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Celebrate Filipino, Italian, and Polish Americans’ History & Heritage with Us!

It is officially the autumn season, and what better way to leap into fall than by celebrating the culture and achievements of Filipino, Italian, and Polish Americans? October is Filipino American History Month, Italian American Heritage Month, and Polish American Heritage Month. To celebrate, Gallopade is introducing you to some influential Americans from these cultures and their remarkable accomplishments!

We encourage you to participate in this celebration with us! Have fun by visiting museums, trying new recipes, and checking out local festivals and events!

Filipino American History Month

Filipino American History Month was officially observed in 2009 by the United States Congress. According to historical records, October was chosen due to the first Filipino Americans arriving in the U.S. on October 18, 1587.[1]

Dr. Fred Cordova and his wife, Dr. Dorothy Laigo Cordova, declared National Filipino American History Month in October to aid in the promotion of Filipino American National Historical Society.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are 4.2 million Filipinos in the U.S., comprising 18 percent of the U.S.’s Asian American population.[2]

Larry Itliong

Larry Itliong is a Filipino-American labor leader and civil rights advocate who helped form the United Farm Workers Union. His most notable act was the Grape Strike in 1965, which he organized and participated in alongside César Chávez and Dolores Huerta. He organized various successful unions and strikes throughout his lifetime and joined in fighting for the rights of Filipino farmworkers.

Itliong was born in the Pangasinan Province of the Philippines and migrated to the U.S. at just 15 years old, hoping to earn an education and become a lawyer. He resorted to working in Alaska’s salmon canneries along the West Coast. He began organizing farmworkers, recruiting for strikes, and eventually helping to found the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America.[3] In 1936, Itliong joined the United States Army until 1943, when he resumed labor organizing in Stockton, California. He also founded the Filipino Farm Labor Union and Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee there.

Today, California celebrates October 25 as Larry Itliong Day, and he is known as one of the “Fathers of the West Coast Labor Movement.”[4]

Benjamin Cayetano

Benjamin Cayetano is the first Filipino-American state governor in the U.S., working from 1994 to 2002 as Hawaii’s fifth state governor.

Cayetano was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1939 and moved to California in 1963, hoping to pursue law. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1968. Benjamin earned his law degree in 1971 from Loyola Law School and returned to Hawaii after being recruited by a law firm there. Governor John A. Burns hired Cayetano in 1972 to the Hawaii Housing Authority, which served as a gateway into politics.

Cayetano was elected to the Hawaii State Legislature in 1974, serving two terms in the House of Representatives and two terms in the State Senate. He was chosen as lieutenant governor in 1986 and created one of his most successful achievements: the A-Plus After-School Program. This is Hawaii’s, as well as the nation’s, first after-school program entirely funded by the state, which has helped provide accommodations for over 29,000 elementary school students each year.[5] Finally, in 1994, he was elected as state governor of Hawaii, becoming the first Filipino-American to do so in the U.S. During this time, he worked to build multiple public schools, new construction plans for museums and tourist attractions, and a medical research center for the University of Hawaii.[6]

Cayetano has received various honors and rewards from universities such as UCLA, the University of the Philippines, and Loyola Marymount University. Some of these awards include the UCLA Medal, the Distinguished Leadership Award, and the Hawaii Chapter of the American Society of Public Administrations Award.

Italian American Heritage Month

National Italian American Heritage Month is also celebrated in October! Tate Downs, an Italian-American senator, started the National Italian-American Heritage Month proclamation. It was first honored in 1989 when President George H. W. Bush and Congress issued the commemoration. Italian Americans are currently the fifth-largest ethnic group in the U.S.,[7] with approximately 26 million people residing in the nation.

Anthony Fauci

Anthony Fauci is an Italian-American immunologist who served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease from 1984 to 2022 and served as President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor from 2021 until 2022. He was an advisor to seven different presidential administrations and conducted extensive research on preventing and treating diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika, COVID-19, tuberculosis, and many others.[8]

Fauci, a native of Brooklyn, New York, was raised there by his grandparents, who migrated from Italy during the 19th century. His family owned a pharmacy, and he helped deliver prescriptions.[9] Before completing an internship, Fauci received his bachelor's degree in pre-med from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and his doctorate from Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Fauci joined the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in 1968 and worked his way up relatively quickly. He became the Chief of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation Clinical Physiology Section in 1974, the Deputy Clinical Director in 1977, and finally, the official director in 1984.[10] He began advising President Ronald Reagan and worked tirelessly in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in his official director role. When the COVID-19 pandemic troubled the world, Fauci worked to develop and deliver a vaccine.

Today, Fauci holds a National Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, delivers lectures around the world, serves on editorial boards of scientific publications, and is a member of numerous National Academies of Sciences and Medicines.[11]

Enrico Fermi

Enrico Fermi was an Italian-born American physicist who studied nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, and radioactivity. He is known for building the first nuclear reactor and helping with the Manhattan Project.[12]

In 1901, Fermi was born and raised in Rome, Italy, by his mother, Ida, and father, Alberto. Enrico engulfed himself in the study of physics to cope with the tragic death of his brother, Giulio. At age 17, Enrico earned a scholarship to Scuola Normale Superiore University in Pisa, Italy, and in 1922, graduated, obtaining his doctorate in physics with honors. In the following two years, Fermi won fellowships from the Italian government and the Rockefeller Foundation, and he worked with Max Born at the University of Gottingen and Paul Ehrenfest at the State University of Leiden. He discovered what is now known as Fermi-Dirac statistics and their particles, fermions. This work led to him becoming a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Rome and furthering his studies in atoms and nuclear transformation.

In 1938, Fermi won the Nobel Prize in Physics and emigrated to the U.S. with the earnings for this prize. He was hired as a physics professor at Columbia University, where he performed experiments leading to the “first controlled nuclear chain reaction,” taking place under a stadium in Chicago[13]. News of this and further research continued, leading to Fermi joining as a leader in the Manhattan Project, where he was helping create the atomic bomb.

Fermi officially became an American citizen in 1944, and two years later, he joined as a professor at the Institute for Nuclear Studies of the University of Chicago in 1946. He continued to work diligently on his studies throughout the rest of his life.

Polish American Heritage Month

National Polish American Heritage Month has been celebrated every year since 1981. Michael Blichasz, President of the Polish-American Cultural Center in Philadelphia, initiated the concept and originally thought August should be the designated month to celebrate National Polish-American Heritage Month. However, this changed in 1986 due to wanting to encourage more participation in schools and learning that the first Polish Americans arrived in the U.S. in October.

There have been proclamations celebrating National Polish-American Heritage Month by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. About 8.9 million Polish Americans reside in the U.S., with the majority living in New York, Chicago, Illinois, and Michigan.[14]

Kazimierz (Casimir) Pulaski

Kazimierz Pulaski, spelled Casimir Pulaski in English, was a Polish Patriot and an officer for the Continental Army during the American Revolution.[15] Pulaski is known as the “Father of the American Cavalry” as he was one of the first people to become a cavalry commander in the U.S.[16]

He was born in Poland in 1745, where his family was involved in politics and military affairs. His father was one of the founders of the Confederation of Bar, which worked to protect Poland from Russian influence and invasion. Pulaski engaged in various battles alongside his father and became skilled in cavalry. However, in 1772, Pulaski was forced to flee Poland when the Prussian and Austrian invasion of Poland took place.[17]

In 1776, Pulaski went to Paris, where he met Benjamin Franklin. There, he learned about the American colonies and their desire for freedom. Franklin recruited him to support them in their fight against the British during the Revolutionary War. Franklin wrote to George Washington, describing Pulaski as "an Officer famous throughout all of Europe for his Bravery and Conduct in Defense of the Liberties of his Country.”[18]

In June 1777, Pulaski proved himself to General Washington and his army at the Battle of Brandywine. He successfully conducted a counterattack, saving Washington and the army from being captured. After this battle, he quickly became General and Chief of Cavalry, later organizing what is known as the Pulaski Legion. Mixing cavalry and infantry, the Pulaski Legion became a skilled and defensive force, and Pulaski himself became one of the South’s top commanders.[19]

In 1779, Pulaski was wounded in defending Savannah, Georgia, in the Second Battle of Savannah by grapeshot. His troops had rescued and spared his body; however, he passed away days later. Today, there is a monument in Monterey Square in Savannah, Georgia, honoring him, and October 11 is known as General Pulaski Memorial Day.[20]

Lisa Murkowski

Lisa Murkowski is a United States Senior Senator of Alaska and the first U.S. senator born in Alaska. Her great-grandfather was of Polish descent, and she was born in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Murkowski’s father, originally a banker, served as a U.S. senator from 1981 to 2002 and a governor from 2002 to 2006, and she followed in his footsteps. In 1980, she graduated from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s degree in economics and then earned her Juris Doctor degree from the Willamette University College of Law in 1985. Murkowski practiced as an attorney for the Anchorage District Court, worked for the Mayor’s Task Force, and worked in private practice.[21]

In 1999, Murkowski began working in the Alaska State House of Representatives until 2002, when her father left his Senate seat for his newly-elected position as governor. He selected Murkowski to replace him in the Senate.[22] She finished the remaining time in her father’s seat and won a full term in 2004. In 2010, Murkowski attempted a second term and lost, but she ended up successfully launching and winning a write-in campaign in the general election.[23] She has been re-elected for full terms both times in 2016 and 2022.

She promotes energy conservation/efficiency, global stability, and economic prosperity, and she is a member of various committees.[24]

Join Us All Month Long

October highlights the accomplishments and cultures of the Filipino American, Italian American, and Polish American communities. The individuals that make up these heritages have helped contribute to the development and advancement of the U.S. Want to learn more about their cultures? Be sure to stay connected to your community and check out any possible festivals or celebrations near you!




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