Governor Cuomo Delivers Remarks at National Action Network King Day Policy Forum 2021


Governor Cuomo: “As we gather at the beginning of 2021, in many ways our challenge is greater than at any time in modern history. 2020 was not just harmful, painful and costly—it was ugly. 2020 was low tide in America. It was a time when this nation saw the injustices and disparity that lay on the bottom of American society. We saw the income inequality, the racism, the segregation that was beneath the surface, beneath the apparent reality. 2020 revealed the sins and injustices that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King railed against and fought against some 50 years ago. With all of our progress, so many basic obstacles remain unchanged. We must do better in 2021, and we must make sure this nation acknowledges the injustice that has been exposed for all to see.”

On Monday, January 18th on the recognized holiday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at the National Action Network King Day Policy Forum 2021.

VIDEO of the Governor’s remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of today’s remarks is available here.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:

Good afternoon. It’s my pleasure to be with you once again to celebrate King Day, and the National Action Network’s agenda. We have done much good work together, and now we must do even more. Thank you to Michael Hardy for your wise counsel, and to Chairman Reverend Richardson for your inspiration and your leadership.

A special thank you goes to Reverend Sharpton, who has not only been a steady champion in fighting the good fight, but more importantly skilled and effective at winning that fight. Making progress. And progress, at the end of the day, is what matters most. It’s about achieving results and moving society forward. Reverend Sharpton delivers, and in that we all owe the reverend a debt of gratitude.

Cuomo speaks as NAN King virtual event 2021

As we gather at the beginning of 2021, in many ways our challenge is greater than at any time in modern history. 2020 was not just harmful, painful and costly—it was ugly. 2020 was low tide in America. It was a time when this nation saw the injustices and disparity that lay on the bottom of American society. We saw the income inequality, the racism, the segregation that was beneath the surface, beneath the apparent reality. 2020 revealed the sins and injustices that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King railed against and fought against some 50 years ago. With all of our progress, so many basic obstacles remain unchanged. We must do better in 2021, and we must make sure this nation acknowledges the injustice that has been exposed for all to see. It is undeniable.

Blacks died from COVID at twice the rate of whites. Latinos at one and a half times the rate of whites. Blacks had a higher infection rate but were called on to do more as quote unquote, “essential workers.” Blacks received less COVID testing and more exposure. Long term, we must address these so-called healthcare deserts and the comorbidities that created the disparity. The social inequity that called on low-wage workers to do more in the midst of the crisis but paid them less. We must address the injustice of our justice system that was exposed at low tide with the George Floyd killing, but which many of us had seen beneath the surface for many years, with Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin, and Amadou Diallo, and Rodney King, and on and on.

Short term, we must stop any more damage from being done. The COVID vaccine will save lives. But, it must be distributed equitably and fairly. If we leave it to the private market, I will tell you today what’s going to happen. The rich and the white and the places of wealth will get more vaccines, and the poor and the black will get less. New York was the first and the loudest to call for social equity in the vaccination process. We must make special efforts to distribute the vaccine through Black churches, public housing projects, community-based organizations, because those that paid the highest price for the disease should not be the lowest on the list to receive the vaccine. in New York we’re doing just that. But the challenge is even greater because there are many members of the Black community who distrust the vaccine because they distrust the system that created it.

As you know, we’re doing vaccines all across the state. And anecdotal reports suggest that acceptance of the vaccine is lower in parts of the Black community. Now, I understand their distrust. Let’s be clear—I don’t trust the current federal administration either. But I trust science, and I trust new Yorkers, and we have had New York’s doctors, the best on the planet, review the vaccine, and they vouch for it. I will take it as soon as I am eligible. My mother is taking it, my daughters will take it when they are eligible. But I understand the skepticism. No one can ameliorate or justify the victimization and discrimination the Black community has endured. Something as horrific as the Tuskegee experiment can never be explained away.

But, we must deal with the here and now. And we cannot compound the injustice, the loss, the death that COVID has caused. Together, let’s demand fairness in distribution, and let’s work toward community acceptance of the vaccine. It will save lives. And that is paramount today, my friends, so we may all live to fight the good fight and correct the fundamental biases revealed to all at America’s low tide. Working together, I know we can do it. I know New York can set an example for this nation in progressive leadership and racial justice. We’ve done it before. We will do it again, working together. Thank you, and God bless.