Chairman Jerry Colangelo, President Joe Del Raso, Honorable Samuel Alito,
Buonasera a tutti. Sono felice di essere qui con voi.
I love coming here, and this year more than ever. The NIAF honorees come from every walk of life, they represent the best of America and Italy, and embody our strong bonds of friendship.
These bonds grow stronger every year, and help us face one of the worst financial crises. The Italian Government wasted no time in enacting structural reforms to alleviate indebtedness, free up the markets, and usher in growth. Italy has engaged with renewed leadership in the great project of European integration.
Confidence in Italy’s role in Europe translates into a greater consideration of Italy’s role in the transatlantic partnership.
America can now look at Italy not only as its best friend and ally, but also as a very influential friend in Europe.
A partner like Italy, economically viable and politically stable can only be a strong asset for America. For when it comes to our shared values, common interests, and fundamental belief in freedom, Italy and America will always stand united.
Let us look at the transformation we are witnessing on the southern shores of the Mediterranean.
Winds of change have swept through the Middle East. Oppressed peoples have thrown off the yoke of tyranny and injustice and are marching towards political self-determination. With those people it is our responsibility to work together. Also the long-suffering societies of the Middle East have the right to seize this moment to enjoy prosperity and freedom.
Domestically as well as abroad, we should therefore pursue our course with determination, led by our values, by the sense of integrity that we learned from our parents and by a fundamental respect for human rights.
When I heard I was invited tonight to represent the Italian government, I was especially glad to realize it was mostly due to my efforts in promoting the Italian language and culture in the United States. In this endeavor I am, of course, not alone. So let me thank the many friends who are here tonight, and the many organizations, and NIAF in particular, which have wonderfully supported this commitment.
My country’s heritage is, in a way, a unique “natural resource”. Since I took office my guiding light has been to put culture at a very high place in Italian foreign policy.
In this spirit we have launched the year of Italian culture in the U.S. in 2013, with an impressive program of events in arts, literature and science.
I warmly thank President Obama for the honor he gave us by mentioning this initiative in his Columbus Day proclamation as well as Secretary Clinton for her support.
Let me also underline the importance of Milan Expo 2015, where we expect a strong American participation and a visit from all of you.
When I speak of culture, I am thinking of the common identity, which makes us all so proud to say we are Italians.
A deep belief in values of solidarity, integrity, and hard work, which led our ancestors to migrate to the land of freedom, America. A strong and resilient pride in a great tradition that we wish to preserve and pass over to our children. A creative spirit and a sense of belonging to the very best that Italy embodies. And, let me add, a strong resolve to preserve and enhance the relevance of the European-Atlantic community in global affairs.
Think of Italian culture as a marvelous, majestic tree. It is rooted in the fertile ground of the Italian enlightenment, which also influenced America’s founding fathers. It is nourished by the ancient traditions of our peninsula. It is inspired by the ideal of the Renaissance, by the courage and vision of men like Garibaldi and Mazzini, who strengthened the cries for freedom and emancipation that sustained President Lincoln’s own efforts to “save the Union”.
We want to help this tree grow.
As an Italian citizen and as Minister of Foreign Affairs, I fervently wish that the present economic juncture, which has been so tough for many people, will soon be behind us. There is no doubt in my mind that through smart decisions, spirit of sacrifice, and hard work, we can do it. By joining efforts, we can make tomorrow a new era of economic recovery that will meet the expectations of jobs for young people. We find ourselves in a very peculiar point in time. Since the end of the cold war, no moment has been as distinctively transitional as the one we are living in today. An economic crisis that challenges the very foundations of a system we thought unshakable; the search for a new political identity by peoples tired of corrupt and oppressive leadership; the rise of new great powers with deeply diverse cultures.
In this new reality, choosing the right direction requires a sophisticated balance of courage and prudence, resolution to act and willingness to listen.
These qualities seem to me as precisely the fruit of our common values.