workers' rights have to be a priority. We led the way for the gay right's movement after Stonewall because we said true equality is equality and love doesn't discriminate.
We showed the way when New York ended the sin of slavery 35 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. We showed the way forward when we rejected discrimination by electing the first Congresswoman to the United States of America, Shirley Chisholm.
And we showed the way recently, and they will write what the people in this room did into the history books, when we passed marriage equality and we changed the discourse in this nation when we passed free college tuition so every child can go to college, when we passed the best paid family leave, when we passed the best gun control law, the safe act, when we raised the minimum wage to $15, the highest in the nation, a 66 percent increase that goes into effect today and will change life for millions and millions of Americans. That's what we did. That is what we did.
And we believe, the promise that attracted five thousand people a day to come from across the globe to this sacred place, through this portal on Ellis Island, that this is not a faded memory of yesterday, but rather a shining beacon for a better tomorrow.
Ellis Island remains the place where Maud McKoy arrived from the poor island of Jamaica. Whose son was educated in New York public schools, and rose to become the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.
It is the place where Rose and Joseph Amster, Jewish immigrants from Austria arrived, whose Brooklyn-born granddaughter would become Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg.
This is the place, and this is the promise that made America, America. And no one can ever forget that. It doesn't matter how high one is raised, or what office one's occupying. Never forget where you came from, and never forget or deny this place. Because this is the place where Richard Cawley arrived fleeing starvation in Ireland, and whose grandson is now Vice President Mike Pence.
This is the harbor where Frederick Trump arrived from Germany, and whose grandson would become President of the United States. Don't you tell me Ellis Island isn't real, and true, and the promise it made America lives today, because itdoes.
That is my perspective today, my friends. January one is bittersweet for me. It's a happy but it's also a sad day. It is the anniversary of my father's death. Four years ago his health was declining, but he promised that he would be with us until Inauguration Day. And he was.
He heard my swearing in over the telephone from his bed. And he died soon afterwards. He was true to his word, always. He said he would be there for Inaugural Day, and he was there.
I took him from his bed that afternoon and we put him to rest. I loved him so, so, so much. We buried him with a special New York State necktie that I had made to wear for the Inaugural. He loved it. The state colors, navy blue and gold adorned with the state seal. And today I stand here in his shoes. I learned this lesson of America and Government from him, and from my family. Congressman Rangel is right, I didn't get it from a book, I didn't get it from a political science book. I learned it in the kitchen, from my father, from my grandparents and it is in my DNA.
My grandparents were the people at the southern border today. My mother's parents, Charles and Mary Raffa, and my father's mother Immacolata and his father Andrea, who I am named after, came poor and alone through this very hall. Their names are on the wall. It wasn't easy. My grandparents would cry to their dying day when they talk about the journey and hardship and the people they left behind. And the stereotypes and the ugliness of discrimination and the slings and arrows.
But they never gave up hope, and they made it! They would proclaim God Bless America as their tribute to this great nation. And that their son went from behind their little grocery store in South Jamaica on the other side of the tracks where he was born to occupy the highest seat in the greatest state in the greatest nation in the only world we know, proves the American success story once again. And that story has been replicated over and over and over again.
My father may be gone, but he is still with me because I believe the spirit lives. I can hear his voice and I can imagine his pain and anger if he could see his beloved country today. He would say this is an outrage, this is un-American. It violates everything we fought for, it violates everything we believe in. And he would implore us all each and every one to stand against the tide to fight back and that New York should lead by example by the power of our example and lift up New York to show the nation the way forward, show them the better way. And he would be right.
And Pop, wherever you are - and I think I know where, I think I know where - please give us the strength to fight this good fight, to resist the negative, to resist the hate mongers and the naysayers. Help us rise up and let New York say that the federal government may shut itself down, but it will never extinguish the Statue of Liberty's torch. It will never erase the words of her poem. They will never close our harbor. They will never close our hearts. They will never close this hall of dreamers. They will never disrespect the legacy they left.
It is New York's duty, it is New York's destiny, it is New York's legacy to bring the light to lead the way through the darkness and I pledge to the people of the State of New York, that's what we will do together. Thank you and God bless you.