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Columbus

Answering Columbus’ critics

  Spanish philosopher George Santayana once noted that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. When it comes to Columbus, the Italian-American community seems condemned to have history rewritten right out from underneath it for the same reason. To be fair, backing Columbus has been a no-brainer for much of the last century. His mind-boggling accomplishments had earned him the adoration of Americans in general along with a special place in the hearts of Americans of Italian descent. Defying conventional wisdom as well as outlandish odds, he sailed west toward the Indies and into the great unknown. In doing ...

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Learning from history

  In the column I wrote last month about widespread efforts to blot out Columbus Day, I touched upon a game-changing encounter that took place a quarter of a century ago. In July 1991, Native- and Italian-American leaders entered a room as adversaries and left as allies who embraced each other’s cultures and supported each other’s causes. As a result, peace reigned over Chicago’s quincentennial Columbus Day celebrations. But how exactly did this remarkable détente occur? For the answers, I turned to its principal architect: Dominic DiFrisco. A gifted public relations professional and talented mediator, he served as president of ...

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Defending Columbus

  Columbus Day is under assault as never before. Once unabashedly celebrated throughout the land, it was hailed initially by President Harrison in 1892, designated a national holiday by President Roosevelt in 1934, and pegged to the second Monday in October by President Nixon in 1972. A couple of halcyon decades followed during which schools, banks and governmental agencies across the country closed each year in honor of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea. The hero of the day is particularly cherished by Italian Americans, who have celebrated his history-altering accomplishments and shared ancestry with parades that back to San ...

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