Mario Cuomo's three wishes for U.S.: Education, immigrants, tech

The former New York governor who turned down a run at the White House and was called "Hamlet on the Hudson," spends a few minutes talking tech with CNET.

If you're old enough to remember the 1984 Democratic National Convention and you were among those who didn't buy into Ronald Reagan's supply-side economics, then Mario Cuomo likely made an impression on you.

Mario Cuomo Greg Sandoval/CNET

The then governor of New York made a splashy entrance into national politics during the convention when he gave the keynote speech and displayed dazzling oratory skills. He compared the United States of back then to two cities, one where the rich and privileged thrived and the other where the poor were marginalized.

For years after that, his name was continuously mentioned as a possible candidate for president. Fans begged him to run, but he always declined. His reluctance to join national politics earned him the nickname "Hamlet on the Hudson." Instead, he stayed on as New York's governor (1983-1994) until his opponents ran a campaign that criticized him for being soft on crime.

Cuomo, who will turn 80 on June 15, still influences New York politics in some important ways. Perhaps the most important, his son Andrew Cuomo is now the state's governor. On Thursday, CNET ran into Mario Cuomo in Manhattan and asked him about his take on technology.

Question: Governor, do you have any opinions about what's happening in technology today? Do you have an iPad or iPhone?
Cuomo: I have a question. What makes you think I know anything about that (laughter)?

Come on, because you're an informed guy.
Cuomo: Well, I'll say this: there are a number of things that are absolutely obvious about the American condition now. One is the continuing importance in high technology. We're way behind where we ought to be as a nation, way behind. Recently, I've spent a lot of time on oil and the use of high technology in extracting oil. I've found that people who are drilling for oil don't get all that they should from each of the holes that they drill. There are technologies out there that can help with this...so high technology is the name of the game. We have to be able, here in the United States, to make things that we can sell to the rest of the world and in order to do that you must bring high technology to industry.

So, technology and education are everything. High tech requires skilled people. That's a very obvious problem for us. What do we do? I wish the Democrats and Republicans would have sense enough to get together and say 'Look, there are some things that we just have to agree on. You can't argue against the need for high tech, the need for better education for our people, the need for immigrants.

Our birth rate is so low in the United States that if it not for immigrants we wouldn't produce enough of our own people to run the economy. We not only cherish the tradition of immigrants -- my mother and father were immigrants. [His wife] Matilda's mother and father were immigrants. They couldn't read or write in English when they came here. We've always felt strongly about that. But now it's not just a matter of loving the idea, it's a need. We need them...or we better go back to making more babies (laughter).

 

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