2006-10-06 / Columnists

On The Beach

For My Friend, George, On Columbus Day
Commentary By Beverly Baxter

BEVERLY BAXTER Since moving to Rockaway nearly twenty years ago, I have found myself at the nexus of the Jewish and Irish communities, and I have had a wonderful time there.

In my personal pursuit of our human commonalities, my life has been immeasurably enhanced by the rich glories of both cultures. While we see an expansion in our local population, with a myriad of ethnicities moving to our shores and contributing much to the community dialogue; there is one community, and its most expressive day, about which many feel has been under-served in the local press.

It's Christopher Columbus Day!

For those who are of Italian descent, the holiday commemorates the discovery of America and celebrates the rich Italian heritage from which Christopher Columbus hailed.

However, for those of other lineage, the Columbus Day holiday, which is always celebrated on a Monday, perhaps offers little meaning other than a much embraced three day weekend or a sale on winter coats at Bloomingdale's. Even the local newspaper does little to boast this particular holiday other than to merely remind us that on this day, we won't have our garbage picked up!

As I was making my reservations to see the mellifluous Andrea Bocelli in concert, I began to think of all the contributions Italian Americans have made by way of their music, their art, architecture, literature, cuisine, wine, theatre and design. I came across this piece, an ode to all Italian Americans, which I'd like to share with you.

"I am an Italian-American. My roots are deep in ancient soil, drenched by the Mediterranean sun, and watered by pure streams from snow-capped mountains. I am enriched by thousands of years of culture. My hands are those of the mason, the artist, the man of the soil. My thoughts have been recorded in the annals of Rome, the poetry of Virgil, the creations of Dante, and the philosophy of Benedetto Croce.

I am an Italian-American, and from my ancient world, I first spanned the seas to the New World.

I am Cristoforo Columbo.

I am Giovanni Caboto known in American history as John Cabot, discoverer of the mainland of North America. I am Amerigo Vespucci, who gave my name to the New World, America.

First to sail on the Great Lakes in 1679, founder of the territory that became the State of Illinois, colonizer of Louisiana and Arkansas, I am Enrico Tonti. I am Filippo Mazzei, friend of Thomas Jefferson, and my thesis on the equality of man was written into the Bill of Rights. I am William Paca, signer of the Declaration of Independence. I am an Italian-American. I financed the Northwest Expedition of George Rogers Clark and accompanied him through the lands that would become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. I am Colonel Francesco Vigo. I mapped the pacific from Mexico to Alaska and to the Philippines. I am Alessandro Malaspina. I am Giacomo Beltrami, discoverer of the source of the Mississippi River in 1823. I created the Dome of the United States Capitol. I am Constantino Brumidi. In 1904, I founded in San Francisco, the Bank of Italy now known as the Bank of America, the largest financial institution in the world. I am A.P. Giannini. I am Enrico Fermi, father of nuclear science in America. First enlisted man to win the Medal of Honor in WWll, I am John Basilone of New Jersey. I am the million strong who served in America's armies and the tens of thousands whose names are enshrined in military cemeteries from Guadalcanal to the Rhine. I am the steel maker in Pittsburgh, the grower in the Imperial Valley of California, the textile designer in Manhattan, the movie-maker in Hollywood, the homemaker and the breadwinner in 10,000 communities.

I am an American without stint or reservation, loving this land as only one who understands history, its agonies and its triumphs can love it and serve it. I will not be told that my contributions are any less nor my role not as worthy as that of any other American.

I will stand in support of this nation's freedom and promise against all foes.

My heritage has dedicated me to this nation.

I am proud of my heritage and shall remain worthy of it.

I am an Italian-American."

Happy Christopher Columbus Day!

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