Italian American, activist Joe Grano, will be leading a demonstration on Capitol Hill in front of the Longworth House Office Building on Wednesday, November 16 at 10:30 AM to
One: Protest the House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s rule to not allow any ceremonial resolution to be voted on. This rule precludes a resolution to honor Italy on the 150th anniversary of its Unity, officially celebrated on March 17 of this year and,
Two: To protest House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to not hold a ceremony in the Rotunda this year to present the Congressional God Medal to Constantino Brumidi, Artist of the Capitol, posthumously. Brumidi’s Gold Medal legislation was signed more than three years ago on July 1, 2008. Yet, three groups whose legislation was signed into law more than a year after Brumidi’s have had their ceremonies scheduled before Brumidi’s, including three astronauts who will be having their ceremony, also, on November 16.
The Longworth House Office Building is located on Independence Avenue, SE, between South Capitol Street and New Jersey Avenue. The closest Metro stop is Capitol South, on the Orange/Blue lines, three blocks away.
The Rhodes Tavern-DC Heritage Society has secured a U.S. Capitol Police permit to hold this demonstration. The protest will be quiet and dignified. We will have appropriate signs, a banner,
Italian and U.S. flags and literature about the two issues to hand out.
Feel free to call me if you have any questions and also please circulate this notice.
Thank you for your interest.
Joe Grano, President
The Rhodes Tavern-DC Heritage Society
Dear Proud Italian American and/or Italophile.
It is my intention to e-mail the draft letter below to the members of the Italian American Delegation to Congress (see names at end) regarding two issues that should be of major interest to the Italian American community and Italophiles:
1) The lack of a congressional resolution honoring Italy on its 150th anniversary as a country, and
2) The lack of a ceremony in the Rotunda this year to present the Congressional Gold Medal to Constantino Brumidi, as required by law.
I just learned on Friday that three Apollo astronauts will be given their gold medals in a ceremony in the Rotunda on Nov. 16, this year, despite the fact that their legislation was signed by the president more than a year after Brumidi’s.
Would I be incorrect in writing that I believe that Italian Americans have little or no clout in the Speaker’s Office?
Would I be incorrect in writing that the Congress of the United States is remiss in not honoring Italy this year?
What can you do?
1. Call Speaker Boehner’s Office at 202-224-0600 and say that his actions are unfair, and to schedule a ceremony for Brumidi, this year.
2. Call your Members of Congress and ask them to introduce a resolution now recognizing the 150th anniversary of Italian unity. (The Capitol Switchboard number is 202.224.3121).
3. Call your national Italian American organization’s headquarters (NIAF, OSIA, UNICO) and tell them to get behind these two issues.
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The Constantino Brumidi Society
Joseph N. Grano, Chair, 3881 Newark St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20016
Hon. Peter W. Rodino, Jr. (1909-2005), Honorary Chair
October 17, 2011
The Honorable Sen./Rep. _________
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20015
TO THE 33 MEMBERS OF THE ITALIAN AMERICAN CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION
Re: (1) Honoring Italy on the 150th Anniversary of its Unity with a
Concurrent Resolution; and
(2) Scheduling a Ceremony in the Rotunda this year to
present the Congressional Gold Medal to Constantino
Dear Senator/Representative ___________:
I am writing you as a Member of Congress of Italian American descent asking you to act on two issues that are of major importance to the Italian American community in the United States: One is that you use your influence to see to it that the Congress of the United States honors Italy with a concurrent resolution recognizing the government of the Republic of Italy and its people on the 150th anniversary of Italian unification and the other is to see that the Constantino Brumidi Congressional Gold Medal is presented this year to Constantino Brumidi, posthumously, in the Rotunda. I believe that both these actions are right and just, as I hope to demonstrate in this letter. The real question posed by this letter is: “Do you care?”
While President Obama issued a proclamation congratulating Italy on its significant milestone last March 16 and Representatives Tiberi and Pascrell entered congratulatory language into the Congressional Record on March 17, I believe more is required by the Congress:
First, Congress is the most important branch of the Federal government
under the Constitution and best represents the views of the people of
the United States; and
Second, Italy has been a good friend, and an excellent ally of the
U.S. for more than 60 years. Some of America’s most important
air force and naval bases in Europe are in Italy. After 9/11, the
U.S. asked for the support of NATO in Afghanistan and Italy sent
its soldiers there. In September of 2009, six of Italy’s soldiers
were killed there
It should be understood by our leaders in Congress that you just do not take one of our key U.S. allies for granted. You do not hold back and say that the President took care of honoring Italy. Instead, you do all that is possible to honor our country’s friends and allies whenever and wherever appropriate. And it is most appropriate for the Congress to recognize Italy this year!
In addition to being allies, the United States and Italy share many values, extending through time to the areas of government art, architecture and music. For instance, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson chose the Italian “Palladian” style of architecture for the Capitol Building. In 1805, Thomas Jefferson sought Italian sculptors to work in the Capitol, as well as seeking Italian musicians to comprise the Marine Corps band. Surely it is not necessary to mention that so many millions of Italians migrated to the U.S. between 1800 and 1920, such that Americans of Italian descent comprise the fifth largest ethnic group in the United States.
I am aware of two circumstances that seem to militate against taking the action I am recommending:
First, There is a ban by GOP leaders of the House to voting on
ceremonial resolutions (see my article in Roll Call on this ban:
Guest Observer, Grano: Curb Debate, Not Ceremonial
Measures, August 3, 2011,
Second, there are already bills in the House and Senate to award
Giuseppe Garibaldi the Congressional Gold Medal and
simultaneously to recognize Italy on the 150th anniversary of its
nationhood (H.R. 742 and S. 369).
This legislative strategy was promoted by the National Italian
American Foundation (NIAF).
Unfortunately, as of today, more than eight months after introduction (Feb.16) the House version has only two co-sponsors and the Senate version has exactly one co-sponsor. I note that the Congressional Delegation has 28 House members and five Senate members. I also note that passage of all Gold Medal legislation requires two thirds co-sponsorship in the House (290) and Senate (66).
Given the almost complete lack of support of these two measures by Members of Congress, specifically including members of the Italian American Congressional Delegation, I respectfully recommend that both bills be withdrawn and be substituted by a Senate resolution similar to S. Res. 212 introduced earlier this year in that body: “A resolution congratulating the people and Government of the Republic of Slovenia on the twentieth anniversary of the country’s independence.” (Ironically, Slovenia is a new country bordering Italy on the east). This one-house resolution was passed in two days with five co-sponsors.
The resolution congratulating or recognizing Italy should be introduced by at least one Democrat and one Republican senate members of the Delegation. It should be introduced as a concurrent resolution. I predict, it will quickly pass the Senate and be sent to the House, where the Republican House leadership will have to decide whether to bring it to a vote. I believe that the House leadership will allow the vote, despite the ban.
As to the matter of holding the Brumidi ceremony this year in the Rotunda, here is my argument succinctly: The Brumidi Gold Medal legislation was signed into law more than three years ago. The medal has been produced and is ready to be presented. There are no Gold Medal recipients ahead of Brumidi that need to be accommodated now. Two groups of World War II veteran recipients whose Gold Medal legislation was signed after Brumidi’s will have received theirs before Brumidi. Also, former Senator Edward Brooke III received his medal nearly two years ago, though his legislation was signed on the exact same day as Brumidi’s – July 1, 2008.
Adding insult to injury, I just found out on Friday that three Apollo astronauts (Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins) will receive their Gold Medals in the Rotunda on this November 16. Their Gold Medal legislation was signed more than one year after Brumidi’s, on August 7. 2009.
Frankly, and I abhor having to write this, I do not believe that the Speaker’s Office is being fair or responsive in making these Gold Medal ceremony assignments.
Presenting the Brumidi Medal Gold Medal this year, in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Italian unification will have special significance and resonance. It will demonstrate the deep bonds of friendship and shared values between the United States and Italy, which I have already alluded to. I believe that the Embassy of Italy in the United States would be most pleased with such an event, as it has for the last year conducted a major program of events showing the many cultural values shared by the two countries. A Brumidi ceremony in the Rotunda beneath two of Brumidi’s greatest paintings will show our great ally – Italy, how much we care about our special relationship.
The co-chairs of the Italian American Congressional Delegation, the Hon. Bill Pascrell, Jr. and Pat Tiberi are in full support of such a presentation, this year in the Rotunda and their staffs are diligently trying to convince Speaker’s Office that such a presentation in the Rotunda this year would be proper and appropriate. Please support Representatives Tiberi and Pascrell in this matter in any way you can.
Unfortunately, I have to report that there is a persistent rumor that no more Gold Medal ceremonies will take place in the Rotunda, in the future, because of concerns that such ceremonies conflict with tourist access to the Rotunda. I hope you will agree with me that not holding the Brumidi ceremony in the Rotunda would be a travesty and not be respectful of Brumidi’s memory. After all, two of Brumidi’s greatest paintings are in the Rotunda and seen by millions of visitors each year. Further, Brumidi almost experienced a fatal fall in the Rotunda while painting “The
Frieze of American History.” After the platform he was working on, nearly 60 feet above the floor, shifted, he lost his ballance and slipped, and he had to hold on to the scaffolding by one arm for 15 minutes, until he was rescued. It is believed that the shock of this accident shortened his life, as he died three months later. He was nearly 70 years old when this happened. If the Congress truly respects what Brumidi did for his country, it will hold his Gold Medal ceremony in the Rotunda.
In conclusion, please remember the golden past days in Congress when the great Peter Rodino, Frank Annunzio and Frank Guarini led the Italian American Congressional Delegation. They sponsored many ceremonies in the Capitol, including in the Rotunda, honoring Brumidi and other Italian and Italian American heroes. They and other notable Italian American Members of Congress were responsible for the legislation making Columbus Day a federal holiday.
Please ask yourself how the great Italian American legislators of the past would have acted with regard to the two present issues and then do what they would have done.
Thank you for your attention and interest. Please have a staffer call me at (202) 364-2526 should you have any questions or suggestions.
/s/ Joseph N. Grano
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ITALIAN AMERICAN CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION
Robert A Brady