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Thursday September 6, 2007

President of the Italian Senate pays visit to Canada

Franco Marini honours Italian-Canadian sponsors of AGO's Galleria Italia
By Angelo Persichilli

Mario Cortellucci, first on the left, Executive Vice President of CIIM Canada awarderd by President Marini with Order of the Star of Solidariety.

During his last visit to Canada, Italian novelist Alberto Moravia was asked about his opinion about the Italian-Canadian community. He gave a rather obscure answer, which hid a kernel of truth. “It takes talent to make money,” he said, “it takes culture to spend them.”
Implicitly, the great author was saying that he had found a well-integrated and rich community, which needed to link with something more specific than talent; it needed culture. While talent may make a person rich, only culture can make a people great.
I remembered this episode while listening to the speech that the President of the Italian Senate gave last week at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Marini was visiting the AGO in order to honour 25 members of the Italian-Canadian community who, after displaying great talent, now showed that they had perfectly understood Moravia’s answer, by emulating Maecenas. Their initiative – raising more than $10 million to establish an Italian Gallery within the AGO – started a cultural reconnection with their roots, thus strengthening their position in their new land. This action contributes to enhancing Canada’s cultural patrimony and diffusing an Italian character that is often ignored, sometimes in bad faith. The importance of culture was repeatedly stressed by Marini, who remarked, “it ennobles and improves our lives; Italians never forget this.”
Addressing entrepreneur Tony Gagliano, promoter of the initiative, Marini said, “You were the engine of this work, and all Italians owe you their gratitude.”
Previously, Gagliano had welcomed Marini and announced that the number of business owners participating to the initiative – paying $500,000 each – had reached 25. “We hope,” he added, “that Galleria Italia will be the means for thanking the many Italian who immigrated to Canada.” They came “penniless, but rich in noble ambition,” he said. He also took the opportunity to remember Luciano Pavarotti, saying, “With his voice he did what many emigrants did with their arms — he brought honour to Italy.”

President Marini mentioned the fact that his own family has a first-hand knowledge of this phenomenon: “My grandfather Franco Marini lived in Buffalo in the early 20th century.”
The Senate President did not delve long on the Italian-Canadian community, as its characteristics and presence, he said, are well known both in Italy and in Canada. He underscored that he felt this presence during his meetings in Ottawa, especially in a speech by his Canadian counterpart, Noel Kinsella.
Marini instead highlighted that, despite the affinity and complementary links between Italy and Canada, there is a lot more potential, as Ambassador Gabriele Sardo often remarked. “My visit to Canada,” said Marini, “is a concrete sign of our will to do more.”
Relations are excellent, continued Marini, but can be improved even more.
Marini and Ambassador Sardo then presented, on behalf of the President of Italy, medals of the Order of the Star of Solidarity to all the contributing entrepreneurs.
The initiative closed with refreshments offered by AGO’s CEO Matthew Teitelbaum.
Marini had arrived from Ottawa in the morning, visiting the Columbus Centre for a first encounter with the Italian-Canadian community. “Visiting this centre, a symbol of the enterprising spirit of our community, was very interesting,” said Marini. In particular, he admired the emphasis on youth and on the need to rely on them in order to maintain future relations with Italy.
The Senate President was welcomed to the Columbus Centre by Pal Di Iulio and Alberto Di Giovanni; the latter outlined the activities of Centro Scuola e Cultura Italiana.
In attendance were also COMITES chair Gino Cucchi and National Congress of Italian-Canadians chair Domenic Campione.
Franco Marini finished off his day in Toronto by participating in a gala where he met many fellow Abruzzese.