Centro Studi Americani
May 2, 2023
(As prepared for delivery)
Buon Pomeriggio a tutti / Good Afternoon everyone.
First of all, I would like to thank the two crucial leading actors at the core of this great event.
Thank you, Director Roberto Sgalla and your team of Centro Studi Americani for hosting all of us today; and Thank you President Leonardo Buonomo and all members of Associazione Italiana Studi Nord Americani (AISNA) for your primary role in promoting and teaching American studies in italy.
I am honored to be here today with you all and open such an important seminar on American history, culture, and literature. It is a pleasure being surrounded by and meeting distinguish scholars and experts in the field. The title of this seminar – “Self-evident truths, post truths, and the American myth” – suggests the important work you will do discussing, among other topics, one of the most pressing issues facing our society, — Disinformation.
Disinformation, in fact, not only represents a threat to our democracy but also it really is one of the defining topics of our time. False narratives are very real and they give us a broader sense of how Russia, the People’s Republic of China, and other actors deploy disinformation try to undermine democracy and national security around the globe. But they also offer a sense of urgency for why we should be discussing and improving how our nations can collectively confront threats in the information space.
Indeed, countering disinformation is a daunting challenge, but some of the advantages we have are the close people-to-people, economic, and security ties between Italy and the United States. The fight against disinformation, in fact, is not a task that simply lives in the realm of a government office or bureau. Countering disinformation requires a “whole of society” approach.
Here in Italy, the U.S. Embassy has supported Italian organizations like yours through projects and partnerships to not just help build a deep understanding of the disinformation landscape, but to create a robust community of leaders with expertise to counter its effects.
As we have seen in recent years, there has been a troubling trend of disinformation and misinformation about the United States and American society. This could lead to distorted understanding of American culture and fuel negative attitudes between our people and against our common shared values.
That is exactly why the work you are doing is vital and so important. Every day, through your teaching and research, you promote accurate and nuanced understandings of the United States and American society. You are the ones building bridges between our two countries, breaking down barriers, and enhancing cross-cultural understandings and dialogue.
During these 3-days thought-provoking and insightful discussion I hope you recognize how much your active contribution led so far to develop our strong relationship through common and shared approaches to tough problems like disinformation.
Some of you have heard me say it before: The United States and Italy are allies, we are partners, we are friends, and we are family – 20 million Americans claim Italian heritage. We share values, and we have a shared responsibility to defend democracy, what President Biden has called, “The defining challenge of our time.” The President said, “The great strength of democracy is that it gives us all the tools we need for self-government and self-improvement … to defend those fundamental values we all share.”
This conference is an example of how we can, together, defend our shared values by having an open discussion about safeguarding them. So, thank you for your work here and your continued commitment to the promotion of American studies in Italy.