“Italy has become a laboratory for Europe,” he told me in September in a face-to-face meeting we had in Venice during the International Film Festival, on the premises of the Fondazione Ente dello Spettacolo. “The PNRR is a wager that we cannot afford to lose,” he had added, “because its success will mean the victory of the Europe of solidarity over that of the hardcore, those who are silently watching and who cannot wait to come back. It will mean the strengthening of the pro-EU folks over the sovereignists who have been currently placed in the corner.”
David Sassoli loved Europe and wanted much more of it. He believed that only a greater role for the EU would have protected us from dangerous nationalist drifts. He loved the values of the founding fathers of the EU and believed in the difficult exercise of democracy, built on a continuous search for dialogue, something that is non-existent in totalitarian regimes. It is no coincidence that he was declared persona non grata in Russia. We had even joked about it in a text conversation: “You’ll have to give up that beautiful dacha in Siberia and reluctantly opt for a vacation in Ischia”, I had written to him. We laughed and joked with David because he had a terrific sense of humor.
When he told us colleagues/friends that he was going to run for the European Parliament, in 2009, I felt a sense of bewilderment and almost betrayal after all the battles we had fought together for the completeness and freedom of information for the public. We had already been through some stormy seasons at TG1, and facing the next one without David made me feel helpless. In fact, many of us would come out of it with broken bones. David believed in freedom of the press as a democratic pillar and felt the responsibility of being a journalist at the Italian public broadcasting company RAI, and having to fight for the integrity and fullness of information. He fought many battles indeed, always continuing to dialogue with those who did not think like him. But politics, besides journalism, was one of his great passions, which he cultivated in different stages of his life. Many people remember his kindness in these dark hours. It is true that David was a kind person, but he was equally firm in his principles, from which he would have never deviated. Kindness as a style, but determination in defending his values, which he had matured in a progressive Catholic family.
The messages of condolences coming from so many people who loved him without ever having met him, viewers and voters who trusted him and his smile that was never a smirk, are striking. When he used to be the anchor of the flagship edition of TG1 he had many female admirers because David was also handsome. “How lucky you are,” some of my friends would say to me with dreamy eyes back in the days. I knew I was lucky indeed because David was a loyal colleague, a friend I could count on and with whom I shared the same values.