There are a few ways you can assess the success of Italian-Americans regarding assimilation into American society and one is to see how they have progressed in mainstream politics within the United States. Jersey City is a vast land of industry and is not too far from Ellis Island where the first Italian immigrants entered America. Jersey City is a symbol of hard work and what such hard work can bring. And indeed, it was many of the young Italian immigrants that toiled to bring success and helped the massive industrial growth of America.
The Slow Assimilation
Italian-Americans have often been criticized for not being faster in their assimilation into America’s economic and social groups. But today nobody can argue that these descendants of poor Italian immigrants now swell the ranks of the elite and middle classes of America and that includes politics. Perhaps they were simply biding their time. A century ago only around forty-five thousand Italians lived in the U.S, today it estimated that seven percent of the population of America are of Italian descent. Of this seven percent, many have attained political power that their forefathers would never have dreamt of. They have even been acknowledged as the most important of ethnic groups, by political analyst Theodore White.
In the past it was one or two individuals that brought the eyes of America on the Italian-American community. People like Frank Sinatra or Joe DiMaggio and even in politics Fiorello La Guardia made a huge reputation, so much so that they named an airport after him. But in 2018 Italian-Americans have stepped out as a whole and not just individuals.
Today the situation of Italian-Americans has completely changed from a century ago. People such as Joseph Bernardin and Lee Iacocca have risen to the very top of the Catholic church and industry. Eleanor Cutri was president of the National Organization for Women, and she championed the cause for feminists to hold a place in the American political and social world. Some of the brightest lights in American politics today are Italian-Americans of both sexes.
Italian Culture Breeds Success
So how can we possibly find a common thread between all these people?
Perhaps it is the way they borrow the traditions and culture from the old country and rely heavily on the family group both personally and professionally. Italian-Americans are used to large numbers of people and have the capability of emotionally coping with such. That is why they are so good at heading up large corporations or speaking publicly as a politician.
Perhaps the most significant advocate of this is Governor Cuomo who was famous on his thoughts about his concept of the importance of the family. He was quoted as saying about New York state, we are going from a small family to a big family, namely the state of New York. The story of Governor Cuomo’s rise in politics is quite remarkable as his parents came to America as peasants with no education. We continue our journey into Italian-American politics in part two of this blog.