New York, N.Y. — In just four months’ time, the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations held two historic National Summit Meetings — NIAS One on Feb. 20 and NIAS Two on June 12 — which outlined the pressing issues facing our community and the emerging solutions to address them.
More than 400 Italian American organizations, clubs, and lodges participated in the Summits, a number that far exceeded our expectations and reflects the grassroots activism that is alive and well in our community.
During NIAS One, we assembled six Committees: Reconnecting with Our Youth, Charitable Activities, Museums, and Cultural Institutions, Italian Language, Public Policy, and Save Columbus to achieve several key initiatives —
1.) Unifying our groups to achieve common goals
2.) Developing 21st-century strategies that seek to engage and recruit younger members
3.) Fighting to preserve Columbus through legal and advocacy efforts
During NIAS Two, the Committees offered their updates, and the reports were highly encouraging.
- N.Y. Congressman Tom Suozzi announced that he co-sponsored two new pieces of legislation in the House — one that will seek an apology from U.S. leadership for the internment of Italians during WWII, and one that will urge the U.S. Department of Education to fill students’ textbooks with Italian American history.
- The Conference of Presidents came together to raise $100,000 to fund the federal Columbus lawsuit in Philadelphia.
- A targeted marketing campaign is underway to place more U.S. students in Italian language classes.
- Under the guidance of John Viola, we’ve introduced a comprehensive plan to engage and attract younger Italian Americans to our initiatives.
- Chief Minister Maurizio Greganti, the highest-ranking official at the Italian embassy, pledged his support of our efforts.
“Our goal is to create a spirit of national unity among all Italian American organizations to preserve and promote our storied heritage,” said Basil M. Russo, who was handpicked to lead the Conference of Presidents last fall. “These landmark Summits are unprecedented, and they offer a glimpse at a stronger Italian America that is built on collaboration and mutual support. This is just the beginning, and our planning for NIAS Three is underway!”