The Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America turns 114!

Jun 25, 2019 387

Originally called “Figli d’Italia,” the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America® was established in the Little Italy neighborhood of New York City on June 22, 1905, by Vincenzo Sellaro, M.D., and five other Italian immigrants who came to the United States during the great Italian migration (1880-1923).

Their aim was to create a support system for all Italian immigrants that would assist them with becoming U.S. citizens, provide health/death benefits and educational opportunities and offer assistance with assimilation in America.We continue that mission through our National Supreme Lodge, Sons of Italy Foundation and Commission for Social Justice.

Today, we are a national organization of men and women who represent the estimated 26 million Americans of Italian heritage, dedicated to promoting our culture, our traditions, our language, the legacy of our ancestors, and our contributions to the U.S. and the world. With members and lodges across the United States of America and Canada, we continue to be the largest and oldest organization for people of Italian heritage.

Inaugural Address by OSDIA Founder Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro
The following is a translation from Italian of the inaugural address given by Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro, founder of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America. Lost since 1935, the speech was discovered recently by Professor Frank P. Oliveri of Rochester, New York, who also translated it. OSDIA is deeply grateful to Professor Oliveri.
Today is the 22nd of June 1905! Today we are blessed with a magnificent day of sunshine. Today the Almighty has brought us together for a purpose. We are all brothers and sisters, who represent every corner of Italy.

No matter what part of Italy we came from, we are first and foremost Italians. I happen to be from Sicily; our pharmacist, Ludovico Ferrara is from Piedmont; our attorney, Antonio Marzullo is from Campania; Giuseppe Carlino, a sculptor, from Lazio; and our barbers, Pietro Viscardi isfrom Calabria, and Roberto Merlo is from Tuscany.
But we cannot continue to treat each other as sub-nationalities of the Italian peninsula. If we do, we will not only remain weak as a nationality in the larger American society, but we will also find it difficult to achieve our rightful place of influence and respect as we help make this country greater than ever before. This wonderful country can only become the richer and more cultured as a result of our efforts.

Today we are gathered together for one main purpose—a purpose that I believe someday will become a very important part of American history. We are the newest of the immigrants to this great country and because of the fierce and undeserved prejudice and discrimination that we have had to suffer for nearly two decades, we must begin to work together for our common good.

We must educate ourselves and insist that our children receive the best education possible. Only through education will we understand the ways and beliefs of this marvelous adopted country of ours, and be treated as equal and worthy American citizens.

We left our native land for a new life, in order to survive. Our former country and its government demonstrated after so many years of trying, that it was simply not capable of providing us what we deserved--a decent and respectable life.

The majority of us have come to these shores as the poorest of all Italians, and the least educated of most of Europe. But we are also the most courageous for having made the decision to come here we left behind our motherland and our families, in the hope, not to find a new life, but to earn a better one.

Before leaving Italy, only a few of us were fortunate enough to have received an education. Many of us reached these shores as common laborers, tenant farmers, field workers and shepherds, gardeners, fishermen. But just as many of us came as skilled artisans -- masons, carpenters, stonecutters, bakers, tailors and miners. And our contribution as tradesmen, lawyers, teachers, accountants, entrepreneurs, pharmacists, and yes, doctors as well—is second to none.

One of our most important objectives should be to bring over the rest of our family members we left behind in Italy and do that as soon as possible. The other objective that all of us must keep in mind at all times is that at all times whatever we say or do must enhance the greatness of this wonderful country that has received so many of us. We ask only for the opportunity to earn a living! We are not here to be a burden. By staying united and helping one another we will achieve all our goals.

Some say that history has dealt us a bad hand because we are the last to come to America, but I say to them, “Wasn’t it one of our own who discovered America?” While others might have come here with masters and, in many cases, as slaves, we have come of our own accord. We are a free people.

It is because of this that today I have a dream and a hope that someday, even if it takes a hundred more years before we are fully accepted, our children and their children’s children, even if they carry a single drop of Italian blood will be able and proud to continue to carry on our traditions, our culture and our language. It is up to us, and what we do today!


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