Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today at the National Italian American Foundation's 36th Anniversary Awards Gala. Below are the Leader's remarks:
“Mr. President, Chairman Jerry Colangelo, President of NIAF, Joseph Del Raso, Ambassador to Italy from the United States, Ambassador David Thorne, Italian Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Terzi, and the distinguished members of the Italian delegation visiting us, distinguished awardees, my fellow members of Congress, friends of NIAF--to all of you.
“This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Italian unification. 50 years ago, a new, young President who was an inspiration to many of us in this room and to the world--President John F. Kennedy--in one of his earliest speeches, he marked the 100th anniversary of the unification of Italy. At that time he said, and I quote directly: ‘All of us, in a large sense, are beneficiaries of the Italian experience. The Risorgimento gave birth to modern Italy, like the revolution which forged a united American republic out of 13 English colonies, was a re-awakening of the most deeply held ideals of Western civilization: the desire for freedom, for protection of the rights of the individual.' That's what President Kennedy said then. That's when--before many of you in this room were born--in-fact that was before President Obama was born.
“And so, 50 years later, a new President, a new young President of the United States, who is an inspiration to many--certainly, I hope--to the world, declared in a proclamation the 150th anniversary. He offerred a congratulations of the people of the United States on that occasion. In his comments, he said--and this is in very small print--in his proclamation he said: ‘and at a time when the United States was fighting for the preservation of our own union, Giuseppe Garibaldi's campaign for the unification of Italy inspired many around the world in their own struggles, including the 39th New York infantry, also known as the Garibaldi Guard. Today the legacy of Garibaldi and all of those who unified Italy lives on in the millions of American men and women of Italian descent who strengthen and enrich our nation.' I had the honor, along with Chairman John Mica, to lead a bipartisan delegation to Rome and along with our Ambassador, David Thorne, to present that proclamation to President Napolitano. He received it with great appreciation, his greatest appreciation, with love of the American people and with the deepest respect for our President Obama.
“Three months later, President Obama sent Vice President Biden to the heads of state meeting to celebrate the reunification of Italy. So it's important for all of you to know, in case you don't know, that Jill Biden is of Italian-American descent, and that means that Joe Biden's daughter shares our heritage. We are deeply honored tonight that President Obama is gracing us with his presence because he is a great President. We're happy that he's here, for who he is--but also for who we are. Everyone in this room is a true believer in the American dream. I've found that families came to America with all of the optimism and hope and determination to make the future better for their families. They did so in a way that honored American values of responsibility from one generation to the next, of faith, faith in family, faith in god, faith in the future, work ethic, sense of community, and in bringing those values and joining up with Americans, they made America more American. As the Father said in his beautiful invocation, [inaudible] believers in the American dream, we're leaders, leaders at cultivating the mind through education and the arts, healing the body and reaching new horizons through medicine and science, building America's infrastructure, building our economy in doing so including entertainment and sports--and aren't we proud of Tony La Russa tonight [inaudible].
“As believers in the American dream, we are delighted that the President is here, because he is the Custodian-in-Chief of the American dream. Removing obstacles of participation, building ladders of success for everyone in our country who wants to work hard. That's who we are as Italian-Americans. We also--we're so proud of our heritage and at the same time we are deeply patriotic. And so we welcome the President also as not only the Custodian-in-Chief of the American dream but as the Commander-in-Chief of our men and women in uniform and as patriots we thank him for including so many Italian-Americans in his administration. Protecting the American people is our first responsibility--‘to protect and defend'--we take an oath to do that. And how proud we are that the President has named Secretary Janet Napolitano to keep us safe at home as the Secretary of Homeland Security. And we have proudly, also in terms of keeping the American people safe; the President has appointed Leon Panetta as our Secretary of Defense. And I want to recognize the important role that Secretary Panetta played and the leadership of President Obama in the apprehension of Osama bin Laden.
“The reason--so many of the reasons we're absolutely delighted that the President is here to celebrate our Italian-American heritage with us--now let's give him a great big warm Italian welcome, to the President of the United States, Barack Obama!”