i-ItalyNY - 5thBirthday Special Issue. The Best of i-Itay - page 27

Special Issue | Winter 2017-2018 |
i-Italy Magazine
| 27
Justice Alito during our
interview at the Supreme
Court in Washington,
D.C., in Spring 2016.
remains of a Norman castle from, I think, the 12th
century. Doors were open during mass and there
were dogs from town that came in. They attended
part of mass, then left! But it was very pleasant,
really a very pleasant place.
Both your parents’ families settled in Trenton,
New Jersey, which is where you were born.
You grew up in a very Italian-American neigh-
borhood in the nearby township of Hamilton.
Would it be reasonable to say they were, like
most Italian immigrants, poor?
My father did grow up in poverty, yes. His father
worked for the railroad, but hewas out of work pe-
riodically.Hismother diedwhenhewas a teenager,
so the family was in a difficult position at the time
of the Great Depression. There were a number of
occasionswhen theywere evicted fromtheir home.
My father would come home from school and find
the furniture out on the sidewalk. And because
he was the oldest child and spoke English, he was
responsible for going around the neighborhood to
find a new place for them to live. Despite these
hardships, he was a very good student. He gradu-
ated near the top of his high school class. His fam-
ily had nomoney to send himto college, so he took
a job ina factory and that’s the course I guess his life
would have taken had he not received a very small
scholarship—I think it was $50—from someone
in the community. That was enough to enroll in a
local college, a three-year school to train teachers.
The $50was enough for himto pay the tuition and
buy theused suit and shirt and tie that heneeded to
wear to class. That turned his life around.
Your father eventually taught English. But af-
terhegraduated fromcollegehe foundout that,
for an ItalianAmerican, teaching jobswerenot
easy to get.
No, they were not. Again, he was a very good stu-
dent. He was one of the top students in his college
and editor of the college newspaper, but it was not
easy for him to be in college. I’ll tell you one little
story. He had a course that required him to pur-
chase a short book. He didn’t have the money, so
he borrowed the book from the library and copied
it all by hand. The professor saw this and took him
aside after class and said, “Look, if you don’t have
enough money to buy a short book like this, you
really don’t belong in college.” Not what you’d call
sympathetic!
Youhadasimilarexperience, didn’t you, during
one of your first job interviews—
Well, by then things had changed. I haven’t ex-
perienced the kind of discrimination my parents
experienced. But I once had an interview for a
summer job with a law firm in Philadelphia, and
this lawyer said tome—this was after I had gradu-
ated from Princeton and was at Yale law school—
“Do you think you would really feel comfortable
working at our law firm? Because it is a very blue
blood law firm…” That’s a very antiquated thing
to say! So I didn’t take the job. Later on I became
a Federal Court of Appeals judge in Philadelphia,
and lawyers fromthis law firmwere constantly ap-
pearing before me. I thought that was an interest-
ing turnaround.
Yet when you were nominated to the Supreme
Court in 2006 some of your opponents alluded
to the “Italian factor” in a not-so-positive fash-
ion. I remember NIAF and then president Ci-
ongoli coming out in your support.
Yes, it was a strange thing. It poppedup andNIAF
was very helpful … I was opposed for lots of other
Justice Samuel A.
Alito on i-ItalyTV
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