Charting a new course for Christopher Columbus

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I’m so proud to be writing to you as the new president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. It’s a sacred trust I take as seriously as anything I’ve ever done.

I have big plans for our venerable organization, and there will be plenty of time to share those with you in the coming months. Right now, though, we need to bear down on a time-sensitive matter of the utmost importance.

As you know, Christopher Columbus has come under increasing fire both locally and nationally, with statues toppling across the country and Columbus Day getting the axe at every level of government.

And now, an effort is being mounted to convince the Cook County Board to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. This proposal poses an existential threat to a cherished icon. It also presents an ideal opportunity to chart a new course for our weary explorer.

Opponents of Columbus would have the world believe he was a genocidal slave trader unworthy of our esteem, but that portrayal is rooted in lies that have been circulating for centuries. A review of the facts reveals a hero who earned the acclaim our nation once showered upon him.

By sailing west into the unknown, Columbus accomplished the single bravest feat in recorded history. In so doing, he opened the door to the creation of America, a beacon of democracy that has transformed the way the world is governed.

Time and again, Columbus stood against the sorts of abuses he’s now being accused of. It can easily be argued that relations with the native populations of the Americas would have unfolded far more humanely had Columbus’ approach been embraced.

Unfortunately, the truth has been drowned out by a campaign of misinformation that has gone largely unchecked for more than half a century. To finally reverse this trend, we need to fight fiction with facts in ways we’ve never done before. In short, we need to up our game.

We need to present a united front at every level of government, demonstrating that we have the numbers to warrant the respect we deserve.

We need to arm ourselves with the facts and make them easy to tap into, understand, support and share. Expect that to happen on the JCCIA website in the near future.

We need to bring the full force of social media to bear as a key means of moving that knowledge out into the larger community.

We need to expand on the good work of outgoing President Sergio Giangrande and vigorously build bridges to community and political leaders of every ethnic background.

We need to tap into the growing national movement, availing ourselves of the resources and expertise of the newly established Columbus Citizens Foundation.

And we need to spread the word through good old-fashioned grassroots activism, putting up posters and going door-to-door if necessary to win the day.

Our needs are great, but our passion is greater. Columbus was a beacon of pride for our ancestors as they suffered through decades of abuse, bigotry and discrimination. Now, we need to stand tall for him.

If we all put our backs into it, I know we can turn the tide on behalf of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea.

Send your names and email addresses to to receive weekly updates on the activities of the JCCIA and its member organizations.

The above appears in the February 2021 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.


About Ron Onesti

Ron Onesti is the president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, chairman of Casa Italia and a board member of the Italian American Veterans Museum. He is the founder and president of Onesti Entertainment Corp., which runs five entertainment and dining venues across the Chicago area and produces concerts, special events and festivals nationwide. Among the latter are Festa Pasta Vino on South Oakley Avenue, Festa Italiana on Taylor Street and Little Italy Fest-West in Addison. He was inducted as a cavaliere into the Ordine della Stella d’Italia by the president of Italy

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