Great Moments in Italian American Political Speech-making

laguardia Great Moments in Italian American Political Speech making1947

The great New York populist Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (pictured) gave the last known public speaking engagement of his life. The 5’2″ WWI hero with a history of personally relishing political combat, made this stinging appraisal, “My generation has failed miserably. We’ve failed because of lack of courage and vision. It requires more courage to keep the peace than to go to war.”

1964

Firebrand progressive Rhode Island Senator John O. Pastore denounced ‘reactionaries and extremists’ at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. For more, go here.

1984 and 1992

New York Governor Mario Cuomo gave his acclaimed “Shining City on a Hill” speech at the Democratic National Convention. Not good enough? He followed that oratorical highlight up with his “Quiet Catastrophes” speech at the 1992 Democratic National Convention. “Billions for war,” said Cuomo, somewhat channeling LaGuadia. “Billions for earthquakes if they strike, God forbid, and hurricanes… If we can do all of this for these spectacular catastrophes when they occur, why can we not find the wealth to respond to the quiet catastrophes that every day oppress the lives of thousands, that destroy our children…”

1974

As chair of the House Judiciary Committee prosecuting the Watergate case, Congressman Peter Rodino of Newark kicked off the proceedings with a critical and unforgettable statement. To this day, Brick City’s Rodino is viewed as the gold standard chairman of investigative congressional committees. “I as the chairman have been guided by a simple principle; the principle that the law must deal fairly with every man. For me, this is the oldest principle of democracy. It is the simple but great principle that enables man to live justly and in decency in a free society. It is now nearly 15 centuries since the Emperor Justinian, from whose name the word ‘justice’ is derived, established this principle for the free citizens of Rome. …Almost two centuries ago, the founding fathers of the United States reaffirmed and refined this principle so that here all men are under the law and it is only the people who are sovereign.”

1984

Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman on a national party ticket when she accepted her party’s VP nomination at the Democratic National Convention. “Together,” Ferraro said, “we proved the political experts wrong.Fritz Mondale and I put our faith in the people, and we are going to prove the experts wrong again. …It isn’t right that a woman get paid 59 cents on the dollar for the same work as a man.”

2001

As Mayor of New York on 9/11, a responsive Rudy Giuliani endeared himself to the people of the Big Apple. He followed his deeds up with a memorable speech at the United Nations. Said Giuliani, “This was not just an attack on the City of New York or on the United States of America. It was an attack on the very idea of a free, inclusive, and civil society. It was a direct assault on the founding principles of the United Nations itself. The Preamble to the U.N. Charter states that this organization exists “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person…to practice tolerance and live together in peace as good neighbors…[and] to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security. Indeed this vicious attack places in jeopardy the whole purpose of the United Nations. Terrorism is based on the persistent and deliberate violation of fundamental human rights.”

2005

At THE Catholic University of America, Supreme Court Justice (and New Jersey native) Antonin Scalia delivered what scholars generally regard as one of his most important and influential speeches. “I am one of a small number of judges, small number of anybody — judges, professors, lawyers — who are known as originalists. Our manner of interpreting the Constitution is to begin with the text, and to give that text the meaning that it bore when it was adopted by the people. I’m not a ‘strict constructionist,’ despite the introduction. I don’t like the term ‘strict construction.’ I do not think the Constitution, or any text should be interpreted either strictly or sloppily; it should be interpreted reasonably. Many of my interpretations do not deserve the description “strict.” I do believe, however, that you give the text the meaning it had when it was adopted.”

2010

Governor Chris Christie addressed the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City with a vivid size-up of his state’s fiscal crisis. “We have no room left to borrow,” Christie said. “We have no room left to tax. So we merely have time left to do this. We are all reaching the edge of a cliff. And it reminds me a bit of that part of ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ where he had the seminal decision to make. So what did they do? They held hands and jumped off the cliff. We have to hold hands at every level of government, state, county, municipal, school board. We have to hold hands and jump…”

2016

Actor Scott Baio and actor/model Antonio Sabato, Jr. prepared to address the Republican National Convention in Cleveland