Federico Rampini Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Europe and the Left: Conversation with Federico Rampini, West Coast and Pacific Rim Correspondent of La Repubblica; 9/25/02 by Harry Kreisler

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Background

Federico, welcome to Berkeley, or welcome back to Berkeley. Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Italy, in Genoa. But I was raised in Brussels, the capital of the European Union, because my father served as an executive of the European Commission. So all my childhood and until the end of high school I was in Brussels.

How did your parents shape your thinking about the world?

Probably the most important choice they did to shape my thinking about the world was they gave me an education in a European school in Brussels, which was really an international school. I studied along with French kids, German kids, Dutch kids, and Belgian, of course, and Italian. So I was educated more as a European than as an Italian.

You said your father was in the European civil service?

Yes.

Was there a lot of discussion about politics and Europe around the dinner table?

There was. There was a lot of discussion about Europe. They were also very difficult years. For instance, I was very young, of course, but in '65, '66 there was a paralysis of the European Union when Charles DeGaulle, the French president, vetoed almost every decision. He didn't want a European federalist union. So they were also very difficult and hard times. But by listening to my father, I learned a lot about the building of Europe.

What else did you get out of your education before you went to college, other than a more cosmopolitan view than you might have gotten being raised in Italy?

There was also the proximity of Brussels to Paris, and although I was only twelve years old in May of '68 [during the student movement] in Paris -- and you know what it meant, of course; Berkeley, somehow, opened the way to the student movement. But although I was very young, we felt very strongly in Brussels the impact, the emotion, and how things were changing very quickly under the pressure of this student movement in France.

So being a younger person, not yet a college student, how were you affected? In what way did it change your parents' thinking or your own thinking through you parents?

Well, not so much my parents' thinking, because my father is a conservative, so he didn't agree very much with what was happening in the student movement. But very early, I learned, for instance, of all the discussion and the criticism against the Vietnam War, so the Peace Movement [made an impression on me]. I was also at that time very much in touch with some leftist Catholic priests, Italian priests of the Catholic Church. I was raised as a Catholic in my family, and there was a trend of very progressive thinking inside the Catholic Church which contributed very much to my education at that time.

Where did you do what we call your undergraduate work, your baccalaureate degree? Did you do that in Italy?

In Brussels.

In Brussels.

Then I moved to Italy. I wanted to go to Italy, which was my country because I was born in Italy, but never lived there. And, also, because in those times, Italy was a very ebullient country -- a very strong Left, and I was attracted by what was happening in Italy. So I decided to attend University Milano, the Buconi University, an economics university. And there I began, immediately, being a militant -- very, very involved in the student movement.

Next page: Italian Communist Party

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