Pope & Obama

Barack Obama a Roma

"Veni, vidi, vici." (I came, I saw, I conquered). Julius Caesar reported to the Senate in Rome in 47 B.C. Last week in Rome President Barack Obama also came, saw and conquered—largely with his words (spoken in English, with the exception of  “Buon pomeriggio!” (Good afternoon!) to the giornalisti at the official press conference).

The President’s busy day began with an incontro col Papa (a meeting with Pope Francis) at the Vatican. "Santità, sono un suo grande ammiratore” (Holiness, I am your great admirer), Obama told the Pontiff, with whom he spoke of many issues—soprattutto, la povertà e le ineguaglianze (above all, poverty and inequality).

"Sua Santità ha la capacità di aprire gli occhi della gente su questi problemi” (Your Holiness has the capacity to open people’s eyes to these problems), the President said, adding, "La mia fede cristiana mi porta a credere che devo trattare gli altri come voglio essere trattato io" (My Christian faith leads me to believe that I must treat others as I want to be treated myself).

The President also invited the popular Pope to visit America. "La gente negli Usa impazzirebbe per vedere Papa Francesco” (The people in the United States would go crazy to see Papa Francesco), he assured him.

In meeting with the Presidente della Repubblica, Giorgio Napolitano, Obama once again expressed parole di ammirazione ed elogio (words of admiration and praise), noting that "L'Italia è fortunata ad avere un uomo di Stato così forte, che aiuta il Paese in momenti così difficili" (Italy is fortunate to have such a strong statesman, who helps the country in such difficult moments).

Italy’s new Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, described President Obama as “una fonte di ispirazione ed un modello da emulare" (a font of inspiration and a model to emulate). He also ha preso in prestito (borrowed) Obama’s slogan from his first presidential campaign: “Al presidente Obama vorrei dire, con grande forza, che quel messaggio 'yes, we can' oggi vale anche per noi in Italia  dove finalmente vogliamo dire che è possibile cambiare le cose.” (To President Obama, I would want to say, with great force, that this message—‘yes, we can'—is also valid for us in Italy, where finally we want to say that it is possible to change things.”

What struck Obama most about Prime Minister Renzi, he told the press, was his energia (energia)—as well as his visione (vision) and ambizione (ambition). “Il premier saprà portare avanti l'Italia."  (The premier will know how to lead Italy forward.)

After his official meetings, the American President ha fatto il turista (played the tourist). During a visita privata (private visit) to the Colosseum, il monumento simbolo della capitale (the monumental symbol of the capital), Obama exclaimed, "Eccezionale, incredibile!… è più grande di alcuni degli attuali stadi di baseball!" (Outstanding, incredible! It’s bigger than several actual baseball stadiums!”

Italy’s ministro per i beni e le attività culturali (Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities) tweeted “Un orgoglio per il nostro Paese vedere lo stupore e l'ammirazione nei suoi occhi” (A pride in our country to see the awe and admiration in his eyes.)

“Minister of Culture?” Obama said when introduced. “Great job!”

The Minister replied in English: “In Italy, it’s the best job.”

The President’s final words? I like to think they were the same ones that are always in my heart when I leave la città eterna: Arrivederci, Roma!

Words and Expressions

conferenza stampa –- press conference

globalizzazione –- globalization

il vertice -– the summit

il pranzo ufficiale –- the official lunch

Dianne Hales is the author of LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language and MONA LISA: A Life Discovered.

Click below for the White House video of President Obama and Prime Minister Renzi's press conference: