Jill never missed the annual festival of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Italian Festival in Hammonton, staying true to her Italian and Sicilian roots.
Italians always had an affinity with this land, from the introduction of European artistry, music, and architecture to implementing some of our constitution’s most important passage.
The larger than life phrase “We the people” is having an enjoyable rebirth during our current tumultuous political times and was effectively coined by an Italian man named Filippo Mazzei.
Mazzei went to say this in Virginia Gazette,1775
All men are, by nature, equally free and independent. This equality is necessary to establish an open government. Each one must be equal to the other in natural rights. Class distinctions are not always static and will always be nothing more than a significant stumbling block, and the reason is most evident. A nation with many classes of men must have a share in the government. And when that is not implemented, one level will tyrannize the others. But the shares cannot be made perfectly equal. Whenever one class takes power, social events will demonstrate that the types are not in balance, and bit by bit, the more significant part of the machine will collapse.
Today’s article is not about the constitution, which I read from top to bottom when I became a proud American citizen, but a brief introduction about Jill. She happens to be the wife of the newly elected President Joseph R Biden. Jill will become the first Italian American first lady in our nation’s history. Her humble Italian American beginnings conform with the many generations of those who crossed the ocean seeking better opportunities in the land of the free, the land of “We the people .”
At the end of the 19th century, a man named Gaetano Giacoppa from Gesso, a small hamlet on the hills of Messina, arrived at Ellis Island in a vessel departed from Marseille, France, with a stop in Palermo. Gaetano began the journey with several low-paying jobs, such as delivering furniture and various others around New Jersey. He certainly provided for his family, obeyed the law, and offered his son Domenico (Jill Biden’s father) the opportunity to be fully educated.
The latter later turned into a savvy entrepreneur by becoming the head of a prominent Savings and Loan institution in Philadelphia. Jill’s parents traveled to New Jersey every weekend with Jill and her sisters to spend time with their grandparents. Every Italian knows the importance of visiting the old folks, a ritual that does not expire. Family law is embedded in the culture of the Italians, along with the 12 oçlock on Sunday. Twelve clocks are the time the pasta hits the water, and you better not be late, or you would have to hear everyone around the tables scream: “why are you so late”?
Jill never missed the annual festival of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Italian Festival in Hammonton. She watched the celebratory fireworks, followed the liturgical procession, and occasionally rode on the carousel. During those festivities, the assigned cooks filled the dinner table with Sicilian goodies, with the rest of the guests’ help.
Hammonton is a town in Atlantic county of New Jersey, along the Southern Jersey shores, and self-proclaimed the blueberry capital of the world.
Fresh pasta and meatballs drowned in rich-tick tomato gravy to roasted chicken with rosemary potatoes, to the opulent Farsumagru roll, stuffed with raisins and pine nut. And the sugary end comprising of cannoli, struffoli, and all-kinds of cookies such as cuccidatte. The adults in the room feasted on fresh peaches in aged cooked wine (Vin Cotto), when in season, and the boys under ten could have a sample diluted with water. To this day, Jill Biden recalls the memories of those moments every time confronted with a linkage to her Sicilian roots. During the recent political campaign, many Italian associations across the land welcomed her presence and reinstated Sicilian’s value through food, arts, and literature.
Jill Biden was raised in Pennsylvania and moved to Delaware for college. She graduated from Upper Moreland High School in 1969 and continued her study in fashion merchandising. As a military mom, she launched Joining Forces to collaborate with Michelle Obama, helping veterans find career opportunities once they returned from war. In 2012 her granddaughter Natalie inspired her to write the book, “Don’t Forget, God, Bless our Troops.” The idea developed after Natalie’s father, Beau, was deployed to Iran. Jill was instrumental in creating the Biden Breast Health Initiative in Delaware in the early ’90s after doctors diagnosed four friends. After son Beau was sadly diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013 and died two years later, she and Joe Biden formed the Biden Cancer Initiative. The organization focuses on cancer researchers, health care providers, and patients to develop clinical trials, detection, care, and treatment plans.
Dr. Biden has a bachelor’s and doctoral degree from the University of Delaware and two master’s degrees. She taught English and reading in high schools for 13 years and taught adolescents with emotional disabilities at a psychiatric hospital.
Since 2009, she has been a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College. She will be the first Second Lady to hold a paying job while her husband was vice president and running a presidential campaign.
Despite a leave of absence due to her role with the campaign, she plans on returning to work during Mr. Biden’s presumptive first term as president.
“I would love to. If we get to the White House, I’m going to continue to teach,” she said in an interview with CBS’ Rita Braver that aired on CBS Sunday Morning. “I want people to value teachers and know their contributions and to lift the profession.”
Her work ethic and close ties to her Italian-American roots align with the mission of preserving and promoting our traditions, history, and heritage.
Every President brings a personal culinary style to the White House once elected. We have had grilled meats, seafood, taco shells, jelly beans, and anything else I miss throughout the years. For once, however, some good angel hair with fresh Pomodoro and basil will perfume the West Wing rooms and beyond.
Jill Biden Headshot via Justjared.com