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  • 3 Profiles in Italian Courage
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    June 13, 2004 - If you look closely, you will notice people acting courageously in all sorts of ways just going about their everyday lives - from the little girl who sings and dances in public without embarrassment to the woman who helps a stranger change his flat tire on the side of the highway. Then, there are some people who will take your breath away with their valor. Courage has been on the brain lately, thanks to the latest headlines to come out of Italy. Here are three stories that merit respect - and should inspire bravery:

    Italian hostages return home: Last week, a U.S.-led coalition in Iraq rescued three Italian hostages - Salvatore Stefio, Umberto Cupertino and Maurizio Agliana - who since April 12 had been held captive by terrorists calling themselves the Green Brigade. When the Italians returned home, they said they had joked with one another to ease the tension and quell their fears. Although they told reporters they had not been physically abused, their lives were constantly threatened. Only after the rescue did the former hostages discover that their captors had murdered their friend, a fourth hostage Fabrizio Quattrocchi. Just before the terrorists shot and killed Quattrocchi, he tried to pull off his hood and yelled, "This is how an Italian dies." He was buried in his home city of Genoa on May 29. Dying with dignity - and honor - is brave.

    Italy bids farewell to another Agnelli: Umberto Agnelli, the patriarch trying to rebuild a faltering FIAT, the family automaker business, died of cancer in late May. During his life, Agnelli faced adversity head on - he lost both of his parents when he was young, watched a son die of cancer and lived in the shadow of his more famous brother Gianni Agnelli, who died just 16 months earlier. When Umberto also passed away, the country, the company and the world was reeling. They had lost a leader, a friend and maybe even hope for FIAT's future. But Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the head of Ferrari and a close friend to the Agnelli family, agreed to step up to the plate. His goals: To helm the company now and mentor its future - Gianni's grandson John Elkann, 28, and Umberto's son Andrea Agnelli, 28. Keeping your family's legacy alive in the face of loss and difficulty is brave.

    National soccer team faces its past: On June 14, the Italian national team plays its first game in the 2004 European Championship. The reason to include the team on this list is simple: Gli Azzurri lost the 2000 Euro Cup to France in the last minutes of the final. In 2002, the players were humiliated when underdogs South Korea eliminated them from the World Cup in a controversial second-round game. Confronting your failure and a humbling past is brave.

    Few people have what it takes to be a champion. Do you?

    Tell me about your acts of courage. Write me at


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