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Virus Without Borders: Chapter Seven


Music to Our Ears



 Keep the mind cold and the heart warm.


Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Director, Philadelphia Orchestra

in a conversation with Terry Gross on Fresh Air




Many of my friends and family are glued to Govenor Cuomo's press conferences, and for good reason: they are music to our ears. Not only are they sober and informative, they are personal, warm and caring. First we get the facts, well scripted and projected onto easy-to-understand charts, and then an anecdote, often about the Governor's own family. Yesterday, the anecdote was about his younger brother, Chris Cuomo, a CNN anchor, who tested positive, and is now quarantined in the basement of his home. "Not even the dogs want to come down here," Chris told his brother, the Governor. Even worse, Chris and Andrew's elderly mother, Matilda, had been in Chris's house just two weeks before. She was feeling lonely so Chris had invited her over. Not a good idea, the Governor said, returning to his stern expression and strong delivery. But we could all hear the love and concern bubbling under the surface of his sonorous voice.


To be able to selflessly convey complex and disturbing information every day, to stay on point while folding in illustrative, personal stories is a great gift, the gift of a natural storyteller and a mature political leader. It is also the perfect, necessary antidote to the dangerous regime in Washington. It is, therefore, no suprise that there is a "Draft Cuomo for President" movement gathering steam. Whether it has any viability is moot right now. For those of us who live in New York State--the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States this week--Cuomo is our President.


My other thought this morning is about storytelling itself. The Cuomos are Italian-American, a sub-culture that has maintained its oral story-telling traditions. This cultural legacy has served the Governor well at his press conferences, which are mostly written by his staff. But the personal stories do not sound scripted; they sound improvised, conversational and heartfelt. Most importantly, even the anecdotes never veer away from a responsible government official's singular purpose: to both serve and protect us.



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