Mario Cuomo: ‘Speech about fairness’ (1)
Ten days ago. President Reagan admitted that although some people in this country seemed to be doing well nowadays, others were unhappy, and even worried, about themselves, their families and their futures. The President said he didn’t understand that fear. He said ‘Why, this country is a shining city on a hill.’ The President is right. In many ways we are ‘a shining city on a hill.’ But the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city’s splendor and glory.
A shining city is perhaps all the President sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there’s another part of the city, the part where some people can’t pay their mortgages and most young people can’t afford one, where students can’t afford the education they need and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children, evaporate.
In this part of the city there are more poor than ever, more families in trouble, more and more people who need help but can’t find it. Even worse: there are elderly people who tremble in the basements of the houses there. There are people who sleep in the city’s streets, in the gutter, where the glitter doesn’t show.
There are ghettos where thousands of young people, without an education or a job, give their lives away to drug dealers every day. There is despair, Mr President, in faces you never see, in the places you never visit in your shining city. In fact, Mr President, this nation is more a ‘tale of two cities’ than it is a ‘shining city on a hill’. Maybe if you visited more places, Mr President, you’d understand.