For reasons that seem to transcend politics, people across the nation have turned to Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis. Tuning into his daily briefings has become a national tonic. I have been right there, every day affixed to my television as I listen to the one leader, someone I had no particular affection for before, that I have grown to trust. Why? Because “my friends” (how Cuomo addresses us), I need to hear his words. They convey truth, courage, and inspiration and are remarkable examples of the power of words.
We desperately need to hear the truth. Only then, can we summon the courage to face the fear and challenges a pandemic brings.
Here are some of Governor Cuomo’s words that have touched me:
“Everyone wants to know when this will be over. The truth is: We don’t know. No one knows. We are still climbing up the mountain and we’re not sure yet when we are going to get to the other side.”
We know we need to come together, but we also need leadership to guide us. The governor called the virus “the great equalizer.” His words remind us, we are all New York. We are all America.
“Everyone is subject to this virus. I don’t care how smart, how rich, how powerful you think you are.”
“We are going to fight every way we can to save every life that we can. That’s what it means to be an American and that’s what it means to be a New Yorker.”
“And we’re going to get through it because we are New York, and because we’ve dealt with a lot of things, and because we are smart. You have to be smart to make it in New York. And we are resourceful, and we are showing how resourceful we are. And because we are united, and when you are united, there is nothing you can’t do. And because we are New York tough. We are tough. You have to be tough. This place makes you tough. But it makes you tough in a good way. We’re going to make it because I love New York, and I love New York because New York loves you.”
His words remind us, we are all family and how precious family is.
“New York loves all of you. Black and white and brown and Asian and short and tall and gay and straight. New York loves everyone. That’s why I love New York. It always has, it always will. And at the end of the day, my friends, even if it is a long day, and this is a long day, love wins. Always. And it will win again through this virus.”
“This virus is very good at what it does. And it kills vulnerable people. That’s what it does. And it does that very well. And we can’t stop that.”
“My mother is not expendable. And your mother is not expendable.”
Governor Cuomo uses the power of words to commit us to action. He mandated extreme measures to ensure social distancing. He does not dodge the ramifications of his actions with words. Rather, he uses words to accept full accountability.
“I take full responsibility. Blame me.”
“I call it Matilda’s Law. My mother’s name is Matilda. Everybody’s mother, father, sister, friend in a vulnerable population—this is about protecting them. What you do highly, highly affects their health and wellbeing.”
And Cuomo invokes warmth and humor to remind us we are all in this together, as when his brother was diagnosed with coronavirus. Right before, Governor Cuomo appeared on Chris Cuomo’s nightly CNN show.
“I just called Mom, right before coming on this show, and by the way, she told me I was her favorite. The good news is, she said you were her second-favorite, her second-favorite son.”
I also tune in, he is so comforting. I recently read a new biography of Churchill in the first year of that war and was struck by his desire to tell the stark truth and then inspire. Cuomo strikes the same truth and hope balance.
I sometimes refer to the briefings as Cuomo’s fireside chats. Churchill, FDR, we’re all desperately craving leadership.
I listen to him every day. His words are so inspiring.