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Cuomo says DNC speech will be about leadership during the pandemic

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a briefing on COVID-19 on Aug. 3.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a briefing on COVID-19 on Aug. 3.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he plans to use his prime-time speech at tonight's Democratic National Convention to reinforce the idea that government, and its leadership, matters.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated that. 

“Ask yourself, 'When was the last time government was as essential as it did today?’ ” Cuomo said. “Maybe the last time we went to war, maybe the Depression. 

“Government is making life-and-death decisions,” Cuomo continued. “It’s going to reshape the way that people think about government for a long time.” 

Cuomo said he will use the virus as a metaphor for what he sees is a sickness in the nation’s “body politic," which he said is “weak and divided.” 

The governor said he also plans to publicly thank the 30,000 medical workers who came from across the country to help New Yorkers during the height of the pandemic in the state. New York now has the one of the lowest infection rates in the nation, with 0.71% of Sunday’s testing results positive for the virus.  

Comparisons have been made to the 1984 Democratic National Convention speech made by Cuomo’s father, the late former Gov. Mario Cuomo. It  became known as the “tale of two cities” speech that propelled Mario Cuomo onto the national stage. 

A reporter asked the governor if he feels pressure because of his father’s legacy.

“Only every day,” he quipped. 

Cuomo said his speech will be different, though, partly because of the venue. Instead of a convention center with a crowd to react to the words spoken, Cuomo will be by himself, with just a video camera, when he delivers his remarks. 

“I think five or six minutes is all I get,” said Cuomo, who added he has a relatively lengthy time slot, compared to other speakers. “What are you going to do with five minutes?” 

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.