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They chatted as most guests do at Washington receptions but stopped talking long enough to hear the Italian foreign minister praise the upcoming year of Italian culture and dedicate the exhibition of the David-Apollo statue.

By the time the politicians took to the podium, however, their attention had flagged and the murmur of conversation rose.

Reps. Nancy Pelosi of California and Bill PascrellJr. of New Jersey were obviously frustrated that so few people were listening to them. The two Democrats scolded the crowd at one point.

Mrs. Pelosi, the former House speaker, tried to tell the guests how John F. Kennedy once praised Italian-Americans.

“Do you know what he said? Do you want to know? Well, listen up,” she said.

Mr. Pascrell wasted no time telling the crowd to hush. “We don’t need this Greek chorus,” he said.

He then apologized to Greek-Americans who might have taken offense.

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