Mario Cuomo's Inspirational Commencement Speech to UAlbany Class of 1986

by Gregory Wiedeman - May 13, 2015

In the spring of 1986, Governor Mario Cuomo made an impassioned speech to the graduates of SUNY Albany as part of the university's 142nd Commencement. He talked about ambition and success and the importance of having a strong demand for personal achievement and personal excellence. "You've done well," he said, "but before you move on to the next phase of your lives you have to face one last grueling hurdle at SUNY Albany: the commencement address!"

Cuomo celebrated the achievements of the graduates, taking the example of their success as a reflection of the success of New Yorkers of all types, both privileged and unprivileged. He called upon his audience to reject the argument that there is not enough to go around, that it is not always the matter of the lucky and the left-out. He decried the successful who never look back to where they came from and encouraged graduates to remember, and lend a hand to the people still struggling to make it up.

Cuomo was the Governor of New York State for three terms from 1983 to 1994. He passed away on January 1st of this year due to heart failure at the age of 82. Next year will be the 30th anniversary of his commencement address.

"I want to be honest with you about my experience with commencement addresses," Cuomo offered. "I've been through several of my own since my graduation from High School [and] sat though about 12 credits worth of others, and I cannot recall a single word or phrase from any of those impassioned [speeches]!"

While few of the attendees may remember his speech, the footage has been digitized from the original video and preserved as part of the University Archives on the third floor of the Science Library. The University Archives contains the official records of the University at Albany, SUNY, and its predecessor institutions dating to the founding of the New York State Normal School in 1844.