After completely ignoring Italian-American Heritage Month in 2022, the Bidens may have learned from their mistakes after participating in a number of events meant to celebrate Italian heritage and culture this week.
The first of these events was an Italian-American Heritage Reception hosted at the White House by First Lady Jill Biden, the first FLOTUS of Italian descent in our nation’s history. Her great-grandparents came to the United States from Messina in Sicily, and her family’s story was on full display during her remarks at the reception:
“When my father’s grandparents Gaetano and Conchetta Giacoppa came to America, they became Gaetano and Conchetta Jacobs,” said Dr. Jill Biden. “They left behind everything they knew to chase the hope of this country’s unlimited promise. It wasn’t always easy, but they had faith that if they worked hard, they could create a good life in America. And even though their names changed, the values they brought across the Atlantic stayed the same: Loyalty. Generosity. Kindness. Faith.”
Not only did the First Lady allude to her own family’s story, but also briefly touched on some of the discrimination and prejudice that Italians faced as an entire community in the US:
“It’s the Sicilians who were dragged from their cells and killed in New Orleans by an angry mob. It’s “Italians need not apply.” It’s people like my dad who were never quite accepted by my mom’s family because he was Italian.”
She continued by stating “It’s a history of those who led movements, who wrote our laws and penned our poetry. Of men and women who were courageous, even when they were most afraid. Of people who worked hard and fought to give their children the best future they could – who helped build the middle class here in the United States.”
For the full video covering the reception at the White House to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Italian-Americans across the United States, please see below:
In addition to her speech at the first White House event celebrating Italian-American Heritage Month in history, the First Lady also prepared remarks for the 48th annual National Italian American Foundation Gala in Washington, DC last night.
She opened the night by highlighting that “the crowd that’s here is a testament to the power of that work, and shows us how high this community can rise, from Congress and the Supreme Court to businesses and non-profits.”
However, the accomplishments of Italian-Americans extend far beyond politics and business, as Dr. Biden also commented on the cultural achievements of our community by noting that “Generation after generation, we’ve woven our art and music and stories and culture so deeply into the fabric of this country, that the dividing lines blur—a piece of our homeland in our home.”
While Jill Biden’s presence at the Gala was planned, there was also an unannounced visitor who gave a speech at the event: President Joseph R. Biden
While Biden’s remarks were rather brief, a few noteworthy anecdotes from his speech include his point of view on a common Italian-American debate by stating “It is not sauce, it’s gravy,” his acceptance of the Sons of Italy Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service in 2009 (the first ever non-Italian honoree by the foundation), and his recalling of the large Italian community in Claymont, Delaware where “If your name didn’t end in ‘o,’ you had a problem.”
While this administration certainly has a long way to go toward adequately representing the Italian-American community and its interests, this is still a step in the right direction.
- Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by First Lady Jill Biden at an Italian American Heritage Month Reception [White House]
- Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by First Lady Jill Biden at the National Italian American Foundation Gala [White House]
- Where is Dr Jill Biden’s family from? These Italian villages claim to be the home of her long lost relatives [Lonely Planet]