New York 27/03/2011

Intervento del Presidente Napolitano in occasione dell'incontro con una rappresentanza della comunità italiana (versione inglese)

150 New Yorkers Celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy

Let me first all thank you for having organized this magnificent event to celebrate together the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

It is particularly touching for me, as President of the Italian Republic, to share with you such a historical moment.

President Obama, in his impressive proclamation on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Italian unification, celebrated "the courage, sacrifice and vision of the patriots who gave birth" to the Italian State. He added that "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".

I am deeply grateful to President Obama for such a Proclamation and to the Congress for the Congressional Record.

Pride and trust: these are two words I have insisted upon in my address in front of the Italian Parliament on the 17Th of March. The Italian unification has represented an extraordinary historical accomplishment, despite severe difficulties and gloom forecasts; the centuries - long path of the idea of Italy, fostered by paramount messages of language, literature and culture, had eventually come to an end.

Next Tuesday I will pay tribute to Ellis Island and the 4 million Italian immigrants that arrived there. Italy will never forget his sons who were obliged to leave their country in search of a better future.

The historical record is crystal clear: before unification, the living conditions in 1861 Italy were mostly painful and unsatisfactory, with high rates of disease, illiteracy, poverty. The newly born State created the premises for the modernization of the country and for gradual social progress but could not, for quite a long time, afford to provide an acceptable future for all Italians. Emigration sadly became a necessity.

Songs, poems, novels and films have masterly depicted the sorrow of the departure, the difficulties of the arrival, the opportunities opened by the new life. You know it all too well: the pain, the struggle, the success.

Italy is grateful to the United States for the opportunities given to our citizen. Far from the rigidity of the European social structure in those days, America was ready to reward hard work and commitment, to promote social advancements, to celebrate the self made man. More generally, America was able to create an intense feeling of belonging and allegiance in the individual while recognizing his pursuit of happiness.

I have today the pleasure of being in front of you and, out of your positions and contributions to the American society, I can immediately grasp the immense results attained by the community of Italian origin. I am profoundly touched by the genuine affection that you feel toward our Country. You have a major and successful role in promoting values and qualities associated with Italy.

No one better than Geraldine Ferraro embodied the Italian contribution to the American dream. Today we mourn her loss. She has left a legacy in the political life and in the American society which will last forever. All Italian Americans can be proud of her.

Taking into account our special relationship, I gave my patronage to the programme of events Italy@150. I am grateful to Ambassador Terzi and to the Italian Embassy for the organization of such celebrations and I am impressed by the several events spontaneously carried out everywhere in the States to celebrate our anniversary, thanks to the exceptional dynamism of the Italian community.

I would also like to thank the Conference of the Presidents of the most important Italian - American organizations for their invaluable help in attaining an essential result, the insertion of the Italian language in the Advanced Placement program and thus in the secondary education here in the States.

The promotion of Italian is an absolute priority because language is the first tool to spread an updated knowledge of Italy, far from platitudes and clichés. Furthermore, the Italian idiom is one of the most ancient and noble cultural forces that have united our Country and kept our citizens together and cohesive abroad.

It would be impossible to pay a tribute to all the prominent Italians who lived in the States and specifically in New York. In this special occasion I wish to celebrate two outstanding personalities: Antonio Meucci, who was at the same time many things, emigrant, new Yorker, patriot of the Risorgimento, inventor of the telephone, and Giuseppe Garibaldi, who lived also in New York as Meucci guest and exchanged letters with Abraham Lincoln, in a spirit of mutual admiration.

The present world, as I am going to state tomorrow in my speech at the United Nations General Assembly, is filled with opportunities, challenges and contradictions. The years ahead will not be easy for anybody, and in particular for Italy. But I am glad I can say to you today that in the past few days the celebrations of our 150th anniversary have seen a new spirit emerging through a massive and enthusiastic popular participation to all initiatives taking place in all parts of Italy. The new spirit of pride and trust that I evoked; a new will to reinforce our national cohesion and unity, because this is the condition to overcome the difficulties which are in front of us. Yes, we shall overcome.