Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame Dinner in Chicago, Illinois

November 01, 1980

I hope you'll forgive me for interrupting your banquet, but I heard about all the famous people here tonight and I wanted to come and see them. [Laughter] As a matter of fact, I've been a great admirer and a fan of some of the great Italian American athletes, the heroes that you are recognizing tonight. And I've come here not at all to talk about politics, but to shake hands with some of these famous people.

When I was a young naval officer just learning how to be a submarine engineer, one of my great heroes was Phil Rizzuto, and Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. I've always wanted to shake his hand, and I hope I can tonight. And Tommy Lasorda is one of my mother's sweethearts. I don't know if you know it or not- [laughter] —my mother adopted the Dodgers many years ago, and she's kind of a mascot of theirs. As a matter of fact, she's got a full Dodger uniform in Plains, including cleats, the gloves, and everything else. And of course, as a long-time racing fan, Donatelli has always been a name that's been important in my life.

Also, I would like to point out that Andy Robustelli—is he here tonight? I want to meet him, too. That's just great. And also Andy Varipapa. It's just unbelievable that I could have a chance to know him. Let them come on up, if they don't mind. I know you've already recognized them, but I want you to see me shake their hand. And is Joy Piccolo here, too? Is Joy here? It's a great honor for me. Thank you very much. Mr. Varipapa, God bless you. Thank you very much. Andy Granatelli? How you doing? And Joy, Joy Piccolo? Hi, Joy. Well, they're coming up here.

This is a very great thrill for me. When I heard about this banquet and the names of those that you were honoring, I wanted to come not only as a sports fan all my life, but also as President of a great nation. And I wanted to be here on behalf of 230 million people to let you know that the whole world understands the great contribution that these men and women and the Italian Americans have made to our country.

This is a time for reassessment, to recognize the blessings that God's given us. We've come here from all over the world. Ours is a nation, as you know, of refugees or immigrants. Almost all of our families have come here from foreign nations. We've tried to keep together our heritage, our religious beliefs, the strength of our families, our blood ties with our mother countries. At the same time, we've formed together an extremely close and strong bond of friendship and mutual commitment to freedom, to the value of human beings, to the concept that all should have an equal opportunity. And I know that all of you have shared with me, since I've been Commander in Chief, the realization that not only have we contributed a lot in sports and greatness and personal courage and commitment and sacrifice in time of peace, but in time of war, Americans from all over the world, whose families have come here, have been willing to offer their very lives for the preservation of freedom.

So, it's an honor for me to be with you. It's a thrill for me to meet these heroes of mine and to share with you a moment of greatness with them for Italian Americans, for all Americans, and for the greatest nation in the world.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:45 p.m. in the Rosemont Room at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare Hotel.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame Dinner in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/252150

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