Historic conclave

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Ambassador Zappia addresses Italian-American leaders as the author looks on.

The picture at the bottom of this column truly is worth a thousand words! It depicts the largest gathering of major Italian-American leaders in history.

The photo was taken on Dec. 4, 2021, in Washington, D.C., at a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (copomiao.org).

The conclave was held the day after an unprecedented reception between the delegation and Italy’s new ambassador to the United States, Mariangela Zappia. The bond forged at this gathering allows our community to begin working with the ambassador’s staff to implement an exciting new strategic program.

The subsequent COPOMIAO meeting was equally groundbreaking. For too many years, the Italian-American community watched other groups achieve successes at the national level because they were so much better organized than we were. This meeting marked the culmination of a yearlong effort to unite organizations from throughout our country so that we can begin to play an important role in influencing America’s collective culture.

Following are the names and affiliations of those involved in the event.

Foreground (from left): Charles Marsala, president, American Italian Federation of the Southeast, and George Bochetto, Bochetto/Lentz Law Firm.

First row: Berardo Paradiso, president, Italian American Committee on Education; Anthony Ficarri, national commander, Italian American War Veterans of the United States; Cav. Dr. Gilda Rorro, New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission; Marianna Gatto, executive director, Italian American Museum of Los Angeles; Basil Russo, president, Italian Sons and Daughters of America and COPOMIAO; Rosemary De Luca, secretary, COPOMIAO; Gina Biancardi, president, Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere; Dr. Frank DeFrank, immediate past national president, UNICO National; Dr. Daniel Stabile, national president, National Council for the Promotion of the Italian Language in American Schools; and Professor Santi Buscemi, Italian American Legal Defense Fund.

Second row: Robert DiBiase, chair, New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission; Gabriele Delmonaco, president, Chance in Life (Boys’ & Girls’ of Italy); André DiMino, communications director, Italian American One Voice Coalition; Dr. Joseph Scelsa, president, Italian American Museum; Pietro Segalini, senior vice president, National Council of Columbia Associations; Richard DiLiberto Jr., chair, Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture; Joseph Sciame, president, Sons of Italy Foundation; Kathleen Strozza, trustee, UNICO Foundation; Patricia Santangelo, president, Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of the Bronx and Westchester; Joseph Rosalina, vice president, Italian Sons and Daughters of America; Mary Ann Re, Washington liaison, New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission; and Ron Onesti, president, Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans.

Third row: Patrick O’Boyle, American Delegation of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George; John Viola, executive director, National Columbus Education Foundation; Dom Amara, chair, Italian American Alliance; Truby Chiaviello, publisher, PRIMO Magazine; Thomas Damigella, Italian American Alliance; Francis Donnarumma, president, National Italian American Bar Association; Robert Ferrito, president, Commission for Social Justice; James Rosapepe, vice chair, Italian American Democratic Leadership Council; and Frank Maselli, chair, American Italian Renaissance Foundation.

Not pictured: Stephanie Longo, associate producer, Italian American Podcast.

About Basil Russo

Hon. Basil M. Russo is the national president of the Order Italian Sons and Daughters of America and the president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, having previously served on the Executive Committee of the National Italian American Foundation. Russo was the managing partner of Russo, Rosalina law firm until his retirement in 2015. He has served as judge of the Ohio Court of Appeals; judge of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, for which he received the Excellent Judicial Service Award from the Ohio Supreme Court; and majority leader of Cleveland City Council.

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