The Vermillion Rotary Club held its weekly meeting on Tuesday, June 5, at the Neuharth Center on the USD campus. President Roger Kozak opened the meeting. Rev. Ed Nesselhuf gave the invocation.
Following the Rotary tradition of singing a couple of songs and the announcements, President Kozak introduced Dominic Pulera as our speaker for the day.
Mr. Pulera is an author, consultant, and commentator who focuses on issues related to race, culture, and diversity. He is a native of Wisconsin and a magna cum laude graduate of Beloit College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and earned departmental honors in history.
Pulera often delivers lectures in a variety of venues, including academic institutions, throughout the world. By the age of 30, he had addressed academic audiences on each continent, everywhere from Belgium to Botswana, from Iceland to India, and from Georgetown to Geneva.
Mr. Pulera believes that the Italian-American immigrant story is very much the story of any successful American immigrant population. Italian-Americans are about 6 percent of the U.S. population. The biggest concentration is on the Eastern seaboard. However, Italian-Americans can be found throughout our country. South Dakota has about 1 percent of its population with Italian ancestry.
Many Italian immigrants were subject to poverty and discrimination. He is quick to point out, however, that such experiences were not unique to Italian-Americans. He illustrated his presentation with four stories about early experiences of poverty and discrimination with regard to jobs, social acceptance, and being barred from some organizations and activities.
Pearl Harbor changed things for many immigrants. Many Italian-Americans enlisted in the military or distinguished themselves by service on the home front.
Mr. Pulera stated that in the space of four generations, Italian-Americans have become fully integrated in all areas of society. He believes our culture and economy have the potential to provide opportunity for all cultures and races. He feels that everyone should feel a sense of ownership of the Italian-American story because it is the story of every immigrant population.