In this episode we talk with Pat Harrison on the Italian-American values she received from her family, the unique leadership of Italian-American women, and Italian-American stereotypes. The Honorable Patricia de Stacy Harrison is the president and chief executive officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the leading funder of public radio and public television programming for the American people.
Under Ms. Harrison’s leadership in 2011, CPB launched American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a nationwide public media initiative to help communities across the country identify and implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. For this work, she was honored in 2016 with a Promise of America Award from the America’s Promise Alliance.
Ms. Harrison is also chairman of the Leadership Council of Women and Girls Lead. In 2012, she was included on the Forbes list of “Women Changing the World in Media” for establishing Women and Girls Lead and her continued leadership on the project.
Prior to joining Corp Public Broadcasting in 2005, Ms. Harrison served as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. She is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the U.S. Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award.
She sits on the boards of the National Italian American Foundation, the National Parkinson Foundation and the American University of Rome. She is also a member of the Board of Advisors at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.
She is a former Thomas Colloquium on Free Enterprise guest lecturer at Youngstown State University in Ohio and was a visiting fellow at the Institute for Public Service of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania, in 2000, and at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, in 1992.
She is the author of two books, A Seat At The Table: An Insider’s Guide for America’s New Women Leaders and America’s New Women Entrepreneurs.
“Family and moral values are so central to everything that I am.” – Mariann Wright Edelman
- “It was a feeling of safety and strength.” – Pat Harrison on growing up Italian American
- “[Italian Americans] had seemed to have captured the market on having a good time.” – Pat Harrison on growing up Italian American
- “[Italian Americans] always seem to have that spirit of welcoming somebody.” – Pat Harrison
- “My Italian family helped me to develop a moral compass.” – Pat Harrison on growing up Italian American
- “It’s the most important thing we can do as parents.” – Pat Harrison on teaching our kids values
- “It is such a mark of who I am today” – Dolores Alfieri on growing up with Italian-immigrant parents
- “It was almost like I had a superpower.” – Dolores Alfieri on being raised by Italian-immigrant parents
- “Everything is connected, you don’t just succeed by yourself.” – Pat Harrison
- “Even if you are not Italian American, try us out, you might like us.” – Pat Harrison on Italian Americans
- “Family is something larger than you.” – Dolores Alfieri on the Italian-American culture and mindset
- “We have a great deal to offer.” – Pat Harrison on Italian Americans
- “We come from people who had to figure out how to stay alive.” – Pat Harrison on Italian immigrants
- “We are grounded in the past, but really have our eye on the future.” – Pat Harrison on Italian Americans
- “All the Italian American women I know are formidable.” – Pat Harrison
- “The higher up you go, the more you have to revert back to where you came from.” – Pat Harrison
Episode Summary of Pat Harrison Interview
Some of the key points Harrison touched on include:
- Growing up in an Italian-American community had a huge impact on her values and her decision making.
- Her family helped her to develop a moral compass, so that no matter what situation she was in, she knew who she was.
- Giving kids a moral compass or a good foundation of values is the most important thing you can do as a parent.
- Italian-American immigrants provide such inspiration for us today, because if they could accomplish what they did, there’s no limit to what we can do.
- Our Italian ancestors made everything possible for us.
- Many Italian immigrants changed their names for different reasons; a lot of times to avoid prejudice against them and their families.
- Italian Americans can sometimes be their own worst enemies when they exude a persona of, “Hit me with your best shot.”
- There are a lot of stereotypes out there about Italian-American women that may not be very accurate.
Tour of the American Italian Cultural Center
- The end of this episode features a tour of the American Italian Cultural Center (AICC) in New Orleans. You can see some photos below.
- The AICC promotes the culture and heritage of the American Italian community by offering Italian language and culture classes, seminars, concerts, and events. This center aims to be the leading institution preserving and celebrating the American Italian history of Louisiana. Their values include education, inspiration, high quality, collaboration, and financial integrity. We provide programming opportunities that allow the community to come together to learn about the people, places, and events of our rich history and continuing significance.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
The American Italian Cultural Center
The National Italian American Foundation
Dora D'Agostino Finamore says
Hi I love the quote, “Family is larger than you.” This really hit home for me. I have so many memories and thank you Anthony and Dolores for sharing these wonderful and warm podcasts. What a great way to start my Monday and week. For some reason, this one made me remember how as a child, I walked through the forest/woods with my maternal grandparents, hunting for mushrooms. I learned so much from those experiences and nature, protecting the environment, and just felt so loved. We grew everything in the garden, made wine, furniture, but most important, savored the weekends, living by the beach when everyone would gather for fresh organic food, dancing in the back yard, and laughing until it hurt from the stories shared among cousins, aunts and uncles. I even have some old 8mm film I preserved by having them transferred to DVD. I love watching them with no sound and remembering what we must pass on to our children and friends who are not Italian. Your podcasts are helping me remember more and I am writing the memories down for our daughter Ashley who never knew her great-grandparents. I will continue to do my best to keep the traditions alive and share these podcasts with my family. I have been telling all of my cousins! Warm regards, Dora D’agostino-Finamore
Anthony Fasano says
Dora thanks for sharing this, it’s so vivid when you describe it. Where did you grow up, if you don’t mind sharing?
Dora D'Agostino Finamore says
Hi Anthony, Happy Monday! I grew up “down the shore” one block from the beach in the 1950s. My grandparents had a very big house in Long Branch and several of our relatives lived on the same street. I have many happy memories and funny stories from childhood. My grandfather (maternal) played violin and had a large garden and greenhouse which comes as no surprise. Fiore (apt name) had several varieties of flowers, fruit trees, herbs, grapes and we pretty much ate from the land. He also had a love of life and opera (my paternal grandfather too). Oh Caruso!!!
When our daughter was about 8, she started taking violin lessons with two of her inherited violins from great-grandfather Fiore, and later became part of the Youth Orchestra of Florida (for nine years). Many stories have come through those violins over the years.
As my grandfather became ill with diabetes, his sight declined. However, his sense of humor, and zest for life did not diminish until the end. When my grandmother and my mom were out, he would take me for car rides in his Studebaker, although he could not see very well. He made me promise not to tell grandma, and of course, I never did. What a joy ride that was…Every time we stopped at an intersection, I had to be his eyes and we would race across the street, and laugh until it hurt.
Fiore was a loving, gentle soul, who made a living as a chemist after immigrating from Naples around 1893. I have all the paperwork; must find the exact date. He retired early, and lived for his garden, grafting new flowers and vegetables making wild hybrids. He loved sharing his gifts with all the family every weekend as we gathered for conversation, dancing, singing, eating, and drinking wine. I miss the mushroom hunting to this day, and tell Ashley many stories about her grandparents.
As you know our daughter Ashley has a wonderful calling as a board certified oncology pharmacist and she carries her heritage and history proudly, with stories of her family every day to help others in need. I find many Italian Americans have a similar calling. Grazie, and my best to Dolores. Keep shining your light on Italian Americans who make a difference. Ashley and I look forward to meeting you and Dolores in the fall and hearing (and seeing) more from you both. Ciao, Dora 🙂