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Sister City Agreement Signed Between Washington, DC and Roma, Italy ~ Italian American Joe Grano Witnesses A Dream Come True

Many years ago, Washington lawyer Joe Grano, after returning to Washington from a trip to Rome, Italy, realized that the two cities shared more than just their status as capital cities. Joe saw that the arts and architecture of the two cities were similar, of course, but he also noted that perhaps those similarities were not accidental but deliberate.

 Gianni Alemanno and Vincent Gray

As Joe explained to CiaoAmerica!, "The American Founding Fathers chose a republic as their preferred form of government after having studied extensively the 'constitution' of the Roman Republic. Once it was decided to create a new city for the Seat of Government, it was only natural that they chose Roman architecture for their main public buildings. This was a deliberate decision of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. It is joe Grano, Gianni Alemannocertainly not accidental that the three buildings that represent the legislative, executive and judicial branches, i.e. The Capitol, the White House and the Supreme Court building are ultimately derived from Roman models, albeit two from an indirect route. Indeed, Jefferson highly recommended a rotunda for the new U.S. Capitol building."

Joe Grano  decided to act on his observations and over the years became the force behind efforts to join Rome and Washington in a "Sister Cities " agreement.  

But even before that campaign, Joe founded the Constantino Brumidi Society and began efforts to have, among others, Constantino Brumidi, the "Michelangelo of the Nation's Capitol," recognized by the U.S. Congress.  Eventually, through his tireless efforts, and his ceaseless prodding of national Italian American organizations, Congress  posthumously awarded Brumidi a Congressional Gold Medal.

Now that the medal has been minted, Joe is indefatigably prodding appropriate Washington institutions to hold a ceremony to commemorate the minting of the medal. 

This past Tuesday, Joe sat among the invited guests witnessing the signing ceremony of the "Sister Cities" agreement. He must have felt a moment of satisfaction as he watched the Mayor of  Rome, Gianni Alemmanno, and the Mayor of Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray sign the document in the historic John Wilson Building, seat of the D.C. government.   Outside the building, the U.S., D.C. and Italian flags waved in the breeze.

Joe recalls that he first brought the "Sister City" idea to the attention of the administration of former DC Mayor Anthony Williams and enlisted the help of other local groups, including SMATCH.  However, by the time the then-Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, expressed an interest in signing an agreement, the city elected a new mayor.  Under the following Mayor, Adrian Fenty, whose mother Janet  Perno  Fenty is incidentally Italian American, a series of meetings were held with heads of local groups and distinguished Washingtonians to draft a protocol and agreement. Early  in 2008, the draft protocol was approved by Mayor Fenty and then transmitted to Rome. Unfortunately, soon after it was sent, Veltroni resigned as mayor.

Ultimately, it took the personal efforts of Italian Ambassador Giulio Terzi and his staff to finally bring together the new Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, and current Mayor Vincent Gray, making the sister-city relationship a reality.

The "Sister Cities" agreement  signed on Tuesday is the first step toward what many in Washington hope will be a strengthened relationship between the two capitals and the beginning of new projects and ventures of mutual interest.  To mark the occasion, the famed Capitoline Venus, one of the best-preserved sculptures to survive from Roman antiquity, will be on exhibit at the West Building Rotunda of the National Gallery of Art, where it will remain until Sept. 5. The Capitoline Venus, a masterpiece measuring more than six feet in height, has only left Rome on only one other occasion—when Napoleon seized it in 1797. It was returned in 1816.

Among the many Washington Italian American personalities who attended the event were Anita McBride, Pino Cicala, Oscar Bartoli, Francesco Isgrò, and Melo Cicala.

(Pictured from top, Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno and Washington, DC Vincent Gray sign agreement; Joe Grano with Mayor Gianni Alemanno; Gianni Alemanno with Amb Giulio Terzi)

The John Wilson Bldg

(The John Wilson Building in Washington DC)

Washington June 10, 2011 |  Last updated: 


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