Posts Tagged ‘Italian Americans’

The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, and the Italian-American community, lost one of their staunchest advocates on October 18 with the passing of John Dabbene. Mr. Dabbene, who spent most of the last 30 years of his life fighting discrimination and promoting a positive image of Italian-Americans, died of a heart attack shortly after having hip-replacement surgery. He was 72.

Born in Brooklyn on July 30, 1938, Mr. Dabbene attended PS 142, Brooklyn Technical High School, New York Community College, and Polytech Institute where he majored in electrical engineering. He entered the U.S. Army in 1960 and served on active and reserve duty for six years. In 1967 he received certification as an Electrical Lighting Designer. He worked for Con Edison for 43 years and retired in 1999 as their Senior Electrical Designer.

Mr. Dabbene’s efforts touched the entire Italian-American community, but closest to his heart was the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum. His appointment as Chairman and President/CEO in June 2001 began a renaissance for the small historic house. Under his direction, the museum restructured all its programs for schools, colleges and community groups; started a museum gift shop; developed traveling exhibitions; formed a Speaker’s Bureau and completed over $250,000 in restoration projects. Even though he had stepped down as President/CEO of the museum in March, he remained extremely active in all areas of the museum administration.

“John’s whole life was about passion, and it was his relentless passion for the museum that was really the heart of this place,” said Museum Director Nicole Fenton. “He is irreplaceable.”

A few highlights of Mr. Dabbene’s other involvements and achievements include his membership on the board of the Italian-American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund, and the New York City Italian Heritage and Culture Month Committee. He was President of the Staten Island Chapter of Arba-Sicula, representative of the New York State Commission for Social Justice (CSJ) to the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and a board member of the National Italian-American Media Foundation. He twice served as President of the Wm. C. LaMorte Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) Lodge (now Father Capodanno Lodge) and was frequently a delegate to the National OSIA convention. He was a founding member of the New York Commission for Social Justice (CSJ) and served as president from 1993 to 1999 where he developed the first national Positive Image Program. In August 2005, he was appointed the first President Emeritus of CSJ, and in 2009 was awarded the Bene Emeritus Award by OSIA—its highest award for service to the Italian-American community.

Mr. Dabbene is survived by his wife of 48 years, the former Marcy Killberg; sons Michael and Peter and daughter Susan Rose; grandsons Christopher, Matthew and Giovanni, and granddaughter Lucia.



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Thank you, Mr. President, for your thoughtful choice of words in proclaiming October as Italian American Heritage and Culture Month.  Italian Americans are proud of our heritage but we are even more proud to be Americans.

Following is the text of the Presidential Proclamation, as released by the White House this evening:


In the five centuries since Christopher Columbus, a son of Genoa, Italy, first set sail across the Atlantic Ocean, countless individuals have followed the course he charted to seek a new life in America. Since that time, generations of Italian Americans have helped shape our society and steer the course of our history. During Italian American Heritage and Culture Month, we recognize the rich heritage of Americans of Italian descent and celebrate their immeasurable contributions to our Nation.

Bound by enduring values of faith and family, Italian Americans have flourished in all areas of our public and economic life while preserving their proud Italian traditions. Upon arrival in the United States, the Italian American community faced racial, social, and religious discrimination. Yet, Italian Americans have persevered with hope and hard work to reach for the American dream and helped build our great country. As proud service members, they have also defended the liberty and integrity of the United States since the Revolutionary War.

Today, the legacy of these intrepid immigrants is found in the millions of American men, women, and children of Italian descent who strengthen and enrich our country. Italian Americans operate thriving businesses, teach our children, serve at all levels of government, and succeed in myriad occupations. Drawing on the courage and principles of their forebears, they lead in every facet of American life, dedicating their knowledge and skills to the growth of our country.

The Great Seal of the United States declares “out of many, one.” As we forge new futures as a unified people, we must celebrate the unique and vibrant cultures that have written the American story. Many determined individuals have sought our shores as a beacon of hope and opportunity, and their spirit of limitless possibility and example of resolve continues to inspire and guide our Nation. As we honor the long history and vast contributions of Italian Americans, let us recommit to extending the promise of America that they embraced to future generations.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2010 as Italian American Heritage and Culture Month. I call upon all Americans to learn more about the history of Italian Americans, and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.


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As Italian Americans prepare to celebrate Columbus Day,  we are tragically reminded  not only of the contributions that Italians have made to America but of Italy’s continuing committment to bring stability and peace in troubled parts of the world.  When Christopher Columbus set sail across the Atlantic his findings, said President Obama yesterday in his Columbus Day Proclamation,  “would change the map of the world and forever alter the course of human history.” 

Today, however,  we mourn the tragic loss of four Italian soldiers, Gianmarco Manca (born at Alghero September 24,1978), Francesco Vannozzi (born in Pisa, March 27, 1984), Sebastiano Ville (born in Lentini, Siracusa, September 17, 1983) and Marco Pedone (born in Gagliano del Capo, Lecce, April 14,1987) who were killed in Afghanistan today in a roadside bomb attack.    Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he was saddened “by the tragic ambush.” But added that the Italian Government was “grateful to all Italian soldiers who, in various missions around the world, allow our country to keep its international commitments in support of peace and against any form of terrorism.”  

Thirty-four Italians have died in Afghanistan since 2004. On this Columbus Day weekend let us remember them.

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Former Italian American Congressman Frank J. Guarini, a leader in the Italian American community and an advocate for Italian language and culture, has pledged a $250,000 Challenge Grant to the National Italian American Foundations (NIAF) Advanced Placement (AP) Campaign.

Frank J Guarini

Since March 201 (more…)

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Gene L. Dodaro, an Italian American, has been the Acting Comptroller General of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office since March 13, 2008.  Dodaro oversees the 3,100-staff General Accounting Office. The GAO is the independent, non-partisan agency that works for Congress.  Often called the “Congressional watchdog,” GAO investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars and helps ensure the government’s accountability for the benefit of all Americans. Each year, the GAO’s work saves the government and taxpayers billions of dollars and leads to hundreds of actions that improve government operations.

Dodaro was recently interviewed about his work and Italian heritage by the Voce Italiana  newsaper, an Italian American Gazette for the Washington, D.C. area. We reprint below the interview:

How did you get involved in government service?

When I was a college senior, the GAO came to recruit at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania, where I was majoring in accounting. GAO’s broad scope of responsibilities and the interesting opportunities it offered impressed me, particularly the chance to work on issues of national significance.  Shortly after graduating in May 1973, I arrived in Washington and began what has turned out to be a very rewarding career. It was one of the very best decisions I have ever made, and one that I have never second-guessed. I have a challenging and fulfilling job – and everyday have an opportunity to give something back to my country.  

What are some of the biggest challenges you currently face as Comptroller General?

Because we serve all standing committees of the Congress and most of its subcommittees, GAO helps confront the wide range of important economic, social, financial, and security issues facing our Nation. 

One of the most significant challenges is assessing the government’s responses to the current economic situation, including efforts to ensure the stability of the overall banking, housing, and financial markets; conducting oversight of stimulus programs to boost the economy, including job expansion and investments in infrastructure, and highlight the need to modernize the U.S. financial regulatory system.

Another is reviewing U.S. efforts related to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Evaluating the government’s efforts to identify and act on credible threats to homeland and border security, including commercial aviation and seaports, as well as those involving biological, chemical, and nuclear dimensions.

Still other challenges are reviewing programs financing health care and focusing on major efforts at high risk, such as food and drug safety and the financial condition of the U.S. Postal Service. 

Tell us a little about your Italian roots?

My grandfather, on my father’s side, immigrated to America from Calabria (the Cuiti/Rogliano area) in 1906, to join his older brothers in the steel mills in Monessen, Pennsylvania. It was there that he met and married my grandmother, an Italian-American who was born in Philadelphia. In fact, I was named after my grandfather.

Two years ago, my wife and I planned a trip to Calabria, but were unable to go at that time. It remains a priority for us.

Where did you grow up? Did you feel Italian as you were growing up? Did your family retain Italian traditions?

I grew up in the Mon Valley area of Pennsylvania which was home to many immigrants attracted by industrial jobs. I was born in Monessen, a steel mill town with a large Italian population.   In those early years, the local Catholic Church, food markets, and bakeries were Italian-oriented and/or operated. 

When I was in first grade, my family moved to Belle Vernon, a nearby town with less of an Italian presence.  But because most of my relatives remained in Monessen, we frequently returned there given strong family ties. I have very strong memories of Sundays at my Italian grandparents’ home followed by visits to nearby relatives. 

While Italian food and wine (later, of course) were important ingredients, most memorable for me are many long, leisurely conversations around the dinner table.  Among my family’s Italian traditions was the serving the multiple fish dishes on Christmas Eve.             

What kinds of activities or hobbies do you do for relaxation?

With my background, it is not surprising that the priority for my free time is spending time with my family, and more so now that I have a wonderful grandson in addition to three grown children. I do enjoy sports, especially basketball and football which I played while growing up. I faithfully watch the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom I have loyally followed since the 1960’s. 

I also find movies relaxing and think an enjoyable way to spend a weekend night is dinner and a movie. Because I do so much reading in my job, I am very particular about what I read in my spare time – biographies top the list of my favorites.

What is your favorite Italian meal?

I loved my grandmother’s homemade ravioli. They were made of thin, light pasta and filled with spinach. 

Do you retain Italian traditions within your family?

Holy Rosary Church is an important part of my life, providing a nourishing spiritual home and a strong link to my Italian upbringing. My Irish-German-French wife and I truly enjoy our association with Holy Rosary, the many friends we have here, and the opportunity to expand our knowledge and appreciation of Italian culture and traditions. We both have come to love opera which complements our preference for Italian cuisine and wine.

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 A Congressional reception welcoming Italian Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata to the United States was held at the U.S. Capitol on March 16, 2010. The event was hosted by the National Italian American Foundation under the auspices of the Frank J. Guarini Public Policy Forum and the Italian American Congressional Delegation. Present was a large contingent of the Italian American Congressional Delegation, including Representatives Pat Tiberi and Bill Pascrell, co-chairmen of the Delegation for the 111th Congress, and Representatives Robert Aderholt, John Boccieri, Marcy Kaptur, John Mica, Steve Scalise, and former Rep. Mike Ferguson.  Read more at CiaoAmerica.net

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The Italic Institute of America, through its chairman John Mancini, has filed a formal complaint with the N.Y. State Attorney General against the Columbus Citizens Foundation.  The Institute contends that the Foundation has not complied with its own mission statement.

According to the Italic Institute, although the Columbus Foundation’s own charter requires it to preserve and promote the Italian heritage and culture, “millions of donated dollars are funneled to parochial schools offering no Italian language classes or to universities that have eliminated the Columbus Day holiday or promote an anti-Columbus agenda.”   The Italic Institute points to “one egregious case” in which  the Foundation donated $1 million to Millennium High School in lower Manhattan.  “But there are few, if any, Italian American students attending the school, and the only languages offered are Spanish and Mandarin,” said the Italic Institute.

The Italic Institute notes that “as the sole sponsor of the Columbus Day Parade the Columbus Citizens Foundation is privileged to earn much of its income from this heritage event by charging for floats and selling television ads.  Its annual gala receipts are enhanced by the parade and the delegations from Italy.   Yet this parade — like most others in the city — is taxpayer subsidized.  Our community also helps make it a success.  Have the profits been reinvested in the very heritage that it celebrates?”

John Mancini is calling “on all responsible members” of the Italian American community “to reflect on the sorry state of our heritage in America … Are the millions of dollars collected in our community being spent wisely?  Are we doing enough to acculturate our children and grandchildren in our millennial heritage?”

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