Thomas D’Alesandro Jr.
It is with deep admiration that I honor my father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., as we recognize the important contributions of Italian Americans to our country.
Born to a big immigrant family in turn-of-the-century Baltimore, my father would spend nearly four decades in public office. From the Maryland State House to Congress to City Hall to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, he worked to build a better future for the downtrodden and disenfranchised. He and my mother made sure that our home in Baltimore’s Little Italy was open to the hungry and the homeless. My parents taught my siblings and me thatwe had a fundamental responsibility to help our fellow human beings. They practiced the Gospel of Matthew every day.
My father was elected to Congress in 1938 during an era of pervasive prejudice against Italian Americans. And he boasted that he was not only the first Italian American mayor of Baltimore but the city’s first Catholic mayor, too. Decades later, as I broke through my own marble ceiling to become the first female speaker of the House, my father’s legacy was a pillar of strength for me. With characteristic panache and pride in his heritage and faith, he boldly faced down prejudice, enabling many others to succeed.
Allmy time in Congress has been informed by my family’s respect for our heritage — and the appreciation it gave me for the pride others take in theirs. That has served me well in representing the beautiful, ethnically and racially diverse city of San Francisco and in fighting to empower the proud, hardworking families of every American community.