Monday, January 3, 2011

Spare Words

Speech By: Andrew Cuomo
Date: January 1, 2011
Location: New York State Capitol
Occasion: Inaugural
It was an inaugural celebration befitting the times – spare, austere even. Yet that does not mean the words of the inaugural address need be spare. After all, they place no added burden on the public purse.

But these words are indeed spare, for all that there are many of them. The speech itself runs more than 3,500 words. It is plain-spoken with few passages that depend on rhetorical flourishes.

Not only is Andrew Cuomo the first son of a New York Governor to also hold that office, the first Governor Cuomo was a renowned speaker. It can’t be a comfortable feeling to know that there will inevitably be comparisons. Yet, to be a leader in a democracy, public speaking is an essential demand of the job.

The new Governor seems to meet this challenge by concentrating on his plain-spoken approach. “My attitude will be constructive impatience with the status quo of Albany.

This doesn’t mean he abandons all resort to rhetorical convention. For example, he uses repetition to emphasize his points: “New York faces a deficit, a deficit that we talk about all day long: the budget deficit, the budget deficit. But it’s actually worse. The state faces a budget deficit and a competence deficit and an integrity deficit and a trust deficit. And those are the obstacles we really face.

He also demonstrates a distinct change of tone from the inaugural address of the last Governor elected to the post. Where Eliot Spitzer was smug and insulting, Cuomo is gracious and complimentary of others. He makes it clear he is seeking to work cooperatively, not run roughshod over everyone: “because in truth the partnership between the Executive and the Legislature has not been working well for years and that must change.

He regularly resorts to the phrase “My friends.” It’s a way to establish that all-important shared identity with the audience.

It is not a great speech, it is workmanlike. Then again that’s exactly the tone he seems to be setting: “We know what needs to be done. We have known, in truth, what needs to be done for many, many years. What we have to do this time is we actually have to do it,

Our new Governor did use the occasion to announce a radical departure from the security measures of recent years: “And today, my friends, we will reopen the Capitol, literally and figuratively. We will remove the barriers on State Street so the tour buses can return once again. We will be opening up the second floor, the Governor’s floor, so the members of the public will once again have access to their government.

I remember getting on the elevator in the Capitol and riding next to the first Governor Cuomo. You had the opportunity to talk. Just chit-chat, mostly, but if more was called for the opportunity was there. Sadly that was not possible with the last three Governors. It’s nice to think it will be again.

Length (words): 3520

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom


  1. :"Yet, to be a leader in a democracy, public speaking is an essential demand of the job.:

    How about to be a leader in a Republic as that is the form of government we have?

  2. Thanks for taking time to comment. Since a Republic is generally defined as "A form of government in which the people or some portion thereof retain supreme control over the government, and in which the head of government is not a monarch," democracy is the way the people, under this state's Constitution, retain supreme control. New York's Constitution, by the way, guarantees far greater rights to its citizens than the Federal Constitution. Thanks again for commenting.