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Smiles, TV, gardening, the “Conclave of Viterbo”: David Sassoli, the kindness of a great European

The scoop that gave him his first job as a journalist, the years as a “star” of Rai, the arrival in politics, the years of “heart and ambition” at the helm of the European Parliament. And then patience, tenacity, and a smile, right up to the last message: “Europe will work if each of us does our duty”

GENEVA – A night on the Rhine, in the city of the destinies of Europe. On the evening of 2 July 2019, in Strasbourg, David Sassoli and Roberto Gualtieri they discreetly visit the leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, the Spanish Iraxte Garcia Perez.

The election of the new president of the EU Assembly is at stake. The most symbolic of the top positions, the only one with a direct democratic legitimacy of the European voters, remained outside the agreement that provides for the election of Ursula von der Leyen at the helm of the Commission and of Charles Michel to that of the European Council. This is the decisive move, which the next morning will open the way for the presidency of the European Parliament to Sassoli.

“Heart and ambition”, were the last words of his beautiful investiture speech, entirely dedicated to relaunching the integration process for a better Europe, to the need to “put the reasons for the political struggle at the service of citizens, listening to their desires, fears, need”.

Heart and ambition. They describe David Sassoli well, who left us on 11 January at the end of long months of suffering, faced with stoicism and extraordinary ability to conceal a condition that is worsening day by day.

A good, sweet and calm person goes away.
A great European leaves.
An intelligent and passionate man leaves, who has always looked to politics as a service and a tool for change.

David had a nice ironic streak. He looked like Robert Redford in All the President’s Men, blue eyes, hair blowing in the wind, high cheekbones. And in his own way he played with it: “The appearance has never hindered me,” he said with British understatement, before adding with a smile: “But I’m not a star, in fact I’m very boring.”

Instead, he had been a little “star” in his own first life as a journalist.

From special correspondent of TG3 of Sandro Curzi for the facts of the mafia and organized crime, as a collaborator of Santoro for «Il Rosso e il Nero» and above all as conductor of the TG1 of 20, Sassoli has been one of Rai’s most loved faces for years.

In journalism he was a child of art. His father, Domenico, who had fought in the resistance to Fascism, was one of the signatures of foreign policy first in “La Nazione” and then in “Il Popolo”. But the badges, David has conquered by himself.

They say that in 1985 the hiring of “Giorno”, his first steady job, was favored bythe scoop he had revealed to a colleague of “Famiglia Cristiana” after a trip to Paris: Gianni de Michelis he had said to Oreste Scalzone that an amnesty was being worked on. Sassoli had heard this personally from Scalzone. The weekly published the news.

The president of the Republic Sandro Pertini he went on a rampage and the socialist minister swore it to him. But the boy’s flair, not yet thirty, earned him a job at the Eni newspaper.

David Sassoli was born in Florence in 1956, “iron class” we often repeated together during our conversations.

But even if he cheered for Fiorentina and had Giorgio La Pira in his Pantheon, he had put his roots in Rome.

It was at the Liceo Virgilio that he met Alessandra Vittorini, the schoolmate whom he later married and with whom he had two children.

The world of his intellectual formation was that of Progressive Roman Catholicism, from Aldo Moro to Vittorio Bachelet and above all to Pietro Scoppola.

One figure more than others, the journalist Paolo Giuntella, who passed away thirteen years ago, who was his mentor and friend, marked his path. Sassoli was active in the circles founded by Giuntella, such as “Il Ferrari” and “La Rosa Bianca”, the latter inspired by the homonymous movement of young German Christians who opposed Nazism. A bond so strong that Sassoli quoted Sophie and Hans Scholl, the leaders of Weiss Rose in his investiture speech in Strasbourg: “Our history is written in their desire for freedom”.

To public engagement, David came in 2009, when Walter Veltroni started the Democratic Party and he was among the first to join.

With his Kennedy air, he was a perfect candidate for the European elections of that year: a candidate in the college of central Italy, he was catapulted to Strasbourg by a plebiscite of over 400,000 preferences. Sassoli did not know, but he was agreeing to Henry Kissinger who once told me: “Journalism is for boys”, journalism is for young people.

There will be, in 2012, the disappointment of the Democratic primaries for the choice of the candidate for mayor of Rome: Sassoli is second, behind Ignazio Marino and in front of Paolo Gentiloni.

In 2014, he was re-elected to the European Parliament, again with the Democratic Party, now Renziano and part of the great Social Democratic family. Become vice-president of Parliament, a good one omen in hindsight. He mainly deals with transport, signing the parliamentary report on railway reform in Europe and the unification of airspace. On 26 May 2019 he was elected for the third time in Strasbourg with almost 130,000 preferences.

David was quiet, patient and persistent. His passion for gardening, which he practiced in Sutri’s buen retiro, was confirmation of this. “I cry and hoe,” he liked to say.

He did this very well also to the presidency of the European Parliament, which he guided with “heart and ambition” in a very difficult historical passage, that of pandemic, the most serious post-war economic crisis and finally a grand revival of the integration process European that was not at all obvious.

Sassoli made Parliament one of the protagonists of the long and complex negotiations that led to Next Generation Eu. With stubbornness, intelligence and when served harshly. As everyone recognizes in these hours: da von der Leyen to Angela Merkel, to Emmanuel Macron.

But without ever forgetting his ironic streak: his is the definition «format Conclave of ViterboFor the three nights in which the heads of state and government were effectively locked up in the council building to negotiate the Recovery Fund non-stop.

“This time tells us that we must have more courage and that Europe can no longer linger on certain decisions. Social and economic progress can no longer dissociate itself from ecological progress. Europe will work if each of us does our duty, if we are all focused on reducing inequalities and on a common commitment to leave the new generations a more just future, with greater opportunities ”.

David Sassoli wrote these words, when he was already very ill, in the preface to the forthcoming book by Donato Bendicenti, «The long journey of Europe to find itself». Let us consider them his moral and political testament. That of a man who until the end has not stopped thinking of politics as the ability to design the world.

Unfortunately, David ended his journey ahead of time. The earth is light to him.

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