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‘Hope, Service, Passion': Meet Laura Boldrini, Italy's Likable Leader in Parliament

[All links lead to Italian-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

Italy's most recent elections swept several non-career politicians into office. Among these new players on the Italian political scene is writer and human rights activist Laura Boldrini [en], whose popularity during her short time in office has skyrocketed thanks to a reputation for sincerity and compassion at a time when corruption is ever present in the country's politics.

On March 16th, 2013, Boldrini was elected as a member of parliament from the democratic socialist Left Ecology Freedom [en] party and won the seat of new president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies with an overwhelming 327 votes out of 345.

She is a blogger who writes for the Repubblica newspaper's blog Popoli in Fuga and for The Huffington Post Italia [en] – and has been awarded various prizes and titles for her social commitment, including that of Knight of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic [en], the highest ranking honour of the Republic.

From left to right: Laura Boldrini, Giorgio Napolitano and Pietro Grasso. Photo by Jaqen on wikimedia.org

From left to right: Laura Boldrini, Giorgio Napolitano (President of Italy) and Pietro Grasso (President of the Italian Senate). Photo by Jaqen on wikimedia.org

There are many comments in her favour on the Internet. The website fanpage.it presents her experience in international conflict zones as follows:

 Chi è? Si tratta senza dubbio di un nome nuovo della politica: è stata eletta nelle fila di Sel (Sinistra ecologia e libertà) e prima di essere candidata è stata a lungo portavoce dell'Alto Commissariato delle Nazioni Unite per i Rifugiati. Prima ancora ha lavorato per la FAO, dove si occupava della produzione audio e video. Ha svolto numerose missioni in luoghi critici: dall'ex Jugoslavia all'Afghanistan, dall'Angola al Ruanda, passando per Iraq, Iran e Sudan. Si tratta con ogni evidenza di una personalità dall'altissimo valore….

Who is she? She is without a doubt a new name in politics: she was elected from the ranks of SEL (Left Ecology Freedom) and before being nominated she had been the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for many years. Earlier still she worked for FAO (UN's Food and Agriculture Organization), where she was in charge of audio and video production. She carried out many missions in critical locations: from the former Yugoslavia to Afghanistan, from Angola to Rwanda, through Iraq, Iran and Sudan. She is clearly a very worthy personality…

The President of the Chamber of Deputies' commitment of the is not limited to sitting behind a desk. Photo by a-a.akamaihd.net, published on Laura Boldrini's Facebook page

The President of the Chamber of Deputies’ commitment is not limited to sitting behind a desk. Photo by a-a.akamaihd.net, published on Laura Boldrini's Facebook page

A post published by Patrizio Gonnella on linkontro.info describes Laura Boldrini's commitment alongside civil society at the international level:

Ho conosciuto Laura Boldrini. E’ stata al fianco di tutte quelle organizzazioni non governative e sociali che si sono nel tempo opposte al pensiero prevalente intollerante e xenofobo. Con lei molti di noi hanno condiviso l’esperienza della campagna “Io non ho paura”.

Era il tempo in cui l’attuale neopresidente della regione Lombardia e allora ministro degli Interni Roberto Maroni voleva schedare tutti i rom, bimbi compresi. Non è accaduto un secolo fa soli ma quattro anni addietro. A quel tempo la destra ha inserito nel nostro ordinamento giuridico quell’obbrobrio che è il reato di clandestinità.

I met Laura Boldrini. She stands alongside all the non-governmental and social organisations that have, over time, opposed prevailing intolerant and xenophobic thoughts. Many of us have shared with her the experience of the “I am not afraid” campaign.

It was the period when the current newly-elected president of Lombardy and the then Minister of the Interior Roberto Maroni wanted to keep files on all the gypsies, including children. It did not happen a century ago but just four years ago. At that time the right-wing politicians had inserted into our laws the disgrace that is the crime of being an undocumented immigrant.

The Honourable Laura Boldrini in a class of Somali children who live in a refugee camp in Kenya

The Honourable Laura Boldrini in a class of Somali children who live in a refugee camp in Kenya. Photo taken from her Facebook page.

Her inaugural speech was very much appreciated, to the point of making her listeners forget some of the ideological conflicts at the heart of parliament. The blog polisblog.it reported that Pietro Ingrao, who had been President of the Chamber from 1976 to 1979, wrote to the newly-elected president defining her speech a “message of hope”:

Condivido il senso profondo delle tue parole, il richiamo ai valori fondanti della Repubblica nata dall’antifascismo, la difesa dei diritti di cittadinanza, l’impegno dalla parte degli ultimi. L’Italia è attesa a grandi sfide per le quali c’è bisogno della passione, della moralità e dell’intelligenza di persone come te.

I share the profound message of your words, the reference to the founding values of the Republic born from anti-fascism, the defence of the rights to citizenship and the commitment of the less privileged. There are great challenges ahead for Italy which require the passion, morality and intelligence of people like you.

The Huffington Post blog quoted some passages of her speech in which Boldrini explained her vision of what the Parliament should represent for every citizen and the reactions of the chamber:

La politica deve tornare ad essere speranza, servizio e passione”, dice voce che riesce a mantenere ferma nonostante l’emozione. E in aula convince anche chi non l’ha eletta: i 109 deputati del Movimento 5 stelle, per esempio, all’inizio spiazzati, ma poi in piedi ad applaudire. ….

Boldrini piace.

“Politics must go back to representing hope, service and passion”, says a voice that manages to stay steady in spite of the emotion. And in the chamber she also convinces those who did not elect her: for example, the 109 MPs of the 5 Star Movement were taken aback at first, but then stood to applaud her….

Boldrini is liked.

When discussing the role of Italy in European integration, of Europe at international level, the website byoblu.com quotes her inaugural speech:

 ”l'Italia fa parte del nucleo dei fondatori del processo di integrazione europea, e dovremo impegnarci ad avvicinare i cittadini italiani a questa sfida”, “perché l'Europa torni ad essere un grande sogno, un crocevia di popoli e di culture, un approdo certo per i diritti delle persone”, “un luogo della libertà, della paternità e della pace”.

“Italy is one of the core founders of the European integration process, and we must strive to bring Italian citizens closer to this challenge, so that Europe can go back to being a grand dream, a crossroads of peoples and cultures, a safe haven for human rights, a place of freedom, fraternity and peace”.

In the space of just a few days, Boldrini's Facebook page, where she writes about what she does, went from having 25,000 “friends” to almost 60,000. Every new post elicits numerous comments. There are many displays of sympathy and satisfaction:

Giovanni Guariento Auguri per il Suo nuovo incarico. Anche se non condivido le politiche troppo accoglienti e permissive, soprattutto nei confronti degli stranieri irregolari, mi sembra che Lei dia l'impressione di persona che ha a cuore le istituzioni.Buon lavoro.

Marco Zaniboni A me piace molto, è una donna, è in gamba, si è impegnata nel sociale, che altro si può pretendere? considerate che il predecessore era uno come fini….il che è tutto dire..

 

Giovanni Guariento Congratulations on your new role. Even if I do not agree with too lax and welcoming policies, especially with regards to illegal immigrants, you give me the impression that you have the institutions at heart. Good luck.

Marco Zaniboni I like her a lot: she's a woman, she is capable, she is committed to social issues. What else do you want? Considering that the predecessor was Fini… enough said.

 

However, some people found the speech too smarmy:

Gianluca Poddighe neanche il papa ha fatto un discorso cosi mieloso e schifosamente buonista, Cara boldirini cosa vuol fare ? far venire tutti i disperati del mondo in Europa e in Italia e dargli sussidi con i fondi delle tasse dei pochi ormai europei che lavorano? si vergogni!! e pensi alle pensionate ITALIANE che fruganno nell immondizia o ai nostri laureati loro si i veri “rifugiati” in terre straniere …..

Gianluca Poddighe Not even the pope made such a sickly sweet speech. Dear Boldrini, what do you want to do? Make all the wretches of the world come to Europe and Italy and give them benefits with money from the taxes of the now few Europeans who have a job? Shame on you! Think of the ITALIAN pensioners that rummage in the garbage or of our graduates – those are the true “refugees” in foreign lands…

The few negative comments like this one have caused replies full of mockery and anger by the almost 60,000 “friends” of the page, such as:

 Santa Carla Papa Cara Boldrini , un attacco di questo genere equivale ad un applauso ! So per certo che Lei è attrezzata…siamo sulla strada Giusta !

Santa Carla Papa Dear Boldrini, an attack of this kind is like a round of applause! I know for certain that you are equipt…we are on the right path!

Every time that she establishes an official act, Boldrini writes a summary of it online: following her interview with journalist Lilli Gruber from private TV channel La7, there were at least 4,000 positive comments such as this one:
Claudio Federici Glielo auguro di vero cuore, per Lei e per tutti noi. Ho seguito la sua intervista dalla Gruber….mi ha fatto tornare la voglia di mettermi davanti alla TV a seguire trasmissioni in cui si parla di politica. Il problema e’ che appena l'ho fatto sono ripiombato nei consueti strilli tra sordi.
Claudio Federici I wish you luck for your sake and all of ours. I watched your interview with Gruber… It made me want to start watching TV programmes about politics again. The problem is that as soon as I did I was plunged back into the usual cries among deaf people.

Because of the many scandals that have affected almost all parties and the carelessness with which politicians are often accused of spending public money, waste of resources has become a salient issue. The Boldrini has not disappointed those who now expect concrete action from her: On 2 April, 2013 on her Facebook page, she explained that:

Dalla data del mio insediamento alla Camera dei Deputati sono stati tagliati 500.000 euro al giorno. I risparmi già decisi, infatti, ammontano complessivamente a 8 milioni e mezzo di euro.

Since I took my place in the Chamber of Deputies 500,000 euros of cuts have been made every day. In fact, the savings that have already been made amount to eight and a half million euros.

As proof that the words of her inaugural speech were not just hot air, the president has already undertaken many acts. Here are a few examples that she recounted on her Facebook page:

La mia presenza al pranzo di Pasqua della mensa di padre Guido, presso la parrocchia dei SS. Cosma e Damiano di Ancona, non è un evento straordinario: è nel solco del mio vissuto.
La qualità delle persone non si misura dal reddito ma dai valori che custodiscono ed in questo momento di crisi, che crea nuovi poveri, compito delle cariche istituzionali è stare vicino alle persone bisognose.

I was present at Father Guido's Easter lunch, at the Saint Cosma and Damiano from Ancona parish. It is not an extraordinary event: it follows on from my experience.
People's quality is not measured by their income but by their values and in this time of crisis, that creates new poor people, the task of those that hold institutional roles is to be close to the people in need.

She phoned Patrizia Moretti – mother of Federico Aldrovandi, an 18-year-old who died in 2005 during a “police search” –  showing satisfaction for the solidarity shown after an unfortunate event: following the sentencing of the four policemen responsible to three years and six months in prison in 2009, some police officers who were members of the Organisation for the Trade Union Independence of the Police Force organised a solidarity sit-in for the four condemned policemen under the window of the town hall of Ferrara where the mother of the victim works.

Her report of this act on 27 March, 2013 gathered nearly 8,700 likes and 4,309 comments:

Ho telefonato a Patrizia Moretti per esprimerle affettuosa vicinanza. Le ho detto quanto ritengo intollerabile che, oltre al dolore ineguagliabile per la perdita di un figlio, lei debba subire l’offesa di una protesta così spietata e incivile.

I phoned Patrizia Moretti to express my sympathy. I told her that I think it intolerable that, in addition to the unparalleled pain of losing a son, she must also suffer the insult of such a ruthless and uncivilised protest.

After her election, the Rizzoli publishing house published her latest book, titled “Only the Mountains Never Meet.” This publishing house had already published her first book titled “Everyone Back,” in 2010. Part of her royalties for these books go to non-governmental organisations who deal with people in particularly disadvantaged situations.

By following this link it is possible to see a presentation of her first book in Italian.

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