Articles by: Alex Catti

  • Art & Culture

    Panini is Praised by Collectors for Sticker Book Changes

    The highly anticipated 56th edition of "Calciatori Figurine 2016-2017" Serie A Soccer Player Sticker Album by Panini is finally available and sporting spiffy new features. Devoted soccer fanatics, old and young alike, excitedly hit local newsstands to get their hands on this year’s 128-page collection.

    The Panini Group specializes in sticker portfolios, bringing together collectors and fans since the early 1960s when Giuseppe Panini began selling rare soccer figurine (stickers attached with glue) with his brother in Modena, Italy. It only took one year for the phenonomen to gain speed, as Panini sold over 3 million stickers his first year in the industry. The multi-million dollar business continues to expand today, showcasing a variety of different sports and athletes.

    On the cover of the 56th edition of Calciatori Figurine is, once again, 1940’s iconic soccer defensive mid-fielder Carlo Parola performing his perfectly executed acrobatic bicycle kick; which earned his legacy as a notorious Italian soccer player. The design team at Panini chose a colorful street-art inspired cover complete with shades of blue, green, yellow and red; but it’s what inside that is truly enticing collectors.

    The stickers are slightly larger this year and contain more detailed information about the players. Along with photographs of the soccer stars, information about their birthplace, preferred foot, and other various stats about their career are included. Another new feature is a star that has been placed on certain player's stickers to indicate whether or not they are on the Italian National Team.

    Panini Italy experimented with new materials like satin, mesh, holograms, metallic topcoats, and holographic trophies in the 2016-2017 edition. The design and marketing team work to constantly take their designs to the next level, maintaining a solid clientele base since the early 1960s.

    Featured in a never before seen section are 11 caricatures of Italian players drawn by collectors. The marketing team of Panini Italy decided to take an artistic approach in adding new content to really hone and grapple with the demands of the new generation of collectors. Innovation and creativity are crucial aspects to the business of collectibles with the proper balance of tradition to keep consumers satisfied and enthusiastic.

    Players have expressed their appreciation and approval for this year’s trading sticker book, though Panini took risks in changing the sticker sizes and adding to the book, it is being received as an overall success. Collectors are eager to add to their growing assortments, some that have been passed down through the years, others that are new and growing in value each day with a story behind each sticker. 

  • Life & People

    Places Please! Teatro Patologico’s Revolutionary Theater in Rome

    La Mama theater recently hosted actor, filmmaker, and founder of L'Associazione del Teatro Patologico Dario D'Ambrosi for a celebration of his previous work and a presentation of his revolutionary project. The evening's event was aptly titled Il miracolo italiano (The Italian Miracle) as the work being presented could only be described as a true miracle. Since 1992 D'Ambrosi's Teatro Patologico (Pathological Theater) has been connecting disabled individuals with the world of theater. In collaboration with University of Studies of Tor Vergata, Pathological Theater has begun a university-level course for individuals with physical and mental disabilities–Teatro Integrato Dell'Emozione (Integrated Theater of Emotion). The audience was treated to video clips, personal accounts, and results of scientific studies that prove just how effective the Integrated Theater of Emotion really is.

    Posters were hung around the theater commemorating D'Ambrosi's work, and as a perfect segue from past to present, D'Ambrosi's first film, Il ronzio delle mosche (The Buzzing of the Flies), was shown to the audience. The film follows a group of doctors in a fictitious future world as they attempt to study the last three “crazy” individuals on the planet and find out why they are different than everyone else. The subjects are observed day and night. At first they live in harmony with each other, but when doctors change the environment, their madness explodes.


    Following the film two Italian actors, Giacomo Rocchini and Celeste Moratti, gave a brief performance that was an homage to both mental illness and to the film. The performance was based on a text written by D’Ambrosi himself; it used limited words and music to captivate the audience. Rocchini and Moratti’s acting was accompanied by Francesco Maria Crudele on the drums and Francesco Santalucia on the piano.


    The audience was also treated to a documentary—Miracolo Italiano—which highlighted Teatro Patologico’s work. So what exactly is this Italian Miracle? D’Ambrosi has been working with disabled populations for over two decades. His work began in 1992 with the goal of bringing individuals with cognitive disabilities into the theater to help them find their strengths and empower them. Since 2009 Teatro Patologico has had a stable home on Via Cassia in Rome. In 2016, the university course Integrated Theater of Emotion was established at the University of Studies of Tor Vergata. This course turns social conventions upside down. Disabilities that are seen as obstacles or social anomalies are turned into abilities that contribute to a successful production. Students are taught “[...] that the mechanisms of communication at [their] disposal are countless.” Teachers of this course are not necessarily traditional teachers. Instructors here need to be especially sensitive to the needs of their students, and they must be attentive to the various ways that their students may choose to communicate. The lives of both the students and their families have been truly touched by this program.


    To prove just how well Teatro Patologico is achieving its mission, D’Ambrosi provided the audience with an anecdote. The former Italian Minister of Education, Stefania Giannini, had the opportunity to see firsthand the work that Teatro Patologico is doing, and according to D’Ambrosi: “she has become a believer.” Another source of pride and endorsement came for the Pathological Theater when the Secretary of Community and Social Services in Italy, Laura Cocia, was asked at an international meeting in Dubai to name the most significant entity in Italy right now. Her answer was not FIAT or RAI; it was Teatro Patologico.


    In order to learn more about Teatro Patologico, please visit their official website.

  • Pics in page by Iwona Adamczyk
    Art & Culture

    Who is Learning Italian in America?

    The Come sta l’italiano? - How's Italian Doing? conference convened in the Feliciano School of Business at Montclair State University. Dr. Teresa Fiore, the Theresa and Lawrence R. Inserra Endowed Chair, began the evening with a few opening words. She declared that this event is special because rather than discussing Italian culture, it focuses specifically on the state of Italian studies as a degree program in higher education.

    After offering his thanks to the audience and to the university, Francesco Genuardi, the Italian Consul General, indicated that a high number of students took the Italian AP exam, which proves the great interest in the study. The Italian Consulate plans to continue to promote the language, as the Italian government feels the study of Italian in America is important.

    Dennis Looney, who taught Italian for almost 30 years at the University of Pittsburgh, was the first guest speaker to address the audience. Upon leaving Pittsburgh, he began working for the Modern Language Association (MLA). One of his main responsibilities is completing a triennial language enrollment survey, which is a census of all of the students enrolled in language classes nationwide.


    The survey reveals that from the 1960s on, language enrollment has increased overall in the States. Italian grew dramatically over the decades largely due to the fact that Italy is the most popular study abroad location for Americans. In 1974, 30,000 people studied Italian. By 2009, Italian studies grew to 80,000 students; however, in 2013 the number of students dropped to 71,000, a downturn of about 10%. Between 1960 and 2013, studies of Italian have grown 543%. Although this expansion appears to be positive, a point of contention is that students enrolled in introductory Italian courses do not continue on to higher-level courses. According to Looney, “For every eleven students that study in Italian 1 through 4, there’s one student who’s studying in Italian 5 through 8.” Despite these trends, Looney believes that students should continue to study Italian because humanities degrees are important for intrinsic reasons: learning one’s cultural identity, reading, writing, comprehension, and cross cultural communication skills.


    The second speaker of the evening was Wellesley College’s David Ward, a professor of Italian and an author of four books. Ward believes that the economic recession of 2009 is partially responsible for the downtick in the study of Italian. Funding for programs is crucial for their survival. The State Department doesn’t consider Italian a “critical language,” therefore, it doesn’t give Italian the same support that it does to others deemed critical. As schools introduce different foreign language options, Italian now competes with languages like Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, and Portuguese. Some students are ditching the humanities all together in favor of degrees in science. However, in 2014, Wellesley developed an experiemental, non-for-credit, online Italian course via the edX platform. The course was offered to incoming freshmen, and it was considered a SPOC (small online private course). Roughly 20% of the incoming freshmen signed up for this class. As a result of its success, the class was offered once again in the summer of 2015. Since then it has evolved from a SPOC into a MOOC (massively open online course). In fact, as of a few weeks ago, 51,000 students worldwide had enrolled in it. Ward concluded that online language courses are the way of the future. 


    Finally, Lucia Pasqualini, the Head of office for the Promotion of Italian Language abroad at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Rome, offered her perspective on the matter. Pasqualini lived in the US as Deputy Consul at the Consulate General of Italy in New York for four years, and during her time here she was able to see that Italian language in America: “sta bene… Sta molto bene!” She also saw shops “with nothing to do with Italy with writing in Italian.” In order to illustrate her point, she showed a Geico commercial with children playing in a pool while calling out “Marco Polo.” She also showed a comedic FIAT commercial in which a young couple buys a FIAT, and the car comes with “backseat Italians.” These Italians slowly but surely introduce the couple to the Italian lifestyle. By the end of the commercial, the couple is speaking to each other in Italian, and they have a better understanding of the Italian culture. Pasqualini believes that, on a small scale, this ad demonstrates that, “If you learn a language, you learn a culture.” She also states that this advertisement shows that “Italian is cool” because FIAT would not have produced the ad if they expected it to fail.

    Pasqualini concluded, “I truly believe that the future is multilingual and bilingual.” She stated that learning a language not only helps to develop and understand other cultures and people, but also to improve cognitive function; therefore, the benefits are multidimensional. Her advice for people who want to learn multiple languages is to start with a language you’re passionate about and subsequent languages will come much easier.

    If you are interested in learning Italian, please visit il Portale della Lingua Italiana for more information.

    To see Il Design Parla Italiano >>>

  • Valeria Bottazzi come il narratore, Giacomo Rocchini come Pinocchio, e Lorenzo de Moor come Mangiafuoco
    Arte e Cultura

    Pinocchio, reinterpretazione di un classico italiano

    Uno spettacolo, quello de Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino, portato in scena dal Teatro delle Due per la prima produzione statunitense. E' durato solo tre giorni ma speriamo continui a trovare terra fertile nella città di New York. Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino, conosciuto anche come Pinocchio, è un classico della letturetura per l'infanzia di qualsiasi bambino italiano. Il racconto tratta la storia di un burattino umanizzato che si chiama Pinocchio. È una storia che è diventata famosa anche in America soprattutto grazie al film della Walt Disney.

    La rappresentazione teatrale si è svolta dal 10 al 12 novembre a Manhattan presso l'Alchemical Theater Lab, un teatro sulla 14th Street luogo d’incontro che cerca di promuovere le arti teatrali. Composto da due teatrini e quattro studi si è rivelato lo spazio perfetto per artisti in via di crescita ed evoluzione.

    Teatro delle Due è un’Associazione di Promozione Sociale che è stata creata nel 2006 da Valeria Bottazzi e Olivia Rasini. Lo scopo è di “trasformare l’amore per il teatro in uno strumento educativo, utile sia come supporto all’insegnamento delle lingue straniere sia come mezzo di divulgazione culturale. In comune la passione per il teatro di Shakespeare”. Le loro rappresentazioni sono rivolte maggiormente agli studenti nelle scuole superiori per avvicinarli al teatro in lingua originale, ma anche per farli pensare ai temi sociali. L'associazione porta degli attori professionisti americani nell’Emilia Romagna sia a recitare le parti nella produzione che a insegnare ai ragazzi. Ogni spettacolo per gli studenti è accompagnato da seminari istruttivi nei quali si spiegano l’opera e il suo significato. Allora, perché hanno deciso di fare uno spettacolo qui a New York? E perché non farne uno di Shakespeare?

    i-Italy ha conosciuto Giacomo Rocchini, l’attore che interpreta il ruolo di Pinocchio in questa produzione. Valeria Bottazzi era la narratrice mentre l’ensemble era composto da Lorenzo Lucchetti, Lorenzo de Moor, e Adam R. Deremer che era anche il regista. Rocchini ha spiegato che era la prima volta che il Teatro delle Due ha organizzato un evento a New York. La compagnia ha deciso di avvicinare il pubblico americano al teatro italiano, il contrario di quello che fa di solito. Hanno scelto, infatti, di portare in scena non un testo di Shakespeare, ma di Carlo Collodi basando lo spettacolo sul testo originale italiano de Le Avventure di Pinocchio. Era metà produzione tradizionale, metà ‘staged reading’, con pochi arredi scenici ma anche con grande ingegnosità. La recitazione ha affascinato e catturato il pubblico e tutti gli attori hanno portato il loro entusiasmo sul palco.

    Il loro prossimo spettacolo si terrà a Reggio Emilia nel 2017 da una produzione di The Merry Wives of Windsor.

  • Umberto Veronesi
    Life & People

    Oncologist Umberto Veronesi, Father of Cancer Research, Dead at 90

    Umberto Veronesi was born in Milan in 1925. 25 years later, in 1950, he graduated with a degree in medicine and surgery. He worked at the “Istituto dei Tumori” where he then became the director. In 1982, alongside Laudomia Del Drago, Veronesi founded the Scuola Europea di Oncologia. His ultimate goal aimed to reduce the number of cancer deaths due to late diagnosis or inadequate treatment. 9 years later in 1991, he founded the Istituto Oncologico Italiano.

    In addition to his research in cancer, Veronesi made many other meaningful contributions. He is the founder of the “Fondazione Umberto Veronesi per il progresso delle scienze", an organization created to give grants towards scientific research. He believed that politics needed to realize the importance of public research because without it, the only funding would come from businesses. Veronesi was also involved in politics as the Minister of Health in the Second Amato Administration from 2000-2001 and also a senator from 2008- 2011. He was not only interested in helping people; he also spent a great deal of time fighting for the rights of animals and was a strong promoter of vegetarianism.

    Veronesi was surrounded by his wife, Sultana Razon, and his children before he passed. He would have been 91 this November. The cause of his death is not yet known, but it was reported that over the past few weeks his health had been progressively deteriorating.

    Both Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and President Sergio Mattarella expressed warm sentiments about the late oncologist. Renzi was holding a rally regarding the impending constitutional referendum when he invited the public to applaud Veronesi for the revolutionary work that he has done in the field of healthcare. President Sergio Mattarella stated “Veronesi always supported his professional obligations with a passion and a desire to build, together with others, a common good [...] Umberto Veronesi brought honor to Italy, and our republic will pay tribute to him in the certainty that others are following, and will continue to follow, his path.” Although Veronesi will be missed, his scientific achievements live on in the scientific community, and the organizations he founded will continue to make contributions to future empirical research. 

  • Left to right: The Ferrari FFX K, the Formula 1 Scuderia, and the Challenge 458 EVO Photo credit:
    Art & Culture

    Ferrari World Finals in Daytona

    This year the Ferrari Finali Mondiali (World Finals) will be held in Daytona Beach, Florida from December 1-4. This invigorating event will wrap up the 8 previous races of the Ferrari Challenge, and the United States is proud to host the World Finals for the first time in the 22 year history of the event. Certified and acredited racers from around the world take to the track in Ferrari 458 Challenge EVOs. This vehicle is a modified version of the 458 with the sole purpose of being track-driven. During final four exhilarating days at the Daytona International Speedway, cars from the world renowned Italian automaker will heat up the racetrack and exemplify some of the worlds most incredible mechanical designs.

    Prior to Daytona, races were held around the world from March to November. The World Finals event is the culmination of the Europe, United States, and Asia-Pacific championships. The various circuit tracks in each of the three championships tests both the drivers' skills and the mechanical precision of the cars.

    Daytona is preparing for four iconic days of pure Ferrari excitement. The first day will consist of driver briefings, safety checks, and practice rounds. On Friday, drivers will take to the track for the first qualifiying round and the first official race. Saturday will bring the second qualifying round and the second official race. Finally, the race for the coveted title of campione del mondo (world championship) will take place on Sunday.

    Also much anticipated is an exhibition surrounding Ferrari's historic Scuderia Formula 1 cars. The Scuderia Ferrari has been in Formula 1 races since 1950. The qualified team of mechanics will display their cars and demonstrate the proper execution of pit-stops. The public will also enjoy watching intense accelerations and top-speed laps. A third highlight of World Finals will be the XX Programmes. These programs allow special clients of Ferrari to participate in vehicle testing sessions to design the next generation of Ferraris. The FXX-K is the latest model designed from this program.

    22 years in the making, this historic event continues to draw drivers from all over the world. It is truly an insightful look into past and future of the Ferrari brand.

    General admission tickets can be purchased on the Daytona International Speedway website.

  • Italy on the Screen Today - #Wind of Europe Project# Paola Cortellesi and Alessandro Gassman in 'Gli ultimi saranno gli ultimi'
    Art & Culture

    Stony Brook University's 13th Italian Film Festival

    Saturday afternoon the audience was treated to Veloce come il vento and Il racconto dei racconti. Director of the Center for Italian Studies, Mario Mignone, introduced the first film and gave the audience a bit of background about the film festival and the Center for Italian Studies at the University. Veloce come il vento, directed by Matteo Rovere, focuses on protagonist Giulia De Martino (Matilda De Angelis) who comes from a family of racing champions. De Martino is only seventeen years old but an extremely talented driver who participates in the GT Championship under the guidance of her father. A tragedy strikes, and Giulia has to face both the racetrack and life on her own. Her brother Loris (Stefano Accorsi) - an ex-driver - returns home, and the two of them need to manage life together alongside their younger brother.

    Between the two films, festival associate and Italian actor Giacomo Rocchini spoke to the audience about what they had just seen in the first movie and what they were about to see in the second. Il racconto dei racconti is a fantasy film directed by Matteo Garrone. As its name suggests, the film is actually a collection of three different stories that follow the royal families within each of their different kingdoms. It is a liberal interpretation of the fables of Giambattista Basile, a Neapolitan storyteller from the 17th century. In the first kingdom lives the Queen of Longtrellis (Salma Hayek) who bears a child named Elias (Christian Lees) thanks to magic. The child has a brother Jonah (Jonah Lees), also born from magic, and the story follows lives of both children. In the second kingdom Princess Violet (Bebe Cave) lives with her father, the King of Highhills (Toby Jones). The king raises a giant flea as a pet. The flea dies; he skins it and then holds a tournament for suitors. Whoever is able to guess what animal the hide is from gets to marry the princess. Many suitors try, and fail, but a most unlikely suitor (Guillaume Delaunay) answers correctly and wins the hand of the princess. In the third kingdom the King of Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel) falls in love with the voice of a woman named Imma (Shirley Henderson), but he has never actually seen to whom the voice belongs. Imma - an elderly woman - lives with her sister Dora (Hayley Carmichael), and the sisters attempt to trick the king into thinking Imma is younger than she actually is.

    Sunday’s films included Gli Ultimi Saranno Ultimi and Le Confessioni. Gli Ultimi Saranno Ultimi, written and directed by Massimiliano Bruno, follows a woman named Luciana (Paola Cortellesi) as she struggles to make a dignified life for both herself and her husband Stefano (Alessandro Gassmann). Everything is going well, and Luciana learns that is going to have a baby. However, almost immediately after hearing this news, everything begins to fall apart. Luciana is forced to defend her rights in order to save her job and protect the life that she so desires.

    Finally, Le Confessioni, directed by Roberto Andò, centers around a G8 meeting of economic ministers who are about to adopt a plan that will have severe consequences for several countries. Before tragedy strikes, a member of the group Daniel Roché (Daniel Auteuil) confesses his sins to a monk, Roberto Salus (Toni Servillo). The other powerful leaders of the group are afraid of what Roché revealed to Salus and pressure him to state what he knows. However, Salus will not renounce his vow of silence.

    Italian cinema has a prominent world presence, but many Italian films are screened only as limited releases. Events such as this one provide a place for fans of cinema and of Italian culture to see the best that Italy has to offer.

  • Facts & Stories

    The Italian-American Community and i-Italy

    President of NIAF, John Viola, kicked off i-Italy’s presentation. He enlightened the audience about the ever-growing partnership between NIAF and i-Italy. Viola also stressed the importance of showing the younger generation how to keep the Italian culture alive within the United States.

    Next co-founder and editor of i-Italy, Ottorino Cappelli, took the floor and stated i-Italy’s mission: to cover anything Italian happening in America. He announced that in a continuing effort to cover the Italian culture in America, the magazine will be going national in 2017. It will be distributed in cities that have an Italian consulate or an Italian cultural institute, a major step for the promotion of the Italian culture in other parts of the country. Consulate General of Italy in New York, Francesco Genuardi, also gave his endorsement (via video) of i-Italy and its mission.


    Transitioning from the future to the present, the i-Italy team presented some of the work they’re currently doing on their television show, which airs every Sunday at 1:00 PM on the NYC Life channel. One program is called “Grandparents and Grandchildren in Italian America,” where grandparents and their grandchildren share family stories of “italianità.” The second series is called “Italian Leadership in America.” Co-produced with NIAF, this series highlights how much the Italian-American community has achieved - in so many different halls of power - in the nation’s capital. It also highlights that even the most accomplished Italian Americans are willing to share their Italian stories and acknowledge that their heritage is at the core of who they are.


    The last video shown was one promoting the Italian language. This year is the 16th annual “Settimana della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo - Italian Language Week.” To celebrate the event, at the behest of Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Direzione Generale per la promozione del sistema paese, i-Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute of New York have collaborated on the promotional video "Il Design parla Italiano - Design Speaks Italian".


    To conclude the event, a panel discussion was held. John D. Calvelli, a student who is only 17 years old, moderated the panel. He began by speaking about how grateful he is to have known all four of his grandparents, and he also is thrilled to have had the opportunity to participate in i-Italy’s “Grandparents and Grandchildren in Italian America.” He states that the program “[...] is an everlasting testament, or a time capsule of sorts to our Italian history, a world of a wave of immigrants that is slowly disappearing before our eyes as we Italian Americans become farther and farther removed from it.” Calvelli believes that programs like this need continued support because they not only record cultural history, but they also promote cross-cultural understanding.


    The first panelist to speak was Dr. Aileen Riotto Sirey. She co-founded the National Organization of Italian American Women (NOIAW) along with Geraldine Ferraro who was the first Italian American to be on a presidential ticket (Ferraro-Mondale 1980). Sirey was featured with her granddaughter Emma Bankier on i-Italy’s “Grandparents and Grandchildren in Italian America.” Sirey expressed regret that she only had one conversation with her own grandmother about her grandmother’s childhood, but she is appreciative of the chance to have a conversation with Emma.


    Linda Carlozzi addressed the audience next. An active member of the Italian-American community for over thirty years, she was one of the first recipients of the NIAF Law Scholarship, served on the board of directors for NOIAW, is a member of NIAF, the Columbus Citizens’ Foundation, and the Columbian Lawyers of New York. For the past 15 years she served as the Director of the Italian Welfare League (IWL). Carlozzi is a first generation Italian American. She never had the chance to meet her grandparents, but one of her next door neighbors, Angela Maria, raised her and taught her how to speak an Italian dialect. Carlozzi states, “I didn’t realize this incredible gift from literally my next door neighbor.” As a young girl, she never understood what it meant to be Italian American, but after attending Fordham and meeting other Italian Americans, she began to recognize her cultural heritage and how important it is for the younger generations to maintain this heritage. She was a founding member of an Italian-American organization called “FIERI” at Fordham. After moving to Philadelphia in 1991 she met Matthew DiDomenico who was her mentor and sponsor; Carlozzi largely credits DiDomenico for her nomination to the NIAF board of directors.

    Patricia DeStacy Harrison, the Vice Chair of NIAF and the CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was the final panelist to offer her thoughts. As the CEO of the CPB and in order to strengthen the media for the public’s benefit, she made investments in three important areas: digital (technology and innovation funding), dialogue (local community partnerships and service) and diversity (within the realms of content, talent, and service). DeStacy was also interviewed for i-Italy’s “Grandparents and Grandchildren in Italian America” program. She believes that being aware of one’s cultural roots, in this case Italian roots, is important because “[...] it is a reinforcement of what it means to have a moral compass, to be connected to a heritage that had so many challenges, and yet [know] what it [means] to enjoy yourself [...]”

  • Antonin Scalia
    Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Antonin Scalia
    Life & People

    The Legacy of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

    Antonin Scalia was one of the most controversial Supreme Court Justices in the history of the United States. Nominated in 1986, he was also the first Italian American to serve as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court–the highest position that an Italian American has ever held in the United States government. (He was followed, and is survived by fellow Italian Justice Samuel Alito, nominated in 2005.) Whether or not one agrees with Justice Scalia’s political opinions and policies, the effect that he has had on the American judicial system and on the Italian-American community is undeniable.

    Scalia as an Italian American

    The day was divided into two parts with a buffet lunch in between, and it concluded with the performance of an aria from Derrick Wang’s opera Ginsburg/Scalia. The first set of speakers offered a view on the Justice as an Italian American. Others spoke about his policies and demeanor in the courthouse. The final panelists presented their views from an international perspective.

    After a breakfast in the conference center, Senator Kenneth P. LaValle gave his introductory remarks about Scalia. He reminded the audience that Justice Scalia grew up during a time when there was harsh discrimination towards the Italian Americans.
    His was not exactly a “typical” Italian immigrant family, however. Scalia’s father, Salvatore, who came to the US from Sicily as a teenager, enrolled at Columbia University, received a PhD, and became a professor of Romance Languages at Brooklyn College. He provided his son with the core values of hard work and conservatism, which would be cornerstones of his work as a Justice.

    The first speaker, Italian-American Judge Gail Prudenti, recounted how the Justice was an inspirational figure to her. Up until the Scalia’s nomination in 1986, Prudenti said she never realized what barriers had actually existed for Italian Americans to overcome—although she did know that her predecessors had faced many more obstacles than she. Prudenti narrated a telling episode: when she first met Scalia at a Nassau County Bar Association event, she thought that he would be interested in discussing law, but once he discovered that Prudenti is an Italian American, he suddenly became more interested in talking to her about their common Italian heritage!

    Then Kings County Judge John Ingram took the floor and offered his perspective as an Irish-American.
    Although the Italian-American and Irish-American communities did not always have a friendly relationship, Ingram recalled, Scalia did mingle with the Irish in his own way, and he helped bridge the gap between the two cultures. The Justice attended a primarily Irish-American school, and married an Irish American wife, Maureen McCarthy. According to Ingram, Scalia used to say he was glad to have grown up with Irish Americans, to have married an Irish-American woman, and to live in a country where the Irish-Americans’ contributions have resulted in bettering American society.

    When the conference reconvened after a delicious lunch, Vito De Simone spoke about his experience as court interpreter for the New York State Supreme Court. Working in that position, De Simone became very familiar with the negative perception that the American public had of Italians and Italian Americans—an issue Scalia was very sensitive to. In fact, having developed an expertise on correspondence between Italy and America, De Simone was once even questioned by the police just because of his Italian ancestry! De Simone saw Scalia as a living example of the vitality of the American Dream; he proved—contrary to then common wisdom— that Italian Americans can indeed be trusted!

    Scalia as a Justice

    Also part of the afternoon panel, Brian Fitzpatrick, a former law clerk of the Justice, entertained the audience about Scalia’s political philosophy. He illustrated Scalia's take on “originalism,” a principle he was largely responsible for promoting. Originalism is the belief that the Constitution’s meaning must be interpreted as it would have been at the time of its enactment. According to the Justice, following the original meaning of the Constitution means interpreting the law, while updating the Constitution to meet current opinions is tantamount to amending the law. Accordingly, he provocatively criticized the Court for its tendency to interpret the law with a modern citizen’s understanding, rather than on the basis of the writers’ original intent. As he aimed to change the public’s mind about how the law should be interpreted, he knew that being provocative was the only way he would be heard. This is why he was considered so controversial. Fitzpatrick concluded that Scalia’s attempt at changing the attitude of judges may well have been successful. In 1979, for instance, when judges were asked if they made their decisions in agreement with the Constitution or with their own conscience, a majority stated that they would follow their conscience. In 2010, when faced with a similar question, most of the judges gave the opposite response. This is exactly the change that Scalia was trying to make.

    Another former law clerk, Ian Samuel, also spoke about his experiences with the Justice. Samuel discussed how Scalia liked having a “counter clerk” —that is, a law clerk that holds opposing political views than those of the judge he serves, but shares the same methodology regarding the interpretation of the law and how the law should be interpreted. Such was indeed the working relationship between Samuel and Scalia—the former being a liberal, whereas the latter was notoriously a conservative—and yet, they agreed on the originalist interpretation of the Constitution. This created a balance, which helped Scalia to avoid “making mistakes,” such as basing his decisions off his own personal values thus misinterpreting the constitution.

    Scalia/Ginsburg Opera

    The interesting conference closed with the performance of an aria from Derrick Wang’s opera Scalia/Ginsburg–homage to Scalia’s friendship with fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is a comedic piece about the two Justices overcoming obstacles and bantering about making political decisions. The Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, NY, will be staging a production of Scalia/Ginsburg in August of 2017. 

  • Italian Minister of Education, Stefania Giannini, speaks at NYU's Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò.
    Life & People

    Italian Educational Reforms: A Conversation with the Minister of Education

    Monday night at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò in New York City, director Stefano Albertini invited the Italian Minister of Education, Stefania Giannini, to talk with the crowd about the current state of Italy following “Brexit” and her plans to reform the education system in her country. Prior to becoming the Minister of Education, Giannini was a professor of linguistics at L’Università per Stranieri di Perugia, and she held the position of chancellor at that same university for nine years. She is also very familiar with the American school system as she did a great deal in promoting the Italian language in high schools across the United States. She even received the America Award from the Italy-USA Foundation in 2015, an organization that aims to encourage partnership between the two countries.

    Proposed Reforms

    The difficulties that arose after the unexpected exit of Great Britain from the European Union and the increased migration to Italy are unprecedented. Giannini believes that Italy must lead by example and that it is time for a significant change in Europe’s approach to growth and job creation. She believes the key to keeping Europe competitive is education. She says, “Education is a fundamental right” and should be the main priority of political agendas everywhere. It is proven to be the most effective way to ensure social mobility, create a more inclusive society, and increase youth employment.

    Most importantly, Giannini strongly believes that the best innovators and the best ideas should drive public investment. This is the concept behind her new initiative, which will launch in the upcoming months. She will initiate an open call for scholars from all over the world and select 500 of them. She will provide them with a place to study and conduct research for three years. The top researchers will be offered competitive packages and grants within the Italian system. “Openness” is her number one priority as the Minister of Education.

    Policies Already Enacted

    Giannini has already put certain reforms into effect. The “Buona Scuola” law, passed on July 13th 2015, contains provisions for improving the scope of students’ educations. Due to the ever- increasing role of technology in the global society, courses improving students’ computer skills will be offered. The Minister realizes that the both humanities and hard sciences are important. Therefore, course offerings of art, music, law, economics, and physical education will be strengthened. Additionally, the law recognizes the schools’ need for teachers and the teachers’ need for stable work. Individual schools can inform the State of their need for teachers or tools. The goal is to increase each school’s autonomy, which will therefore render the school more effective.

    A Reciprocal Learning Experience

    Albertini proposed a concluding question to Giannini: “What is one thing you that believe Italian universities can learn from the American system, and what is one thing you believe American universities can learn from the Italian University system?” Her response, Italians can learn to be more open. She says that Italians should not be afraid to have open debates with scholars from other countries, and they shouldn’t be afraid to encourage their students to try new experiences with other professors, other fields, or other countries. Americans can learn from Italians to continue studying the humanities because studying humanities synthesizes knowledge. In the United States, many people are familiar with the acronym S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). However, in Italy the acronym is broadened to S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math). Giannini closed by reminding us that democracy thrives only with humanities, a point we should remember especially with the impending presidential election.