Burning Men

(US Air Force Member setting himself on fire outside of the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, to protest Israeli’s incessant bombing of civilians—mostly children and women—in Gaza.)

What does it take

To set yourself on fire,

So that your soul is not

A liar to itself,

And your life,  no instrument for hire?

What does it take

To enter the nation you fled,

Knowing there’s

A price upon your head

That your heart insists you pay?

How does it feel,

To no longer be numb,

Or blind, or deaf or dumb

To the incessant beating

Of death’s drum, on babies?

What is it like to swallow poison,

But not your pride, to know that you

Will leave your bride,

Fighting for freedom, and your lives,

From a gulag,  deep inside?

What is it like to feel flames melt your skin,

The way it burns those without sin,

Without hope, or relief, or shelter or embrace

To escape the bombs dropped by men like you,

Just doing what they were trained to do?

And, what is it like to feel your last breath,

Knowing your courage cannot, finally, stop your death?

But, instead, ignite other lives, more fires of hope 

To burn brighter than the incandescence of yours, 

Immolating our fears that wars will end all laws.

What does it take,

To step outside your being?

To find the key to freeing

Our souls, and minds, and hearts,

To know, without fear, believing is seeing.

Hill Harper: “Michigan Is A Red State–Until Black People Vote.” Why Don’t Democrats Get That?

(Twenty years ago, Phill Wilson, head of the Black AIDS Institute; Hill Harper, and I were campaigning together to stamp out the damaging stigma and educate the public about HIV/AIDS. Harper, then at the beginning of his film and TV career, recorded pro-bono Public Service Announcements to raise awareness in Black communities around the nation. Harper did this just a few years after his starring role in the 2000 film “The Visit”, where he portrayed a prisoner dying of AIDS who tries to put his life back together.)

It’s the heart of winter, but usually frosty Michigan is on fire. 

No, it’s not one of the Wolverine State’s Big 10 winning sports teams on a hot streak; nor, the simultaneous series of historic wild forest fires—fanned by the same sizzling winds that whipped the Great Chicago Fire of 1871–devastating 2.5 million acres of Michigan’s land.

It’s Michigan’s present-day politics and the State’s outsized role in determining the nation’s future that’s setting off five-alarms.   Especially this year.

Everyone’s eyes are on this pivotal Mid-Western state of 10 million people, whose 16 electoral votes helped elect Joe Biden as President in 2020, and Donald Trump in 2016.  While the Democrats–led by second-term Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who clobbered the GOP in 2022–control both the Michigan State Senate and the House, the latest poll results published in the Detroit Free Press just this week, has both the Presidential and US Senate races in Michigan as toss-ups.

Any polls (particularly those nine months out from an election) involving convicted sexual assaulter and financial fraud Donald Trump as a candidate, have a history of being as inaccurate and chaotic as Trump himself.   This one, conducted by ERIC-MRA Polling out of Lansing, Michigan, and relying heavily on cell phone contacts, may be suspect as well.    

My own suspicions about the poll were deepened when I learned that the pollster’s name was Bernie Porn.  Really?  A poll conducted by a guy named “Porn” that has Trump ahead by two points, coming out one-month ahead of the Stormy Daniels “Hush Money” trial? Are we ready to bet the mortgage on that?

It would be easier to dismiss the “Porn Poll” as a joke, if, it wasn’t being reported on by one of the nation’s most respected newspapers, the Detroit Free Press.  In its’ story of February 21, 2024, the Free Press reports that the poll’s present finding is that Trump leads Biden in Michigan 43-41, with another 14% undecided.  The poll also found that the leading Democratic Senatorial contender, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, was locked in a “dead heat” with her two leading GOP opponents.

The story goes on to say that “the poll indicates that Biden’s refusal to heed calls—especially among younger, more progressive Democrats, and Michigan’s large Arab American and Muslim communities to demand a ceasefire in Gaza, is a factor,” in Biden’s weak showing.

It might be tempting to pooh-pooh this punditry from a pollster named Porn, if the same basic themes hadn’t been appearing for months in a number of other credible media outlets, and from present and former Michigan public officials.

U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, for one, who represents the largest Arab American Congressional District in the nation, and is the only Palestinian-born Member of Congress, has urged Michigan Democrats to cast a vote for “uncommitted” in the February 27, Michigan Democratic Presidential Primary, as a form of protest against President Biden’s reluctance to demand a ceasefire in Gaza.

Before you dismiss this counter-campaign being called “Listen to Michigan” as a rash move by Rashida, some other Michiganders, who don’t live in Tlaib’s district and aren’t Muslim, are listening as well, and taking action.

Last week, (February 16, 2024) the Jewish Telegraph Agency reported that some “Michigan Jews aim to pressure Biden on Israel by voting ‘uncommitted’ in the Primary.”  The JTA’s Andrew Lapin writes:

“About two dozen progressive Jewish activists tuned into the “MI Jews Uncommitted Phone Bank” this week, ready to ask their networks not to vote for President Joe Biden.  Their virtual phone bank, held ahead of Michigan’s Feb. 27 primary, was unlike any other. Instead of a get-out-the-vote campaign, this crew would be better described as don’t-get-out-the-vote.” 

Lapin goes on to quote the official statement from the group of “Michigan Jews Uncommitted,” a part of the “Listen to Michigan” campaign:

“As Michigan Jews, we are important messengers in a multiracial and multi-faith, anti-war coalition telling President Biden that we are uncommitted to his administration’s funding of genocidal war in Gaza.”

Among the leaders of Michigan’s progressive Jewish community is former Michigan Congressman Andy Levin, the son of Sander Levin, who immediately preceded him in Congress, and the nephew of former Michigan U.S. Senator Carl Levin.   Andy Levin was targeted for defeat by AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in the 2022 Democratic Primary campaign, because of his criticism of Israel’s Netanyahu government.  Apparently, AIPAC’s definition of being “Pro-Israel,” means being “pro-Bibi” and showing blind loyalty to Netanyahu’s extreme right wing government.   

The Levin family’s generations of support for Israel in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives wasn’t good enough for AIPAC, which, used it’s deep pockets to pick off the last Levin two years ago.   AIPAC and its’ front organizations (the Democratic Majority for Israel, and, it’s PAC, the United Democracy Project) poured millions of dollars into the primary campaign of a more conservative, pro-Bibi Democrat, Haley Stevens, who handily beat Levin.

Amazingly, Andy Levin—still loyal to the Democrats, if not to AIPAC– is working to help Biden, urging the President to change course on the ceasefire, to avoid losing Michigan, and the Presidency, in November:

“I’m betting on Joe Biden to find a way to become a peacemaker in Israel and Palestine, so that people can vote for him later,” Levin said. “I feel like this is existential for Joe Biden’s political survival. I don’t see how he wins reelection without winning Michigan, and I don’t see how he wins Michigan without changing course.”

Levin went on to tell the Jewish Telegraph Agency reporter that he doesn’t think “the President’s current course on Israel will cut it: not just for Arab and Muslim Americans, but also for other constituencies like Black Churches, which have become increasingly vocal in their calls for a ceasefire.”

That warning—coming from a 63 year old, well-established, White, Jewish lawyer—was echoed in a Michigan-based article in Rolling Stone Magazine this week (Feb. 20, 2024) entitled: “Young, Black & Done With Biden:  The Issues That Could Decide the Election.”

The article, by Andre Gee, a young, gifted, Black, writer from Brooklyn, NY, spent time interviewing Black artists and community leaders in Troy, Michigan—30 miles outside of Detroit—and within the city itself, which is nearly 80% Black. Although Biden carried 92% of the Black vote throughout Michigan in 2020, he’s currently polling at around 62%–a flashing warning light on his dashboard he cannot ignore.

Gee writes:  “Biden’s penchant for the status quo has left many young, Black voters disillusioned with him.”  The author, who frequently writes about music for Rolling Stone, spent time with young community organizers, like Harrison Shelby, active in the non-profit group Detroit Action, who underscores the point that the Biden/Harris ticket needs to “strengthen its’ presence in the city” by addressing housing, food insecurity, unemployment and poverty”—the essential issues Detroit Action addresses.

The temptation among mainstream Democrats might be to dismiss Gee’s reporting as an outlier, because he “only” quotes young Black people (which he doesn’t)—not older, more reliable Black voters–and gives voice to hip-hop performers, artists and community activists. That would be a grave, tactical mistake for Democrats.  The author underscores that warning by interviewing Quentin Fulks, Biden’s principal Deputy Campaign Manager:

            “Young Black voters are key to our re-election, which is why we’re investing earlier than ever to mobilize them around an agenda that is fighting for their future.”

For now, those formulaic words from Fulks—a young, Black Georgia Democrat who was the campaign manager for Senator Rafael Warnock’s 2022 re-election campaign—are more rhetoric than reality.

No “investment” of any kind by the Biden campaign has been made to the only Black male Democratic candidate seeking national office in Michigan this year:  actor/writer/entrepreneur and Detroit resident Hill Harper, running for Michigan’s open U.S. Senate seat, being vacated by incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Harper is a Harvard Law School classmate of Barack Obama’s; owner of downtown Detroit’s Roasting Plant Coffee; a television and movie actor appearing in such popular TV series as CSI: NY, Homeland and The Good Doctor, and a wide range of moviesand a New York Times’ best selling author of five self-help books aimed at young, Black people. If elected, he would become the first Black U.S. Senator to represent Michigan in the State’s history. 

It’s a poignant point Harper hits again and again as he campaigns across the State of Michigan, during Black History Month, and a fact that Fulks’ ought to be aware of, considering his recent work for Rafael Warnock, one of only two Black Democratic Senators.  Fulks failed to make any mention of the fact that Harper would be Michigan’s first Black Senator if elected.

Ironically, the only current Black member of Michigan’s 15-member Congressional Delegation (including its’ two US Senators) is Republican Representative John James, who lost two previous campaigns for the U.S. Senate against Democrats in 2018 and 2020.   It’s the first time in 57 years that Michigan has been without a Black, Democratic member of Congress.

Hill Harper did a wide-ranging podcast interview with The Lever’s David Sirota late last month, and uttered a quote that should be inscribed on the forehead of every Democrat in the country:

            “Michigan is a Red State—until Black people vote.”

That failure of Michigan’s Black Democratic Congressional representation alone—considering that Detroit is the nation’s largest Black majority city which consistently delivers crucial votes for national Democratic victories—should arrest the attention of the Biden Administration and Democratic national leaders, like Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the Vice-Chair of the Democratic National Committee. But, astoundingly, they don’t seem to get it. 

Instead, the national Democratic establishment has lined up behind Rep. Slotkin crowning her as the presumed “incumbent,” in the race for the first open U.S. Senate seat in Michigan in 30 years.  As Sirota wisely noted in his conversation with Hill Harper,   “continuing to run the same establishment selected candidates, is a very, very dangerous game for the Democrats.”

Yet, Harper’s campaign is receiving a Michigan freeze-out from the national  Democratic establishment and its corporate donors.  This week’s big news for the Harper campaign was getting the public backing from Civil Rights attorney, Ben Crump, not a darling of the Democratic Party, even though he’s revered in the Black community.

 ABC News reported this month that Harper’s campaign was floundering, having raised under a half-million dollars, while Slotkin, his main opponent in the August 6, Democratic Senatorial primary and AIPAC’s pick, has raised six times as much.  The Lever’s Sirota, a long-time activist in progressive politics, author, journalist and co-writer of the riveting film “Don’t Look Up, defines Slotkin this way:  “ a donor-friendly, establishment defending, status quo maintaining Democrat.”

Even Slotkin’s clear, conservative cast— working in the Bush Administration, opposing Medicare for All, opposing the flying of Pride flags on military bases, and voting against Nancy Pelosi for Speaker in the 116th Congress—isn’t enough to shake loose traditional Democratic support for Harper.  What don’t they understand about Harper’s observation that: “Michigan is a Red State—Until Black People Vote.?”

Four years ago, following Biden’s big win in Michigan, the Detroit Free Press (Nov. 13, 2020) acknowledged the Democrats’ debt to Detroit’s Black voters, quoting the Rev. Kenneth Flowers of the Greater New Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Detroit:

            “The Black Votes in Detroit, Oakland County, Wayne County, were the ones that took Joe Biden over the top…it shows that the Black Community is still very powerful in terms of determining who wins these elections.”

Despite the dependable track record of Detroit’s Black voters, national Democrats appear to take that support for granted, and aren’t giving the time of day to possibly the most highly educated, qualified, charismatic, and admired Black candidate for national office to appear since Hill Harper’s former Harvard Law School classmate, Barack Obama.  In 2007 and 2008, Harper, an extraordinary motivational speaker, bucked the Clinton-backed Democratic establishment as one of Barack Obama’s most effective surrogate speakers around the country.

If you don’t have a large African American turnout in Michigan, “ Harper told David Sirota, “ there is no way that President Biden can win.”  It’s hard to picture Elissa Slotkin generating that kind of turnout among Michigan’s Black voters.

Regardless of how many times national Democrats get hit over the head with this flashing neon sign of 2024’s politics, they don’t seem to read the handwriting.

A cancer survivor appointed to President Obama’s Cancer Task force, on which he and Joe Biden served together, Harper is a long-time grassroots activist on a number of public health, community-based issues.  

Some two decades ago, before most Americans were aware of the devastating impact the HIV/AIDS epidemic was having on communities of color, Harper was working with the Black AIDS Institute, and doing 30-second pro-bono Public Service TV spots to raise awareness and destigmatize the disease.  For many Black Americans, even being suspected of being HIV Positive, could mean life or death.

Harper, the single father of an eight-year old son, has devoted enormous amounts of time and personal resources to uplifting young Black men and women with his series of self-help books:  Letters to a Young Brother; Letters to a Young Sister; Letters to An Incarcerated Brother.  The inspired genius behind those books—is not only Harper’s modeling them after Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet—but establishing the non-profit Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, which gives tangible assistance to underserved youth to achieve their goals.

But, the Democratic Party’s disconnect here must be something more than its’ insecure support for incumbents, unwillingness to listen to unpleasant news, and insatiable appetite for corporate and institutional money.  Well, maybe not.

Fortunately, at least one powerful institution in Democratic and Michigan politics—the United Auto Workers Union–has gotten the message.   After decades of locking Blacks out of top union leadership positions, the UAW has recognized, as the Detroit Bureau of the The Voice of the Automotive World  noted in a Black History series, that “Blacks played a key role in the growth of the UAW.”

 Union President Shawn Fain, who led the UAW’s recent industry-wide strike which was supported by 75% of all Americans, was preceded in office by two prominent Black labor leaders, Rory Gamble, the first Black President of the UAW, and Ray Curry.  According to the Economic Policy Institute in 2021, Black workers now make up 25.5% of the unionized auto sector.

Perhaps it was on the strength of those demographics that the UAW has intentionally not endorsed either Harper or Slotkin—a rare move for a major union to refrain from backing an incumbent member of Congress (Slotkin) not hostile to labor.  Or, the union’s decision could have been influenced by the fact that Hill Harper is a card-carrying union member (Screen Actors Guild) himself, who walked the picket line with striking UAW workers, before Joe Biden did.

The most charitable explanation of the Democrats’ tone deafness toward Michigan’s Black voters and their top candidates this year, is that the Party establishment is terrified of rocking the boat between its’ loyal Black and Jewish constituents, who regularly give national Democrats more than 75% of their votes.  As a convert to Judaism, I find that cowardice reprehensible, particularly concerning the life and death urgency of a ceasefire, the freeing of Israeli hostages, and humanitarian aid for innocent Palestinian survivors in Gaza. It’s almost, but not nearly, as shameful as AIPAC raising $90 million off the bodies of massacred and missing Israelis, in the first few months following the October 7 attacks by Hamas.

Unfortunately, Harper—one of only two Democratic Senatorial candidates across the country supporting a ceasefire in the Netanyahu/Hamas War–was forced to confront both constituencies, when he refused to accept a $20 million campaign contribution (bribe?) from an alleged supporter of Israel, if Harper agreed to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race, and instead, run a bought-and-paid-for primary against AIPAC’s Public Enemy #1, Rashida Tlaib.

In immediately rejecting the offer, Harper was fearless in stating:  “I’m not going to run against the only Palestinian-American in Congress just because some special interests don’t like her.”

With AIPAC planning to pump up to $100 million into the campaign coffers of more conservative candidates to unseat seven progressive Members of Congress—all people of color—known as “The Squad,” who’ve been vocal critics of the Israeli government, Harper’s courageous declaration that he “won’t be bossed, bullied or bought,” didn’t win him any friends at AIPAC, which has consistently found Slotkin to be their favorite kind of Congressional slot-machine.

In a saner, more humane world, not hypnotized by money and hate, Hill Harper’s extraordinary action of turning down a $20 million offer for power and glory, would be hailed each night on national network television as an example of “America Strong.”  But, corporate media doesn’t want to encourage that kind of courage and independence.

Hill Harper already knew that, telling The Lever’s Sirota that, “the fact that someone has the ability to make that kind of call (the $20 million bribe) is abhorrent.”

Harper went on to tell Sirota how such similarly sleazy offers were made to him during the years he was pursuing his acting career:

In the context of my acting career, there’s so many roles I turned down over the course of my career, that would have made me a lot more money.  I declined.   I wanted to represent the way I think as a Black person and wanted to represent myself in the community.  I want young people to look at me, and the character and projects I do, with a sense of pride, not denigration.”

What don’t the Democrats get about this level of dignity, character and courage?

Mother Russia.

(Yulia Navalnaya speaking to the world following Putin’s murder of her husband, Alexsei Navalny.)

One of the most important videos of our lifetime. Please take two and one-half minutes of your time to view it. With worldwide support, this strong woman can put an end to Putin’s reign of terror. Let the murderous dictator try to ban “Mother Russia” the way he banned Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption organization. Please click on the link below, and pass it on:


Suozzi, English, Cuomo, Grassroots Organizing & Staying Grounded.

(Grassroots and Labor organizers surround Tom Suozzi (center, wearing tie) as their relentless, coast-to-coast ground game propelled him to victory.)

Tom Suozzi’s special election victory, taking back New York’s 3rd Congressional District seat stolen by serial liar, fraud and MAGA poseur-boy George Santos in 2022, was like an atmospheric aerosol of fresh, clean air, blasting away the scuzzy Congressional stench emanating from the GOP’s dying clutch on the House of Representatives.

News organizations, political pundits and pollsters, who, on the day before the election were calling the contest a “toss-up,” scrambled to quickly kill their lazy leads, and come up with some new rationale for the Democrat’s convincing victory.

They failed to take into account two important factors:

  • what was going on across the country among alarmed, activated and educated citizens far away from social media and the polls;
  • and, Tom Suozzi’s solid family and political history, and his strength as a tough, smart, prepared candidate whom history finally had its’ eyes on.

I’ll let others speculate about the weather and whether the GOP opponent was simply Santos in drag, or just a drag as a candidate, outclassed by Suozzi at every turn. Instead, focus on how fate — and a political environment hungry for some sanity — found the Democrat’s new “rising star”, at age 61.

First, the political setting. Many concerned citizens across the nation know that the country is on fire, and our institutions which deliver us daily services like Social Security, healthcare and national defense, are in danger of being burned to the ground by a gnarly group of nihilists. Few things shout “5-Alarm Fire” as loudly as folding table after table of organizers across Sonoma County, California, pushing for volunteers to make phone calls and write postcards for Tom Suozzi, a Congressional candidate on Long Island, nearly 2,750 miles away.

If you get away from social media long enough, turn off screaming Cable channels, and have the good sense to disregard most polls, the nationalization of the most important, high-stakes political races in the country hits you in the face. It’s impossible to go to any event or public gathering in California, without witnessing a wondrous sight: the passionate, smiling faces of organizers from Indivisible or Sister Districts working hard to educate people about what’s at stake in swing districts, from coast to coast, and the urgency of turning out the targeted vote. It’s a shining example of national community, at the very time some media fixates on deep social fissures.

Then, there’s the matter of the actual Suozzi story. Learning it might be helpful, especially since some, like David Leonhardt of the New York Times (2/15/24) are already comparing Tom Suozzi to the original Bobby Kennedy. Spare us, please.

Suozzi needs to nip this aggrandizing now, before it goes to his head and makes him do something stupid to ruin this moment. He simply has to ask Andrew Cuomo, Eliot Spitzer or Fani Willis about believing the hagiographies hawked by others about you, and paying a steep price for such arrogance.

To many New Yorkers, the Suozzi name was synonymous with the City of Glen Cove on Long Island, and with pragmatic, common sense, slightly center-left politics. The Suozzis were never radicals.

Joseph Suozzi, Tom’s father, born in Ruvo del Monte, Italy, was an US Air Force Bomber Pilot and war hero in WWII, who, at 28 years old became one of the nation’s youngest mayors, elected to lead Glen Cove, in 1956. Subsequently, several other Suozzis would serve as Glen Cove’s mayor during the next four decades, including Joseph’s brother Vincent, and the youngest of his five children, Thomas. They laid out a blueprint for how a family of immigrants, through hard work, education, and following the law, could make it in this country.

A Harvard trained lawyer, Joseph Suozzi was first elected to a 14-year term as a New York State justice of the Supreme Court, in 1961, the year after John F. Kennedy was elected President.

Leading the Nassau County Democratic Party in the 1960’s and JFK’s campaign on Long Island, was John F. “Jack” English, a young lawyer, who would go on to a put together a powerhouse law firm which would later include Joseph Suozzi once he stepped down from the court (Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein). English also built one of the most effective Democratic party organizations in any major American suburb, showing Democrats nationwide how to compete in traditionally Republican areas.

In 1962, the year after Joseph Suozzi was elected to the State Supreme Court, English helped elect Eugene Nickerson as the first Democratic County Executive in Nassau County history — and the last Democratic one until the election of Tom Suozzi, Joe’s son, some 40 years later — born that same year Nickerson was elected to his first of two terms.

Jack English went on to become an advisor to JFK and his brothers Robert and Ted Kennedy, and was instrumental in getting Bobby Kennedy to run for a U.S. Senate seat from NY in 1964 — a seat which Kennedy won — and then to run for President in 1968.

A powerful voice in Democratic National Politics for decades, English served as Deputy Campaign Director of Jimmy Carter’s 1980 Presidential campaign, at the same time when Mario M. Cuomo — then, New York State’s Lt. Governor under Governor Hugh Carey — headed Carter’s campaign across New York State. Four years earlier, Carey had appointed Joseph Suozzi to an Associate Justice position in the NYS Appellate Division.

I met Jack English in 1986, before I met any of the Suozzis. Mario Cuomo was Governor of New York, and English was scheduled to meet with Cuomo on the 57th floor at his Two World Trade Center Office, overlooking the Statue of Liberty. Marty Steadman, Cuomo’s Press Secretary who hired me into the Cuomo Administration’s Press Office, asked that I sit in on the meeting and record the conversation.

English, six years Cuomo’s elder, minced no words — perhaps a sign that he knew he had little time left to wait for Mario Cuomo to make up his mind. He would die of liver cancer the following year, at only 61 years old, the same age Tom Suozzi is now.

“Governor, I think you ought to consider running for President, “ Jack English said looking straight at Cuomo. “I think you are exactly what the Democratic Party needs at the head of the ticket to take back the White House in 1988.”

Cuomo shook his head “no.”

“I’m very grateful for your confidence, Jack,” Cuomo said, and proceeded to tell this political legend that he was too busy running New York State, and loved being Governor. He explained to English the challenges of fighting for the people of New York against a national administration intent on pitting region against region, race against race, and rich against poor.

Cuomo, up for re-election that year, was one of the few Democrats in the country willing to take on the Reagan Administration on issues like Nuclear Power, and the fight to retain the State and Local Tax Deductions (SALT), which mattered a great deal to homeowners in New York’s suburbs, where property taxes were already high. It’s the same bread & butter issue which — 30 years later — Tom Suozzi championed in his first three terms in Congress, after the Trump Administration capped the SALT deductions at $10,000 in 2017, a fraction of the astronomical property-taxes many middle-class Long Island homeowners struggle to pay.

“You need someone like a Bobby Kennedy, “ Cuomo said, artfully steering the conversation away from himself and toward a topic Jack English knew better than anyone. Then, almost was if he were setting himself up to be the logical answer, Cuomo continued:

“We need someone like Bobby today; someone who can unite black and white, rich and poor; who can speak to the needs of working people, and get people in the suburbs and the cities to see that we are all part of the same family.”

I took a deep breath, held my pen perfectly still and looked carefully at Jack English, sitting only a few feet away from me. His Irish eyes twinkled, and he leaned forward in his chair.

“Well, I think you’re that person, Governor.”

Cuomo, again, wrinkled up his generous nose, and shook his head “no.” He would not allow himself to be held to a standard that he could not control, nor felt he could meet — not even from as towering a political figure as Jack English. He was comfortable being Mario Cuomo, thank you.

Tom Suozzi needs a strong dose of Mario Cuomo’s humility right now. Suozzi tried, and failed, to force himself into the national spotlight twice before, in 2006 and 2022, when he was humiliated in two Statewide Gubernatorial Democratic primaries — one against Eliot Spitzer, and more recently against incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul.

The siren song of superiority seized Suozzi in 2021, when he announced his primary challenge to Hochul, New York State’s first female Governor, who came to power after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation over sexual harassment charges that year.

In declaring his candidacy, and giving up the Congressional seat into which Santos slithered, Suozzi told the Washington Post on November 29, 2021 that:

“I’m hoping that we’re going to win the majority again — and we may not. Doesn’t matter; I’m running for governor because I believe that this is the job that I’m made for.”

Ouch, Tom. Winning the majority “doesn’t matter?” “This is the job that I’m made for?” Yikes. That was almost as bad as the last reputed RFK reincarnation, Beto O’Rourke, and his now infamous interview in Vanity Fair five years ago next month — complete with Annie Leibovitz’ artistic photos — where Beto bragged that he was “just born to be in it,” referring to his short-lived run for President. Beto’s political career has never recovered from that insufferable boast and too-glitzy photospread.

Suozzi’s admirable family story, as a child of an immigrant who was a war hero and a first-rate judge who inspired his youngest son to dedicate his life to public service, doesn’t need embellishment, nor do the Suozzi’s need to take a back seat to the Kennedys or the Cuomos. They’ve achieved amazing things in their own right.

Intuitively, Tom Suozzi knows thisand that strong family history gives him the security of being capable of great personal growth and staying grounded — when he allows it. I know this because I’ve witnessed it.

Toward the end of his tenure as Glen Cove Mayor in the late 1990’s, and before his first run for Nassau County Executive, I did Labor/Management training for the City of Glen Cove with Cornell University’s ILR School’s Labor Studies Program. I taught in the Cornell program for some 20 years, and, because of my work in government, Tom Germano, the program’s director, asked me to join him in a special assignment he just received: from the Mayor of Glen Cove, Tom Suozzi.

Having done similar work for the Postal Workers Union with Germano, I was surprised the training was being pushed hard by Suozzi himself. Usually, our requests for such hands-on work came from frustrated municipal union leaders, trying to move unresponsive bosses. Suozzi’s personal involvement was a breath of fresh air, and something elected officials rarely did.

Even more refreshing was observing Suozzi participating in the training sessions, while no one from the public or the press was watching. He was engaged; he was grounded; he listened to his workers; he asked good, fearless questions about his own managerial style; and he genuinely wanted to improve the lives of everyone around him. No press releases were issued; the work itself, was the goal.

Now, with history’s eyes squarely on him after his crucial Congressional victory, Suozzi needs to remember to act as he did during those productive Glen Cove Labor/Management work sessions — that the only judgment of his actions that matters, is whether or not he’s doing what’s right. He needs to forget about fawning sycophants, and false praise.

That’s an approach that would make Jack English, Mario Cuomo and many of his labor and grassroots organizers smile.

My Draft Speech for Joe Biden to Deliver NOW: “I Never Forget the Things That Matter Most in Life.”

(Joe Biden with his son Beau, who, as a Major in the Delaware National Guard, served in the Iraq War. Beau Biden died of Brain Cancer at the age of 46, in 2015. )

**NOTE TO READER: As someone who worked with Mario Cuomo, I’ve drafted a speech for Joe Biden to deliver this week, on the things that are most important to remember. Just own it, Joe. Your brain and heart are full.**

Look.  I’m old, and I sometimes forget things; but there are things that matter that I will never forget.

I know what it is to lose a child, a spouse, people you love; and I know how to comfort those who have also experienced such losses, and to carry on, because we must. Enormous personal loss, and grief and love and compassion are things that I can never, ever forget.

I know what it is to lose a family member in service to this nation, and I will never, ever forget their sacrifice, or the excruciatingly painful moment of their death, their  family’s deep suffering, and the cruelty of anyone who calls these American heroes, “losers and suckers.”

I know what it is to fight for the rights of the disabled, or of those who are old, or frail, or Black or Brown, or fleeing torture from another land, or for someone who’s female, or gay, or poor, or struggling, or different in any way.  I will never forget to fight for them.

I will never forget about Social Security or Medicare and how both programs pulled working families out of poverty, and I will never forget to keep fighting for those essential protections for my fellow 75 million Americans over the age of 60.  

Social Security and Medicare are lifelines to those who weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouths, or chauffeured to a ritzy private school in their mother’s pink Rolls Royce, as Donald Trump was, or inherited $400 million from their Daddy.

I will never forget about fighting for affordable health care for all—which out of sheer meanness Trump repeatedly tried to kill, and we fought to keep it alive.

I will never forget how hard we fought to prevent our families from being punished for having preexisting conditions, like AIDS or Cancer;  nor how we battled relentlessly to bring drug prices down— down to $35 for a shot of insulin—despite vicious opposition from the dark money, anti-family interests behind Trump.

I will never, ever forget about Democracy at home, nor about the tiki-torch carrying MAGA monsters screaming  “Jews will Not Replace Us,” marching to protect their symbols of segregation and hate.  I will never forget their twisted faces full of hate, and I will never, ever stop fighting them and anyone who enables them.

I will never forget the deep scars and sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of Americans who fought to end Slavery—the direct cause of the last illegal American insurrection against our government—and their courageous fight for freedom, citizenship and voting rights.  We stand on the strong shoulders of generations of those who endured daily horrors, and of those brave freedom fighters and soldiers of dignity and decency and democracy at home.   I will never forget them, nor ever stop fighting for diversity, equality and inclusion in a country built on those bedrock principles.

I may, momentarily, forget the names of the President of Egypt or the President of Mexico, but I will never, ever forget—nor forgive– the terrible tyranny of Fascists like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and Putin.

I will NEVER forget the six million Jews, slaughtered by pure Nazi hatred, and the one million twinkling lights at Yad Vashem, commemorating the one million merciless deaths of Jewish Children at the hands of Fascists.

Donald Trump may love to repeat the pernicious, hate-mongering language of Adolf Hitler, and he may swoon over the smug, sinister swagger of Mussolini, and the scorched-earth, inhumane tactics of Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, but I will never forget the hundreds of thousands of US troops who died fighting Fascism, nor the millions of young children, women and innocent civilians slaughtered by these dictators, whom Trump admires.

And, I will never, ever forget NATOand the life-saving, and democracy preserving sacrifices made by our Allies, who have stood with us, shoulder to shoulder, and kept the world free from global totalitarianism.   

 I helped strengthen NATO during my Presidency, while Donald Trump has already forgotten the lessons of the last World War—if he ever learned them—and has promised one of the world’s most vicious tyrants, Vladimir Putin, that he can do whatever he wants to NATO—destroying Democracy’s strongest alliance, and burning down the achievement of millions of free people—and the sacrifices of our sons and daughters, parents and grandparents.  Donald Trump forgets all of that.

This April, NATO turns 75, stronger than ever, and no one in their right mind, thinks it’s too old to keep the world safe for Democracy. 

This August, Social Security turns 89 years old, and no one with any understanding of the struggle of making ends meet—especially for those of us over the age of 65, not born into extreme wealth—think Social Security is too old to continue to put food on our tables.  I’ll never forget, nor stop fighting to protect, these two pillars of our American families. 

I may forget a few words here and there, but I’ll never forget about human rights, and human dignity and human freedom, and the human sacrifices made throughout many generations to get us to where we are today. 

I’ll never forget about our children and our grandchildren, living in an increasingly fragile world threatened by random gun violence and environmental destruction.

Nor, can I ever forget or ignore the cries of the children of war, under unrelenting siege and bombardment in the Ukraine or in Gaza.  These are all our children, and I will never forget them.

I may forget a few things, now and then, but I will never forget the tens of millions of women in our own country, robbed of the right to take control of their own bodies, and to make their own decisions about their health.

I’ll never forget who I am, and where I came from, nor my father’s sage advice that, “Joey, a job is more than a paycheck, it’s a source of human dignity.”  That’s why, I am proud of having created 14.8 million jobs during my first term as President, more than any other President in US history during my first term.

I’ll never forget Franklin Roosevelt hoisting himself up from his wheelchair, so he could pull this country back on its’ feet, following the Great Depression.   FDR’s powerful example of hope and tenacity drove me to help get this country back up and running again, following the  high unemployment of the  COVID Pandemic.

 I have never forgotten thatand am especially proud that we’ve kept the national unemployment rate down under 4 percent for two straight years, while the Stock Market experienced its’ greatest gains in American History in the first two months of this year.

I’ll never forget how Donald Trump assured the nation in January, 2020, when the earliest cases of COVID were reported, that he had the virus “totally under control,” advising us that, “like a miracle” it would disappear, and forgetting basic high school science, he suggested injesting bleach to cure it. 

How could anyone forget that brainless, heartless response to the Pandemic?

How could anyone forget the 400,000 preventable COVID deaths that occurred during Trump’s final year as President?

 How could anyone forget that under Trump’s mismanagement, incompetency and dishonesty concerning the COVID Pandemic, life expectancy of Americans dropped to its lowest level since World War II?  I may be 81 years old, but I can never forget that.

And, like many American, I can never forget that maybe if Trump had spent more time doing his job and less time playing golf, he wouldn’t have forgotten the oath he took as President to protect the American people.

How can any American forget that in the 1461 days of Trump’s presidency, he spent 307 days on golf courses, at a financial cost to American taxpayers of $144 million, and the personal cost to millions of Americans of their jobs, and, in many families their loved ones, because he forgot to do his job as president.

Nor can any of us ever forget that Trump spent 428 daysor nearly one-third of his presidency—visiting Trump organization-owned properties, and that, among all American Presidents, Trump came in first in taking in vacation days, and dead last in getting legislation enacted.

And, Americans know that if Donald Trump spent less time on tanning beds, less time layering on pancake make-up, and less time dying his hair orange, to pretend he’s young, he’d have had more time to spend on the people’s business.

And, who can ever forget that Trump, a bankrupt builder,  proclaimed every other week  to be “Infrastructure Week,” and did absolutely nothing about it, while during my first year in office, we enacted the biggest U.S. Infrastructure rebuilding program since the Great Depression—the $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act.

Yes, I am a well-intentioned, elderly man, who sometimes forgets a name or a date, but I have never forgotten what matters most in life, what’s essential to the lives of Americans, and the lessons we learn from each other from life, love, disease, and death. 

What I’ve learned from decades of experience in public service and from living 81 years on this precious planet, is that what matters most in this life is, as the great Catholic theologian Teihard de Chardin said, is “to be part of something bigger than ourselves.” 

That’s something I can never forget, and it’s a lifelong lesson I learned from my working-class parents; from the good, solid people I grew up with in Scranton; from the patriotic men and women—including my son Beau–who went off to fight in our wars and protect our freedoms.

These are the lessons I’ve learned from life, from death, and from my faith. They are seared into every sinew of my being.

 It’s those instructions in building lives of dignity, decency and fairnessand the daily inspirations of the working men and women struggling to live them– that can never, ever be forgotten.

God bless you, God bless our troops, and God Bless the United States of America.