Providence Journal-Bulletin

Traditional Values Reign At Verrazzano Fete

Geraldine Ferraro and Cardinal Bernard Law help Rhode Islanders honor labor union leader Arthur A. Coia.

AMBASSADOR-DESIGNATE to the United Nations, Geraldine A. Ferraro, chats with Arthur A. Coia before last night's program


Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer

May 16, 1994

WARWICK --- Last night's 33rd annual Verrazzano Day dinner was a celebration of traditional values, as Geraldine A. Ferraro - the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1984 and now U.S. ambassador-designate to the United Nations - and local Italo-Americans paid tribute "to where we came from, what we are, and what people of our ancestry have contributed to American's greatness."

That was the sentiment expressed by Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr., the toastmaster, as he opened the program at which Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law also spoke.

The dinner, held at the Rocky Point Palladium, honored Arthur A. Coia, president of the Laborers' International Union of North America, who was presented the Verrazzano Day Award. The award, given annually, honors one who "has demonstrated excellence and thereby honorably enhanced the the Italo-American image."

Ferraro told the audience that when the big waves of Italian immigrants arrived in the U.S., they found a society that was hostile to their heritage, their religion, their customs and they social manners.

That so many of their descendants have risen to places of prominence is a tribute not only to the efforts of those individuals "who made it, but also to our heritage," she said. "It's a tribute to the values that our parents, and their parents before them, cherished and passed on to us."

Coia, in accepting the award, echoed that theme. "The biggest impact that a labor leader, that a parent, that an American, can have in this day, in this world, is to protect human values, to see to it that the underprivileged and unfortunate are not forgotten, to provide a better world for the next generation, and to see to it that all young people get an education and acquire a knowledge of God." For young Italo-Americans, Coia said, "it's important to know we have a long and gloried tradition of explorers, artists, creators and builders. And to know that we as a people have helped create American's greatness."

Cardinal Law said Coia, as a labor leader, has "a responsibility to maintain the dignity of labor, and to oppose the forces of self-centeredness that seem to have created a fatigue of concern in today's American society." He said the traditional values of which Coia, Ferraro and Cianci spoke are precisely the tools needed to combat what he called "a moral crisis that engulfs today's society."

About 1,200 people attended the dinner, organized by the Verrazzano Day Observance Committee. The committee was established in 1961 by the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island, Order of the Sons of Italy in America and the Department of Rhode Island, and the Italian American War Veterans of the U.S.

Copyright © 1994 The Providence Journal Company

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