Cervinara is a town that has sent out its children into the world; if you have followed my blog you know that there are pockets of Cervinaresi all over Italy, into the US and Canada, and down into Australia and South America as well. As lovely as Cervinara is now, it must have been a very harsh place, back when food was scarce and central heating and plumbing unknown. But the products of this small town have made great contributions to the world in many venues, from science and research to the arts and literature. Cervinara has begun a program to honor some of her native sons and daughters and recently we were able to share the joy and pride of this honor with one of our dear friends.
The Onorio Ruotolo award is given every year to a deserving citizen of Cervinara who has met the abovementioned criteria. Ruotolo was a sculptor who was born and spent part of his childhood in the Ferrari section of town, who then moved away and became recognized as a great artist and poet. One of his sculptures is found in our Villa Communale. He spent most of his adult life in the USA, doing many public and private projects in the Hudson River Valley. It is in his honor that this award is named.
We have become fast friends with our neighbors, Bianca and Lello Valente. They are with us for only two months of our time here, but July and August are always much more fun when they are around. We swap recipes, share treats from our kitchens, and enjoy pre-prandial chats every evening. When we pulled into our courtyard after our 10 days in Puglia, Bianca came running out of her door with her usual energy and joie de vivre. She grabbed me with a force uncommon in most 80+ year old ladies, hugged me fast around the neck, and then shared her great good news. Her daughter, and our good friend Caterina (known as Ketty to those who love her), was to be the recipient of the Ruotolo award!
Ketty has had a significant career in the political realm, which wasn’t always easy for a woman to achieve back in the day. Born in 1952, she has struggled with the same glass ceiling that most women of our generation have faced, and she has done it with grace and class. She is currently vice-prefect for the region of Isernia, a position of great responsibility and with many demands on her time and energy. She was originally hesitant to accept this award, and it was only with significant arm-twisting that she agreed to be honored by the town of her birth.
And so, on the evening of August 17, Mike and I, along with about a hundred other friends and family, came together at the town hall to honor Ketty Valente. There were of course many speeches about her achievements, but the crowning moment of the evening came when Ketty addressed the audience. Her acknowledgment of her humble beginnings and how she would have been nothing without the hard work and support of her grandparents and parents moved everyone in the audience. It is so important to recognize that we are not wholly responsible for our own successes, but that we owe the majority of what we achieve to our forebears and the lessons that have been carried down to us.
For me, the most important part of Ketty’s presentation was a gift she made to each of us in the audience; a parchment with the following quote by Luigi Sturzo. “Il cittadino deve essere educato non con I favori, ma con la giustizia, non con le pretese di privilegi e vantaggi individuali, ma con l’assistenza nel far valere I propri diritti: non con le raccomandazioni per ottenere quell che non e’ giusto, ma con l’equa valutazione dei bisogni e delle esigenze collettive.”
Roughly translated, this says “The citizen must be educated not with favors, but with justice, not with the claims of privilege and individual advantages, but with assistance in asserting his or her rights: not with recommendations to get that which is not just, but with a fair assessment of the needs of the entire community.”
After the ceremony Mike and I were invited back to the house where we shared a nice supper of pizzas and antipasti, and some great wine provided by our good friend Maurizio Zollo, founder of the Rocca dei Sanniti vineyard. We were so honored to have been able to share this evening with the whole Valente family and to know that we are recognized as family as well. Congratulazioni a Ketty!