March 14th, 2010 11:45 EST
Italian Americans Must Promote the Best of Italy by Denouncing Jersey Shore Now
Denouncing Jersey Shore" is not enough; Americans of Italian descent must also promote understanding of the best that Italy has given the world.
By way of introduction, my name is Joseph N. Grano and I am Chair of the Constantino Brumidi Society. The mission of the Society and its accomplishments are listed following this letter. Most significantly, we spearheaded the drive to have Congress award Constantino Brumidi, posthumously, our nation`s highest civilian award, The Congressional Gold Medal. " A law to make this happen passed Congress and was signed by President Bush in 2008. The presentation of the award will take place later this year.
The point of my rather long letter is that we need to do all we can do to keep alive the memory of our great Italian culture, both as a good in itself and as a way to build identity and foster pride. This will become the perfect antidote to negative stereotyping.
Today, we can start the ball rolling to make this happen by asking that two resolutions be introduced in Congress to honor Italian greats, Andrea Palladio and Galileo Galilei.
I am asking you to write, or at least call the Co-chairs of the Italian American Delegation to Congress and ask them to introduce these resolutions today.
Is it necessary to write these letters? The answer is "yes," if you wish to see the resolutions introduced and passed. It is a truism that politicians respond to what the public wants. Our representatives need to hear from us. To speak frankly, if these resolutions are not introduced, do not blame the Co-chairs of the Italian American Congressional Delegation (Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. of New Jersey and Patrick J.Tiberi of Ohio, blame those who received this message and did not act upon it.
Now, to the main thesis of this letter:
PROMOTING THE BEST OF ITALY
I am tremendously impressed with how the Italian American community has coalesced around denouncing "Jersey Shore" the so-called "reality" TV show. Leaders in the community, such as UNICO National President Andre DiMino and NIAF National President Joseph V. Del Raso have spoken and written with great passion and eloquence denouncing it. I agree with our leaders that this show is so slanderous and so damaging to the Italian American community and particularly its young people that MTV must be faced down. This issue cannot be ignored.
But, as I am sure you realize, in addition to fighting negative stereotyping and media slander as we have been doing, we must make efforts to recognize the positive achievements of Italians and Italian Americans. No country in the world has given more to create Western Civilization than Italy. We need to promote this, both as a way to build identity and pride, and fight negative stereotyping.
I certainly do not take credit for this idea. The great John F. LaCorte founded the Italian Historical Society of America, " more than 60 years ago, with just such an intent and strategy in mind. Of course, the Society`s most famous consciousness raising, pride inducing, victory was the naming of the Verrazzano Bridge in New York in 1964.
In this way we can begin to fight the darkness of the stereotyping of Italian Americans as gangsters or buffoons with the light of Verdi and Puccini in music, Dante and Manzoni in literature, Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael in art, Michelangelo and Bernini in sculpture, Galileo and Fermi in science, Palladio and Brunelleschi in architecture, and so on. Italian American organizations should be combating the low Guido culture " with the high culture of the Medici. There are at least several hundred arrows in the quiver of Italian High Culture with which to slay negative Italian American stereotyping.
In addition to promoting Italian High Culture, we should, of course be promoting access to learning the Italian language at all levels of education. The key portal for entry into another culture is through its language. I commend the efforts of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations and other national Italian American organizations to have the College Boards reinstate the Advance Placement Program in Italian Language and Culture.
THE VALUE OF CEREMONIAL RESOLUTIONS BY CONGRESS
While Congress can not and should not ban or censor "Jersey Shore " or The Sopranos, " it can and should introduce and pass ceremonial resolutions, whenever appropriate, honoring the many scores of Italians and Italian Americans who have benefited the human race, throughout history. Again, this should be done on a systematic and regular basis through our leaders there, the Co-chairs of the Italian American Congressional Delegation, Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. and Patrick J. Tiberi.
It is undeniable that official resolutions are excellent educational tools to inform the general public of something that they might know little about. Also, by conveying prestige on the subject of the resolution, they build pride in the sponsoring community. They can be publicized in conjunction with community events such as parades, festas and ethnic awareness months. And, best of all, ceremonial resolutions cost nothing to obtain.
The type of ceremonial resolution that I am suggesting, which recognize and honor foreign luminaries, are no stranger to Congress: For instance, last year, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a ceremonial resolution recognizing the 2,560th anniversary of the birth of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius (H. Res. 784). This resolution was introduced and passed by the House within 30 days. (Representative Pascrell was a first day co-sponsor).
Anniversaries of great Italians and their achievements come up almost yearly. There are two well-respected organizations that I have been fortunate enough to work with, which are experts in these matters: the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of New York, Inc, " chaired by Cav. Uff. Joseph Sciame, and the New Jersey Italian and Italian American Commission, " chaired by Dr. Gilda Rorro-Baldassari. Both organizations work throughout the year and do a wonderful job of assembling information on great Italian luminaries of the past and publicizing the information. Both groups can give guidance on who needs to be honored for a particular year.
I have proposed to the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations " (an umbrella group of nearly 50 Italian American organizations) that it, yearly, choose worthy Italians and Italian Americans to be honored, based on the input of the above two mentioned organizations. Then, the "Conference" would approach the Co-chairs of the Italian American Congressional Delegation and ask that resolutions be introduced in Congress to recognize the achievements of these individuals. The National Italian American Foundation could then use its ability to educate Congress in matters of interest to the Italian American community to ensure that the resolutions are introduced with a large number of co-sponsors.
WHY CEREMONIAL RESOLUTIONS FOR PALLADIO AND GALILEO?
Right now, without this procedure in place, I am trying to promote the positive in our heritage by urging the introduction in Congress of resolutions honoring two of the greatest and most influential luminaries in all of Italian history. I hope you can help me.
ANDREA PALLADIO: THE MOST SIGNIFICANT AND INFLUENTIAL ARCHITECT IN HISTORY
At this moment, there is in the office of the Co-chair of the Italian American Congressional Delegation, the Honorable Bill Pascrell, Jr., a draft resolution honoring Andrea Palladio on the 500th anniversary of his birth.
Italian-born Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) is considered by many to be the most significant and influential architect in history. His influence spread from Italy to Europe and England and then to the future United States. American buildings built in the 17th and early 18th Centuries which are called "Georgian" and "Federal" are styles heavily under the influence of Palladio.
Perhaps, the most important example of Palladio`s influence in the United States is The White House, designed by Irish-born architect James Hoban in 1793. His model was the Anglo-Palladian "Leister House" in Dublin.
Other excellent examples of Palladio`s influence are Thomas Jefferson`s Monticello " and the buildings he designed at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Jefferson consulted Palladio`s books on architecture when designing these wonderful buildings.
Among the buildings in New York City that bear the influence of Palladio are: City Hall, the Tweed Courthouse, the Villard Houses and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
To his great credit, Representative Pascrell introduced a Palladio resolution in the 110th Congress (H. Con. Res. 407), but it failed to pass before the session ended.
Though the Palladio anniversary celebrations officially began in 2008, activities honoring Palladio are still continuing, including art exhibitions in Europe and the United States. An exhibition featuring original Palladio architectural drawings from the collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects Trust is scheduled to open at The
Morgan Library & Museum in New York City on April 2.
GALILEO GALILEI: THE FOUNDER OF MODERN SCIENCE AND ASTRONOMY
In the office of the other Co-chair, the Honorable Patrick J. Tiberi, there is a draft resolution to honor Galileo Galilei on the four hundredth anniversary of his first use of the telescope for astronomical observation, in 1609. With this bold act, Galileo forever changed the way we view the universe, both literally and figuratively.
Galileo is also considered to be the first modern scientist and the founder of the "scientific method" which uses experimentation and applied mathematics to understand the nature of the physical world.
Both Paladio and Galileo are undeniably great Italian luminaries who lives have had a profound impact on civilization. This is not just my opinion. For instance, in the case of Galileo:
According to the book, "The Italian 100: a Ranking of the Most
Influential, Cultural, Scientific, and Political Figures, Past and
Present," Citadel Press (1998), written by Stephen J. Spignesi,
Galileo Galilei ranks Number 1;
According to the book, "The 100, A Ranking of the Most Influential
Persons in History," Hart Publishing Company, Inc. (1978), written
by Michael J. Hart,
Galileo Galilei ranks Number 13.
The United Nations declared 2009 to be the International Year of Astronomy " in recognition of Galileo`s achievement. The Government of Italy introduced this initiative through a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly in 2007.
I also note that this year is the 400th anniversary of the publication of Galileo`s Siderius Nuncius" which was the first scientific treatise based on observations made through a telescope and contains observations of the Moon, the stars and the moons of Jupiter made by Galileo. Publication of this book exactly 400 years ago, this year,
was a landmark in the scientific revolution launched by Galileo.
A CALL TO ACTION
The Palladio and Galileo proposed resolutions have been vetted by experts in the fields of architecture and astronomy, respectively. Also, both of these proposed resolutions have the backing of the New York and New Jersey organizations I have previously mentioned, above. (I thank Joe Sciame and Dr. Gilda Rorro-Baldassari for their input,
advice, support and encouragement with regard to these two resolutions).
Both these resolutions are ready to be introduced tomorrow. And they can be if Italophiles, such as you, write or call the Co-chairs of the Delegation and ask that they be introduced.
I believe that letters from dozens of Italophiles from around the country to these two gentlemen will be extremely persuasive. Further, it is my hope that if introduction and passage of these two resolutions are successful, resolutions recognizing and honoring great Italian and Italian American luminaries of the past will become a regular feature of the work of the Italian American Congressional Delegation.
PLEASE WRITE YOUR LETTERS TODAY TO THE CO-CHAIRS OF THE ITALIAN
AMERICAN CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION. HERE IS HOW TO DO IT:
LETTER TO REP. PASCRELL
Your email or fax letter to MR. PASCRELL should take the following form and I suggest the following content:
* * * * * * * *
March 6, 2010
The Honorable Bill Pascrell, Jr., Co-chair
The Italian American Congressional Delegation
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515-3008
Dear Honorable Representative Pascrell:
Thank you so much for sponsoring legislation in Congress awarding
the Congressional Gold Medal to Constantino Brumidi.
Now, I urge you to now introduce a resolution in Congress
recognizing the achievements of another great Italian: Architect
Andrea Palladio, who personally created masterpieces in Italy and
whose influence has greatly impacted the built environment of the
United States and Europe for more than 350 years.
The year 2008 was the 500th anniversary of Palladio`s birth and
I believe his achievements and his influence are worthy of
recognition by Congress
I hope that you will make it a regular practice of introducing
resolutions that honor the lives and achievements of
great Italians and Italian Americans of the past.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Your Full Name
Your Complete Snail Mail Address
* * * * * * * *
I strongly advise you to email of fax your letter to Mr. Pascrell`s office using the following information:
Chief of Staff, Ben Rich, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Staffer on I-A Affairs, Kristen Molloy, email:
Tel.: 202.225.5751, Fax: 202.225.5782
1. While denouncing Jersey Shore, " the so-called "reality" TV
program, which defames Italian American youth, is both necessary
and proper; this is not sufficient.
2. The Italian American community, through its leaders, must make
efforts to promote recognition of the positive achievements of
Italians and Italian Americans of the past.
3. No country in the world has done more to create Western
Civilization than Italy. We need to emphasize this, both as
a way to build identity and pride, and to fight negative
4. Our leaders should be asking the Co-chairs of the Italian American
Congressional Delegation, Rep. Bill Pascrell and Pat Tiberi, to
systematically and regularly introduce resolutions honoring
great Italians and Italian Americans of the past.
5. Currently, draft resolutions in Congress honoring two Italian
greats, Galileo Galilei and Andre Palladio have been ready to be
introduced for nearly a year, but have not been.
6. Please call the Co-chairs of the Italian American Congressional
Delegation and ask them to promptly introduce these resolutions,
A. Call Rep. Pascrell at 202.225.5751 and ask for the
introduction of the Palladio resolution; and
B. Call Rep. Tiberi at 202.225.5355 and ask for the
introduction of the Galileo resolution,