Basil M. Russo, the national chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, recently met with top White House personnel to provide direction on the crucial and often-overlooked history connecting the Italian American community to Columbus Day.
The ultimate result was this year’s Columbus Day Proclamation, a historically accurate text that outlines the challenges and growth of Italian American culture and portrays the meandering route to integration that many immigrants to the United States are all too familiar with.
“It is time to continue the dialogue on local and national levels with other groups and cultures that desire to sit down and listen to one another,” said the head of the Italian American community.
Friday night’s publication of President Joe Biden’s inclusive article was a welcome break from previous proclamations that were criticised by the Italian American community for associating the Columbus Day celebration with current social concerns.
“Dear Mr. Russo, thank you once again for all of your assistance with the Columbus Day proclamation for this year. We really appreciate it and look forward to working with you,” said Will McIntee, senior advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.
We extend our gratitude to President Biden and Mr. McIntee, and we look forward to working closely with the White House to obtain distinct holidays for Italian Americans and Indigenous Peoples.
Russo, along with dozens of Conference of Presidents delegates, has spent the past year travelling to Rome’s parliament and the Vatican to establish diplomatic and cultural ties. They have also mobilised hundreds of Italian American organisations to pursue initiatives ranging from public policy and advocacy to education, language, and cultural development.