Ten Thousand to One

Ellis Island Ellis Island

As we look over the last 500 years of history there have been thousands of examples of original thought and accomplishment in all areas of human endeavor originating from the Italian peninsula: the arts, sciences, medicine, music, and business. Anyone who has read Italian, and world history, recalls the trading establishments of Venice, and Genoa, the renaissance art of Florence, the industrialization of Milan and the wealth that those great cities generated. But, we must not forget the isolation and poverty of the south of Italy, il Mezzogiorno. Yet, this area of poverty and hunger, within the past 100 years, made one of the most important contributions to today's modern world. That contribution was the millions of women and men who immigrated to the shores of America.

The Italian spirit in almost every aspect of its existence has captivated America. And, it seems that for every Italian, who excelled in Italy over this time frame, there have been 10,000 who have excelled in the every day fabric of America. Many thousands of strong Italian immigrants casted off the heavy weight of poverty and overcame the barriers and obstacles that existed in this country as the 20th century opened and expanded.

Those immigrants began their lives in America in small-scale business, labor, and politics. Tinkering with materials led to what we would consider small inventions, many of, which expanded the immigrant's ability to reproduce items that were familiar to them from their prior life in Italy. They worked with the strength of their hands and hearts to provide for their families while always looking over the horizon for the better life that they knew existed for the benefit of their children.

The first generation Italian Americans grew up in America totally aware of the heritage contained within each and every one of them. Most spoke the Italian language to their now aging immigrant parents but their first consideration was to the United States, the land of their birth. After fighting for this country in Asian and European wars, the first generation Italians in America completed and extended their education. They entered fields such as medicine, law, banking, contracting, manufacturing and almost every field that provided them an opportunity. Yet, at the same time, keeping their eye on the horizon and hoping for the betterment of their children and grandchildren.

It falls on the shoulders of the second and even the third generation of Italian Americans to continually educate and guide our children to a better life here in America. We must keep our eye on the horizon as our forefathers did and provide the opportunity for those who follow to excel in every aspect of life. The example lies before us in our history, in our internal makeup and in our common origin. We cannot afford to squander the example of the millions who came here to make a better world for us. It is our job to teach our children about their grandparents and great grandparents who did whatever was necessary to provide for this generation's place in history.