Unlike the sharp repartee and the curt banter between the Rev. Al Sharpton and Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the mayor’s appearance at the National Action Network on Jan. 15, there was nothing but pleasantries between the reverend and his guest speaker, Gov. Andrew Cuomo who also spoke a few days later.
With Cuomo keynoting, it wasn’t the usual Saturday at NAN. It was the ongoing week of celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and the politicians turned out in droves. Assemblyman Keith Wright, state Sen. Malcolm Smith, Council Members Robert Jackson and Tish James, former Gov. David Paterson and Assemblyman Karim Camara, who set the tone for the morning with his comments on the importance of gun control were but a few of the participants.
“I thought it would never happen,” Camara said, “but now we have the toughest gun law in the country, and thanks mainly to our governor.”
The state’s gun laws, Sharpton said when he took his turn at the podium, “should be a model for the other states to follow.”
There couldn’t have been a better introduction for Cuomo, who praised Sharpton for his leadership and ever-increasing exposure in the media. “It seems like you’re everywhere,” he joshed.
But the moment belonged to King, and Cuomo dwelled on the great leader’s sense of justice, sense of commitment and sense of community.
“Dr. King wasn’t talking about criminal justice because we in America know how to lock up people,” Cuomo said. “He struggled for social, racial and economic justice. And we all know that discrimination is alive and well in our country. That’s why we have to fight it every day.”
One of the high points during his State of the State address was his comments on raising the minimum wage, which has been frozen at $7.25 for several years. “We have to raise the minimum wage because you shouldn’t have to choose between eating or paying your rent,” he charged.
Women’s equality was another point emphasized. “Women g’s birthday,” he said. “What we have to realize is that we’re in this together. When one is raised, then all of us are raised. That’s what Dr. King was talking about, and we must strive for this sense of community. That will be the best way to honor his legacy.”