Gentleman president

Publish date 03-02-2023

by Renzo Agasso

He came one evening to speak in a tiny provincial theater. In front of an even more modest audience, thirty to forty shivering people, in an April before climate change. It was the year 1991, and the authoritative politician had the task of illustrating the figure of the holy abbot Bernard of Chiaravalle and his love for the Madonna. Wrapped up and with his face marked by a recent domestic accident, he charmed the gaunt audience, narrating the exploits of that man of God and reciting his prayers to the Virgin. «Look at the star, invoke Mary».

At the end, off in the car, two escort men, to go who knows where, in any case very far away.
The man was Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. Magistrate in his youth, therefore the typical path of young Catholics in the post-war period: Catholic Action and Christian Democracy. Father of a child, prematurely widowed and never remarried, Scalfaro entered Parliament at a very young age, in the Constituent Assembly called to write the Republican Constitution.
Minister of Transport, then of the Interior, then president of the commission of inquiry into the Irpinia earthquake, that evening of 1991 he did not hold any positions.
Someone wished him to become president of the Republic the following year, when Francesco Cossiga expired.

He was exactly thirteen months later. Immediately after the Capaci massacre of May 23, 1992. The shocked and horrified country relied on the most respected politician for honesty, consistency, generosity. To the pupil and follower of Don Luigi Sturzo, the Sicilian priest who summoned Catholics to place themselves at the service of the common good, to engage in politics without shyness, to become its salt, leaven, light.
Oscar Luigi Scalfaro was president from 1992 to 1999: immature times, of scandals and bloodshed, of clean hands and dirty hands, of mafias and mafiosi.
He concluded his term with the same respect as he began, having served with honor from the first day to the last.

Scalfaro is gone. Even that policy has gone astray. That sense of duty and service, of the state and the common good. That humility, too, of rushing to talk about Saint Bernard and the Madonna in a tiny, cold and deserted provincial theater, without receiving even a glass of water in return. We miss politicians like this, witnessing the miserable spectacle of the current ones.
Whose thoughts, words and passions are often enclosed in a trivial and useless tweet.

Renzo Agasso
NP November 2022

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