On the 25th of April 1995, the anniversary of Italy’s liberation from Nazifascism, Umberto Eco was invited to speak in front of a symposium organised by the Italian and French departments at Columbia University. He gave a speech in English entitled Eternal Fascism, which analysed the rise and fall of Fascism in Italy.
The speech reflected on fascism throughout history, and aimed to draw parallels between certain past, and other more recent events. It was a turbulent time in America, as just a few days earlier, the Oklahoma City bombing, a terrorist attack on the federal government building, had killed 168 people, including 19 children, and injured 672. The attack was carried out by an American neo-Nazi group. At the time, extreme right-wing groups appeared to be on the rise in the United States, and after the bombing, people started to become increasingly concerned and anxious about the future.
Umberto Eco’s speech came at a time in which people felt extremely vulnerable, and he urged the young university students to fight for a life free of nationalism. The speech combined quotes from Roosevelt and Eco’s personal childhood memories of the liberation, as well as alluding to American anti-fascism. It seamlessly condensed ideas and memories, in order to inspire the minds and hearts of the young people in the audience. Umberto Eco’s speech was later published in several magazines in English and translated into Italian.