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On July 22, 2011, the Italian Ambassador, Giulio Terzi, spoke at the AP Annual Conference held in San Francisco.  His theme, ” Italian: a door to Europe, a bridge to the future,” makes a strong case for the teaching of Italian language in American public schools. Amb. Terzi  also responded to those critics who have said that Italian language is no longer relevant:   “The Italian of nuclear physicists, doctors, architects and artists is exactly the same language which has been spoken for the last millennium. Can the same be said of other European or Asian languages?”  We’re sure you will enjoy reading the entirety of his remarks, which we reproduce below:

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I am honored to be here tonight to celebrate a milestone for the Italian language in the United States – its return to the Advanced Placement Program. And I am particularly pleased to be able to mark this important moment together with those who made it possible.More Italian in the USA has been the Italian Embassy’s and the Consulates’ motto since the very beginning of my mission in Washington in October 2009. We believed then, and strongly believe today, that the extraordinary bonds which go hand-in-hand with the political alliance of our two Countries can be further enhanced in the field of Italian language and culture. This is a top priority that comes straight from the highest Authorities of my Country: the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs had all underlined, the need to promote the Italian language in the United States. My Government has spared no efforts to support this campaign.

Giulio Terzi

Talking about no efforts spared, let me recognize the College Board’s outstanding job. Through the skilled leadership of its President, Governor Gaston Caperton, the College Board proved to be a strong, steadfast partner whose collaboration was – and is – invaluable. Thank-you, Governor Caperton, for your farsightedness and, if I may say so, for your friendship: they were pivotal in the realization of this project. I’d also like to praise Governor Caperton’s staff and single out, in particular, the work of Trevor Packer and Mark Cavone.

My deep gratitude goes to the Conference of the Presidents of the Major Italian American Organizations, to the Italian-American organizations and to those Italian companies which contributed to our campaign. Let me say grazie to all those who daily teach and disseminate our language in American schools: the Italian principals in the United States, the teachers, the local non profit organizations and, naturally, the students. Last November 10th agreement in New York bears their signature too.

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It was the dawn of the 14th century, when a Florentine man of letters embodied, in his immense culture and vision, the eclecticism and confidence in the future of Man – values that would have later inspired and shaped Humanism and the Renaissance. This poet wrote, in Latin, a short “scientific treatise” to prove what, according to him, were the distinctive features of languages spoken in Italy and in Europe at that time.

The first quality regarded, we would say today, the social function of communication. Languages derive from cultural roots which may be very broad and ancient, but they take foot and evolve continually thanks to a number of different elements, artistic genres, and different channels and patterns of communication.

He also noted that the traits of a language, however much they may evolve, must respond to specific criteria, both in their structure (grammar, in the first place), and in their national and regional dimensions.

The man of whom I speak is Dante Alighieri, and the unfinished work is the “De Vulgari Eloquentia”. In his days, Italy had fourteen “vulgar” languages, that is to say, dialects commonly used in different areas of the peninsula, which all derived from Latin. Langues d’Oc and Langues d’Oeil shared the same roots, as did their dialects north and west of the Alps. Dante’s comparison between the different vernaculars led him to conclude that the dialect of his native Florence possessed the characteristics, vitality, structure and flexibility necessary to become a great national language – that is, the Italian one.

I have lingered upon the Supreme Poet’s ideas not merely to recall that this literary giant is rightly called the “Father of the Italian language”. I have mentioned him because through his farsighted and modern proposal he reached out to all Italians at a time when Italy was politically fragmented, and would continue to be so for the next five centuries.

The stress test the Florentine language was subjected to in the De Vulgari Eloquentia, be it in its “genetics”, flexibility, potentiality for communication or even in its harmony (Italy is “la terra dove anche il si’ suona” – the land where yes is musical) yielded astounding, unique results, with a long-lasting legacy. Many scholars have noted how 14th century Florentine, unlike other “vulgar” languages of the time, is perfectly comprehensible in this day and age. The poetry of Dante, Petrarca, Cavalcanti and others is musical, moving and evocative and, most significantly, can be appreciated by all those who know our language today.

Very few, perhaps no other modern language, can boast such a strong combination of tradition and innovation. The Italian of nuclear physicists, doctors, architects and artists is exactly the same language which has been spoken for the last millennium. Can the same be said of other European or Asian languages?

***

While celebrating Italy’s 150th Anniversary this year, we should not forget that the Italian language had such a crucial role, and was such a binding element, in the building of our Country: Italian language was truly the “founding moment of national identity”, and “one of the most ancient and noble cultural forces that have united the country and kept our citizens together and cohesive abroad”, as President Giorgio Napolitano recently said.

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According to Italian scholar Roberto Cartocci, “ethnos”,  the people and its tradition, is the characteristic which the identity of a nation is built upon. Another basic component -he said- is “logos”, language, which defines the community. And “logos” played an essential role in “creating Italians” much before the Risorgimento had succeeded in creating Italy, as a Country, in 1861. It helped to overcome divisions between those living in the different States and entities within the peninsula.

Even outside our geographical boundaries, as a Romance language Italian was decisive in the development of other European idioms and cultures. Niccolò Machiavelli wrote that no language could express all without having to borrow from other languages. This being the case, Italian must be considered as an exceptional lender towards the rest of the world. The influence of Italian on other languages’ lexicon reached its height between the 11th and the 15th centuries. At that time, Italy was already an important mediator between Europe and Northern Africa, the Arab peninsula, and the Far East, to include the Byzantine Empire. Arabic words entered the Italian language and later migrated into other languages following a phonetic – and at times semantic – re-elaboration. Most of the words I am thinking of are used in the technical and scientific domains – terms such as cipher [from “cifra” in Italian] and the number zero [from “zero” in Italian]. The world of food was greatly influenced by Italian too, especially for what were considered, at that time, as “luxury” goods such as sugar [from “zucchero”] and sorbet [“sorbetto”]. The diffusion of Italian words decreased after the 15th century,  but our words and symbols continued to be very much present in many other languages, in particular in fields such as the maritime one, banking, poetry, music and painting. Some examples among thousands?  “Banker” and “usurer” [respectively banchiere and usuraio in Italian]; “sonnet” [sonetto], or yet “cappella” and “gusto”, when referring to operas and classical music.

Mirroring Italy’s role as a formidable cultural and political mediator, through the centuries our language has developed its unique ability to act as a bridge between the different communities along the Mediterranean’s borders: in particular, with the Arab civilization: many words from Arabic migrated into other European languages through our own.

Walt Whitman, author of Leaves of Grass, one of the masterpieces of American literature, said of the United States: “I am big.  I contain multitudes.”  And herein lies also the greatness of Italian culture and language: It contains multitudes. To bring closer, to integrate, and to join: this is what Italian has done, both as a language and as a culture, throughout the centuries. This, if you will allow me to use a term which is at the center of a debate in the United States – is the exceptionalism of the Italian language, which reflects the history of the greatest cultural and humanistic reality in the world; a country which, according to UNESCO, is home to over half of the world’s artistic and cultural heritage.

In modern times, this “bridging” role has gone to the millions of Italians who have moved abroad to all continents. This is particularly true for the Italian and Italian-American community in the United States. President Obama expressly recalled, on the occasion of his March 17th Proclamation for the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy, the Italian community’s extraordinary contribution to this Country.

These millions of Italians have followed the same path that ideas and political thought had trodden decades and centuries before them: they crossed the Atlantic and helped to shape the very foundations of the United States. The “unalienable rights” cited in the Declaration of Independence – notably life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – find their roots in values such as the Italian Renaissance’s concept of the “centrality of the human being”. Filippo Mazzei and Thomas Jefferson enjoyed a great friendship and exchanged many ideas:  the “All men are equal” phrase enshrined in the “Declaration of Independence” is attributed to the Italian philosopher. Gaetano Filangieri and Benjamin Franklin’s long and interesting correspondence wed the former’s dream of a universal constitution with the solid strength of a nascent federal State where freedom and equality could finally be achieved. As for the pursuit of happiness, it’s easy to see how it connects to what today is referred to as the “Italian style”. Just think of opera, or of Italian fashion and cuisine, and of all the words commonly used by Americans – and by the rest of the world, for that matter. Terms which also carry broader concepts, such as the Mediterranean diet and healthy living, which are now priority policies for all governments: words, to put it simply, which lead to winning models.

***

Let us now look at some facts. Between 1998 and 2009, the Modern Language Association tells us that students of Italian in American universities rose by almost 60%, passing the 80,000 threshold. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages reckons that between 2004 and 2008 high-school students learning Italian went up to 78,000, from a previous 65,000. Last but not least, there are 88,000 people learning Italian through our local non profit organizations.

Some other data points: 75 million people in the world are native Italian speakers. On the Internet our language is in the top ten – yet another proof of the modernity and functionality of our language.

And this is the linchpin which brings us back to why we are here today. Was it even conceivable that a cultural and linguistic reality of these proportions were not included in the AP Program? It was absolutely not.

But we must not rest. The reinstatement of Italian in the AP Program is a big accomplishment in itself, but it is also the beginning of a renewed campaign that began last November, when we signed the agreement with the College Board. A campaign we have continued to work on in recent months to enhance the freshness and appeal of the Italian language in the United States.
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The Italian Language Observatory was one of our first steps in this direction. It includes representatives of donor organizations, teacher associations, university professors and high-school teachers, and directs all activities pertaining to the dissemination of the Italian language in the United States. Its strategic plan was approved by the College Board, and it works hand-in-hand with our institutes of culture (starting with that of San Francisco); as well as our local non profit organizations; our education directors and university lecturers. Naturally, the Observatory also works closely with structures of excellence such as the “Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi” in New York.

An important part in this new campaign will be played by the many interuniversity agreements between Italian and American institutions, such as that signed by the University of Maryland and the University for Foreigners of Perugia: this will assure a new generation of Italian language teachers. Or again, by the Memoranda of Understanding which exist at a State, County or School District level, such as that between the Consulate General in San Francisco and school authorities in California, for the certification of Italian teachers in that State. Schools in Lombardy and US universities have signed agreements which enable American students to come to Italy as English language assistants whilst learning Italian, and how best to teach it.

***

With these tools, and the many I haven’t mentioned, we can surely be satisfied with what we have already achieved, but we must – as I said – look ahead and strive for much more. The Observatory has just encouraged the creation of a website – www.usspeaksitalian.com – which is taking its first steps on the Internet. I encourage all of you, your children, your family, your friends, to get to the website and to participate pro-actively in this debate. But please, wait a few seconds more, until I have finished! The website is an independent interactive portal which teachers, families and students alike can use to seek information on learning Italian in the United States.

Let the US speak Italian. Let us all speak Italian!

Grazie.

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 U.S. Ambassador David H. Thorne’s statement on Lady Gaga’s participation to the 2011 EuroPride

I am delighted to hear that Lady Gaga has agreed to participate in EuroPride Roma 2011.  Lady Gaga has been a public advocate for LGBT issues, which are very important to  us.

As Secretary Clinton says regularly: “human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights.”  I am very proud to have an Italian-American artist of her stature visit  Rome and we look forward to the concert.

SOURCE:  US Embassy in Italy

Posted in Italian Americans|Tagged David Thorne, Lady  Gaga|

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On Sunday, March 22, 2011, a Mass was held at Holy Rosary Church in Washington DC, to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the assassination by the Mafia of Giovanni Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo, and security agents Rocco Di Cillo, Antonio Montinari, and Vito Schifani. Among those present were Ambassador Giulio Terzi, members of the Italian community in Washington, Supreme Court justices Samuel Alito

Giovanni Falcone

and Antonin Scalia, Italian judge and Falcone’s student, Giannicola Sinisi, senior counselor at the Embassy of Italy, and agents from the FBI with which Falcone worked closely in the fight against Cosa Nostra and its ramifications in the United States. More . . .

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Amb. Giulio Terzi, Helene Cooper

At a ceremony held on April 20, 2011, at the Italian Embassy in Washington, DC, Ambassador Giulio Terzi announced that Liberian-born Helene Cooper, White House correspondent for the New York Times, is the 2011 recipient of the Urbino Press Award. Now in its sixth year, the award is given annually to an American journalist who demonstrates distinguished reporting “on the ever-changing world.” Previous winners include David Ignatius (2010), Thomas Friedman (2009), Martha Raddatz (2008), Michael Weisskopf (2007), and Diane Rehm (2006). The official award ceremony will take place at the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino, Italy, on June 3.

“Today, we recognize excellence in journalism, in searching for news, in writing stories, in analyzing facts and turning information in freedom and progress,” stated Ambassador Terzi. In recalling Foreign Minister Franco Frattini’s commitment to enhance Italy’s public diplomacy in the world, Ambassador Terzi also recognized how “media, both traditional and new ones, can influence today’s
decision-making in foreign policy.”   Read story

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In a speech at a conference on “Italy and the Midwest Business Connections,” organized by the  Cleveland Council on World Affairs, Italian
Ambassador Giulio Terzi defended Italy’s economic status and promoted the Sistema Italia.

Ambassador Giulio Terzi

Terzi stated that “in a very difficult economic juncture, Italy’s banking and financial system has given proof of stability and our businessmen continue to find space and prospects for success also in competitive markets like the USA.”  The Ambassador underscored that “the know-how and quality that distinguish Sistema Italia’s components are at the basis of new opportunities for partnership between Italy and the United States, citing the example of groups like Finmeccanica, Fincantieri, Bracco, Brembo, Italcementi, Mediaset, Prysmian Cavi, Sogefy, Luxottica, and, naturally, Fiat whose return to the USA and its partnership with Chrysler are injecting new life into Detroit’s economy.

The injection of Italian capital and know how in Ohio and particularly in Detroit, has been much welcomed not only by local political leaders but also in Washington.  According to recent statistics, the population of Detroit has plummeted 25 per cent over the past decade, due largely due to the auto industry’s slump. Motor City’s population fell to 713,777 in 2010, compared to 951,270 in 2000.  Detroit’s population peaked at 1.8 million in 1950, when it ranked fifth nationally. According to some news report, in 2010 Italy was Ohio’s 11th largest export market, with $ 611 million worth of products exported by local firms.

Ambassador Terzi also met with Ohio Governor John Kasich. The two discussed  potential for new investments by Italian companies in the Midwest. On the occasion of the conference.  , “Italy and the Midwest Business Connections” which was attended by a delegation from Italy led by Vicenza Mayor Achille Variati, a ceremony was held to award Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson the honorary rank of Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà.

Click here for the full text of Amb. Terzi’s remarks.

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On April 4, 2011, the  Italian Minister of Justice Angelino Alfano, met with United States Attorney General Eric Holder, to discuss a range of issue of mutual interest.  Following their meeting, a joint statment, reprinted below was also issued.  Earlier in the day, Minister Alfano met with White House antiterrorism advsoor, John Brennan, for talks regarding a broad range of security issues, including the recent mass migration to Lampedusa, Sicily from North Africa.  Also on the dame day, Minister Alfano received a specail briefing on court technolody by Judge Francis Allegra of the United States Court of Federal Claims.

WASHINGTON -U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Italian Minister of Justice Angelino Alfano today met at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., to re-affirm the joint commitment of the United States and Italy to strengthen cooperation in the ongoing fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime. The two countries enjoy a long bilateral relationship in justice matters, and also work together to promote broader international collaboration
through multilateral treaties like the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (known as the Palermo Convention) and the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime.

Minister Angelino Alfano and Amb Giulio Terzi

“For three decades, the United States and Italy have had notable successes in jointly fighting organized crime, terrorism and other common threats to the security and prosperity of our two nations,” said Attorney General Holder. “For example, Italian authorities recently arrested a fugitive in Sicily who is charged with racketeering conspiracy in the United States, and coordinated that arrest with the largest one-day sweep of La Cosa Nostra defendants in U.S. history. We are grateful for the close collaboration that is provided daily by the Italian Ministry of Justice under the leadership of Minister Alfano, as well as from
prosecutors and police throughout Italy.”

Law enforcement officials in the United States and Italy work together on a broad range of issues. Counterterrorism remains a top priority, and officials tackle
criminal activities from drug trafficking to money laundering, and from illegal arms exports to cybercrime.

“Bilateral relations between the United States and Italy in the law enforcement arena represent an important pillar of global legal and security cooperation,” said Italian Minister of Justice Alfano. “I greatly appreciate working with U.S. Attorney General Holder, whose clear vision and problem-solving approach have
added significant value to our security relations.”

In their discussions, Attorney General Holder and Minister Alfano underlined the importance of maintaining the excellent bilateral exchange of information and evidence between the United States and Italy in the fight against organized crime and terrorism, in particular under the recently updated treaties between
the two countries on extradition and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. These treaties streamline communication in urgent fugitive matters and
incorporate technological developments like video-conferencing for taking witness testimony, while also providing a high level of protection for personal
information.

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Voglio innanzitutto ringraziarvi di avere organizzato questo bellissimo evento per celebrare insieme il 150mo Anniversario dell’Unita’ d’Italia. Come Presidente
della Repubblica, non nascondo la mia commozione nel condividere con voi questo momento cosi’ ricco di storia.

Nella sua straordinaria proclamazione in occasione del 150mo Anniversario dell’Unita’ d’Italia, il Presidente Obama ha reso omaggio “al coraggio, al sacrificio
e alla visione dei patrioti che diedero vita” allo Stato Italiano. “Nel momento in cui gli Stati Uniti combattevano per preservare la nostra Unione, egli prosegue, la campagna di Giuseppe Garibaldi per unire l’Italia ispiro’ in tutto il mondo le lotte di molti, fra cui il 39mo reggimento di Fanteria di New York, soprannominato la Guardia di Garibaldi”

Sono profondamente grato al Presidente Obama per una Proclamazione di tale spessore e al Congresso per l’analogo Atto Parlamentare. Orgoglio e fiducia: sono le due parole sulle quali ho messo l’accento nel mio discorso di fronte al Parlamento Italiano il 17 marzo. L’Unita’ d’Italia ha rappresentato un’eccezionale
conquista storica, realizzata nonostanti ardui ostacoli e deprimenti previsioni; il secolare cammino dell’idea d’Italia, sostenuta da alti messaggi di lingua, letteratura e cultura, era finalmente al traguardo. Read more . . .

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