1963
Jack Valenti From Texas Italian Enclave to Influence in Washington.


Sicily was the Italian background of Jack Joseph Valenti (1921- ) who was born in Houston, and who attended local schools graduating high school at age 15, the youngest ever to accomplish that education feat in Houston. He then worked in the daytime while attending night school at University of Houston. He also received an MBA degree from Harvard University. A lieutenant, Valenti saw extensive service during Second World War as fighter pilot stationed in Italy where he flew fifty-one combat missions for which he won many awards including the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1952 he co-founded an advertising and political consulting agency that in 1955 led to a meeting with fellow Texan and then United States Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, an encounter that would change the course of his life as Johnson appointed him his press secretary. A very close association would follow especially after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. Valenti was in the motorcade on that fateful day and he accompanied Lyndon B. Johnson on Air Force One as Johnson was sworn is as president. From 1963 to 1966 Valenti served as First Special Assistant to the President, only the second presidential advisor to actually live in the White House and the first Italian American to have such a close advisory role. From the outset of their relationship Valenti harbored deep respect for Johnson especially during the trying period of the Vietnam War that produced so much internal dissension.

Valenti resigned his White House post in 1966 in order to assume a position as president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), a situation that he continues to hold more than 36 years later. In this latter capacity he serves as the movie industry's leading Washington lobbyist, a tireless defender of major studios' interests in matters of copyright protection, self-censorship, and their general welfare. That he is considered extremely effective and resourceful is illustrated by the astute manner in which he dealt with the perceived threat that the internet and digital technology posed to the movie industry. He quickly learned to master as much as possible about the new technology including its lexicon and intricacies, in effect taking an amorphous and very complicated subject and translated it into simple terms that helped obtain legislation desired by the movie industry: the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Valenti is recognized not only as an articulate speaker but also an accomplished author, having written four books that deal with national events. He takes pride in his ethnic roots as he fondly recalls his white mustached Sicilian grandfather who carried himself with pride and dignity telling his grandchildren in heavy accents thick with a mix of Sicilian and Texas gulf coast that they should "love this country, be proud of this country."

Jack Valenti present as Lyndon Johnson is sworn in as President of the United States on board Air Force One



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