Much ink will be spilled in the coming days on the life and legacy of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The man’s legacy, for better or for worse, will reverberate throughout American history for years to come. But instead of writing about his written decision on this topic or his impact on the Court, I thought a few words on something a little more personal were appropriate.
Antonin Scalia was the product of an Italian immigrant and a second-generation Italian-American. His father came to the U.S. before he was old enough to vote, learned English, and eventually became a professor of romance languages. Scalia always valued his Italian heritage, attending fundraiser for organizations like NIAF and not shying away from aspects of his heritage.
In truth Scalia was part of a generation whose parents were part of the New Immigration. These immigrants came from almost nothing and many of them remade their lives to help themselves and their new country. It was their children that took it to the next step, increasing their education and getting more acclimated to American society. In that sense, Scalia was a symbol of the sacrifices made by Italian parents to ensure that their children could not only survive in America, but thrive.
I come from an Italian heritage where my great-grandfather come over from Italy during the New Immigration. My grandfather did not become a Supreme Court justice but if you drive around the older neighborhoods of Southeast DC you see some impressively built houses that are still lived in today. He and his cohorts were the builders, the craftsman, and the people that made that part of our nation’s capital still a beautiful neighborhood today.
In that sense, the death of Antonin Scalia is symbolic of this generation passing. Tonight I’ll set aside the politics and salute his life as a representation of a generation of people from Italy and the children of Italy who invested themselves into their country.