Dr. Jill Biden hosted the delegation of leaders who are reshaping the scope and vision of the Italian American culture, from the local level to the international stage.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 13, 2023) — First Lady Jill Biden hosted a delegation of Italian American leaders Thursday evening at the White House to highlight a bellwether of cultural progress that has taken shape within the community.

Dr. Biden, the nation’s first-ever Italian American First Lady, met with Basil M. Russo — president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) — and his peers to recognize the sacrifices and celebrate the contributions Italian Americans have made to our country.

“Our heritage is much more than our hospitality and food, isn’t it? It’s the Sicilians who were dragged from their cells and killed in New Orleans by an angry mob, it’s ‘Italians Need Not Apply,’ it’s people like my dad who was never quite accepted by my mom’s family because he was Italian. It’s a history of those who led movements, who wrote our laws and penned our poetry; of men and women who were courageous, even when they were most afraid,” the First Lady said in her address to the delegation.

Watch the full address here:

The historic meeting comes in the wake of a growing and influential slate of initiatives spearheaded by COPOMIAO, including the launch of a visionary film platform with Hollywood’s The Russo Brothers in 2024, the creation of a nationwide young leaders fellowship, cementing strategic and commercial ties with Italian and Vatican leaders overseas, and the grass roots preservation of Italian American history.

“When I was appointed president of COPOMIAO in 2020, Italian American leadership was fragmented and ready for a new direction,” said Russo. “In three years, we have united hundreds of Italian American organizations, collectively amassed over a million social media followers, partnered with Hollywood leaders, appeared on Capitol Hill and collaborated with Italian dignitaries. All our efforts have culminated into this watershed meeting with the First Lady, which is the first-ever delegation to be invited to the White House in celebration of Italian American Heritage Month.”

Russo and his colleagues began their collaboration with the Biden administration last year, by working to develop the 2022 and 2023 Columbus Day Presidential Proclamations.

Basil M. Russo, president of both the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations and Italian Sons and Daughters of America, greets Dr. Jill Biden and President Joe Biden during an Italian American Heritage Month reception at the White House on Oct. 12, 2023.