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  • For the past 25 years, on my first day of an introductory history course, I ask students why they hate history. At first, they are surprised and even astonished by my question. But they soon lose their reticence and offer all the usual answers: “history keeps repeating itself;” “we never learn from history;” “history has no importance in our contemporary world or my life.” As professional historians, we have perhaps failed in our duty to fully engage the public with the past. I can’t help thinking of this failure as we witness hour-by-hour the fate of 630 human beings literally adrift at sea in the Mediterranean. Their lives hang in the balance because of the political choices and poisoned culture of contemporary Italy.
  • Robert Ferrito, NYS State Grand Lodge of New York Order Sons and Daughters of Italy of America President (left) presents Blauvelt Sons of Italy Lodge 2176 Second Vice President Bill Barbera, with a plaque for hosting the plenary session in October. Photo credit: Risa B. Hoag
    The Order Sons of Italy in America is an organization that has been assisting the Italian-American community since the beginning of the twentieth century. This past week, the Grand Lodge of the State of New York Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America held its quarterly Plenary Session in Blauvelt, New York in order to review important documentation pertaining to the operation of the New York lodges, which have been very active in providing scholarships for college students.
  • Ellis Island was an organizational apparatus that implemented a specific project of social engineering aimed at building a new America. Lampedusa is nothing like that. It is merely a place where the Italian government admits migrants without any ultimate aim. Can we change things?
  • The flood of migrants pouring into Italy shows no sign of abating, and Italy is appealing to the European Union for assistance. Instead France, for one, has closed its border with Italy at Ventimiglia, leaving refugees to sleep in train stations and on rocks on the beach. The political fallout for Italy has far-reaching consequences.
  • Italy has radically simplified divorce proceedings. From three years of separation before a fractured couple could face a judge, the Chamber of Deputies this week dropped the waiting period to just six months if consensual and one year if not. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor, 398 ayes versus only 28 nays.
  • As someone who has been teaching a foreign langauge (Italian) since 1972, I am delighted to see the NYC school system will add or expand 40 dual-language programs: Spanish, Japanese, Hebrew, Chinese, French and Haitian-Creole. I am also intrigued, however, that of the six “official” languages of the city of New York, according to the 2008 mayoral edict (Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian, and French Creole), Italian is not one of the language programs, whereas two non-“official” languages are, Hebrew and Japanese. In 2011, Gov. Cuomo ordered a similar mandate that included Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Russian, French, and French Creole.
  • The experience of Italian immigrants in California, which was markedly different from that of their compatriots elsewhere in the United States. An extensive research and weaves together oral histories by community members with scholarly analyses which provide the larger historical context. Screening of the movie by Gianfranco Norelli and Suma Kurien at John D. Calandra Italian American Institute Thursday, February 27, 2014, 6 pm

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