Mario Cuomo: Remembrances of a Remarkable Man
by William O'Shaughnessy
Whitney Media Publishing Group

"Through it all he was a most generous friend, to be sure. But I still treasure most the great gift of his friendship and presence in my life."

It was an unlikely friendship. No one would have expected a rising figure among New York's Democrats and a Republican broadcaster to hit it off; oil and water should have had a better chance of mixing. Yet, there was something about this Italian immigrant's son from Queens that set him apart from other men, an ineffable quality that was able to earn him a hearing on both sides of the political fence. O'Shaughnessy, "the voice of Westchester" County, caught a glimpse of this during his first radio interview with Mario Cuomo, then New York's secretary of state, in 1977, an encounter that caused him to race to the phone after his guest left, call up the local bigwigs in the Democratic party, and demand of them, "Who is this guy…?" Over the next thirty-eight years the relationship between Cuomo and O'Shaughnessy blossomed, becoming one of mutual respect, trust, and an easy amiability. Now, a little over two years after Cuomo's death, O'Shaughnessy has put together a book that veers away from the typical biographical format in order to instead reveal the heart of his friend.

Since Cuomo was highly esteemed as both a writer and an orator, the author has chosen to let his subject speak for himself throughout much of the book. Excerpts from letters to his family, pertinent passages from his speeches, and selected interviews show the way Cuomo thought and not merely what he did during his long, public career. O'Shaughnessy also avoids some of the more famous of the former governor's works, such as his highly controversial speech on abortion, "Religious Belief and Public Morality," which he delivered at Notre Dame in 1994, in favor of lesser-known pieces that exhibit aspects of Cuomo that many may not be as familiar with. For example, Cuomo's eloquence as a speaker helped foster a public persona of self-assurance and confidence. Yet there was also a humility that peeped through, at times, such as in a speech at St. James Cathedral: "I am here as an old-fashioned Catholic who sins, regrets, struggles, worries, gets confused, and most of the time feels better after Confession."

This is not to say that O'Shaughnessy lets his friend do all of the talking. The white-haired radio host is famous for his gift of gab, and he uses his skills to the full extent as he shares a variety of personal vignettes about times he spent with Cuomo, seeing sides of the man that only someone close to him would notice. In these observations, we get a feel for Cuomo's sense of humor, his cordiality even with those of opposing political views such as members of the Bush family, and his fervent faith. Through O'Shaughnessy's insightful writing, we get an insider's view of the politician, lawyer, and author as a person and not just a celebrity.

Much has been written about Mario Cuomo over the years, and in all likelihood, there will be even more articles and biographies to come. Yet few will be able to portray him quite like O'Shaughnessy does. The reason for this is that while future researchers may be able to offer in-depth analysis of Cuomo's impact on New York's and even the nation's political thinking, their narratives will undoubtedly be hampered by historical distance. O'Shaughnessy's writing, however, is filtered through the lens of friendship and unabashed love.

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