President, St Louis - Bologna Sister Cities
A culture dies when its language dies. Any linguist or anthropologist can testify to this fact. When Franco Giannotti, a native of Trieste, founded Italiano Per Piacere (IPP) in 1999, he understood this very well. He was part of an Italian club in St. Louis which didn't want to have anything to do with the Italian language. It didn't make any sense to him why an "Italian" club didn't want to speak Italian. I completely agree with this sentiment.
A culture and its language are inseparable. There can be no Italian culture without the Italian language just like there can be no French culture without the French language. The world famous linguist, Noam Chomsky, reiterated these facts in his book "Language and Mind" where he stated that a language is crucial to the identity of a culture precisely because any given culture flows from a particular language.
As a result of an unnecessary struggle over the inclusion of the Italian language in the late 1990s, Giannotti gathered like-minded people and founded his own club with the purpose of preserving and promoting the Italian language and culture in the St. Louis region. Not surprisingly, IPP has flourished ever since and today it remains the largest and most active Italian club in the St Louis metropolitan area. Moreover, it is the only exclusively Italian speaking association in the entire Midwest. I joined IPP four years ago. Two years later, Franco extended me an invitation to become a board member. Personally, I have learned a lot from Franco over these last few years and I am grateful that our paths in life have crossed.
On June 5th, IPP celebrated its 20th anniversary with an exquisite dinner, awards, gifts, speeches, and a presentation at the Ristorante Pan D'Olive. Giannotti was presented with a plaque by the new president of IPP, Scott Hoff. Hoff, a St Louis native fluent in the Italian language, spoke eloquently about his admiration and gratitude towards Franco. The Chairman of the Board, Dr. Franco Sicuro, a native of Sicily, lauded Franco's vision and foresight. Personally, I had the honor of reading a letter written by Honorable Fucsia Nissoli for this occasion. Nissoli is the only Italian parliamentarian thus far to ever visit St Louis, doing so during our community's Gran Festa di Ferragosto last August. She praised Franco calling him a dear friend and thanked him for his spirit of service to the Italian community in St Louis and throughout the United States.
The 20th anniversary celebration coincided with Giannotti's 80th birthday as well as the Festa della Repubblica, making the event extra special. As Franco retires from his role as president of Italiano Per Piacere, he will not be journeying too far away. He pledged to remain engaged in the club as President Emeritus as well as active within the Italian community, serving on the board of the St Louis - Bologna Sister Cities Organization which he helped found in 1987, and which has been recently re-vitalized. Franco is also owner of the oldest Italian website in the US and one of the most coveted domains, www.ItaliaUSA.com, which he updates regularly.