Saturday, February 20, 2021 will be remembered as one of the most historic dates in Italian American history. It is the day that representatives of 354 Italian American organizations from throughout our country joined together to participate in the first-ever National Italian American Summit Meeting. From New York to California to Hawaii, from Michigan to Louisiana, and from nearly every state in between, Italian American leaders did something that they had never done before. They joined hands in a show of national unity.
The idea for the summit meeting stemmed from a discussion I had with Frank Maselli, the president of the American Italian Museum in New Orleans. He offered to take on the huge task of compiling a list of every Italian American organization throughout our country. I told him if he could accomplish that, I would use the list to initiate a nationwide meeting, with the intention of creating a spirit of national unity within the Italian American community.
For decades, our Italian American community had been at a tremendous disadvantage in promoting our agenda because we had not been as well organized as other groups. For too many years our organizations felt that they were in competition with one another, and they were often threatened by each other’s successes. As a community, we had been left behind, while other groups influenced America’s culture and policies.
I believed that if Italian Americans were to assume a more important role in our society, we needed to be able to speak with a louder and clearer voice at the national level. That is the reason I asked the Conference of Presidents to allow me to take the initiative to organize the meeting under the Conference’s sponsorship.
The agenda for our meeting included the three most critical issues facing the Italian American community today:
1) How do we fix a fragmented Italian America?
2) How do we reconnect with our younger generations?
3) How do we move forward in our fight to save Columbus?
During the meeting there were discussions on these topics by people with expertise in each area. Committees were then established to allow everyone attending the meeting to volunteer to help formulate policies regarding what our community needs to do to move forward and effectively address these issues. Our goal is to create a game plan, with all of us working together to construct it.
Once our committees develop the plan, we need a critical tool to implement it. That tool is a new website called: italianamericaonline.com.
The purpose of the site is to allow the Italian American community to create a data bank of the names and email addresses of every Italian American, as well as every Italian American organization, in our country.
This information will provide us with the ability to quickly and effectively communicate with everyone in our community. It will allow us to speak with the loud, unified voice we need at the national level, to promote issues relating to our culture, our history and our values. But for this plan to work, every Italian American needs to do their part by signing up on the website.
As Italian Americans, we need to understand that our time has finally arrived. We need to seize the moment. We need to create a true spirit of national unity within our community.
And I believe we will be successful because I know what motivates each of us. We all feel the need to honor the memories of our parents and grandparents. We all want to show them the love, respect and gratitude we have for them. That strong devotion each of us has to our family provides the common bond that will allow us to join hands, work together and achieve our success.
President Basil M. Russo,
Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations