From Cuomo’s lips to your client’s ears. In all the discussion last week about Mario Cuomo’s legacy, no one questioned his mastery of rhetoric—least of all his longtime speechwriter, Stephen Schlesinger, who recalled in The New York Observer that Cuomo
used to call me at home to recite his drafts to me over the phone. He was always figuring out new phrases, fine-tuning some of his own thoughts, making sure of the logic of his arguments, moving sections around. It was a fascinating experience and a somewhat peculiar compliment to me to see how rigorously he labored with the raw communicative materials of his livelihood. …
When writing his big speeches, he took the time to rehearse in front of a larger circle. For the 1984 Keynote Address at the Democratic Convention, he convened a number of rehearsals in an Albany state room and carefully reviewed the speech in its entirety, making changes up to the last minute.
"You don't have to be great," Cuomo advises speakers in the video interview below. "You have to try to be great." —DM