If we had to describe the 47th edition of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Gala in a few words, we could not find a better way than “it was a memorable celebration at many, if not all, levels.”
Washington DC became the place to be for Italian Americans in the US on October 29th, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, when NIAF put together one of the most awaited and enjoyable moments for the community in the last few years.
NIAF is the largest representative of the more than 20 million Italian American citizens living in the United States. The Foundation’s activities aim at encouraging Italian Americans to
continue keeping their heritage and traditions alive and present and try to ensure the great contribution Italians made to the history and progress of the United States isn’t forgotten. To this end, the Foundation actively collaborates with the United States Congress and the White House on all major issues affecting Italian Americans.
Following the New York Gala back in April, more than 800 dinner attendees welcomed honorees, celebrated the region of Tuscany, and learned about future plans.
The day featured, among others, a forum on Italy’s role in transatlantic commerce; a panel to understand what makes Italy the second-largest manufacturing country in Europe; and a conversation on the importance of Italy-US relations. The free seminars offered an opportunity to learn and network with Italophiles, Italian Americans, and experts.
NIAF joined the Sbarro Health Research Organization (SHRO) and the Giovan Giacomo Giordano Foundation for a conversation on the oncological research collaborations between Italy and the United States, and the challenges of providing cancer care to underprivileged communities. Dr. Antonio Giordano – Director of Temple’s Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine and Center for Biotechnology – and Dr. Andrea Morrione – Director of the Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer Signal Transduction Program in the Institute – presented the 2022 Giovan Giacomo Giordano NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award for Ethics and Creativity in Medical Research to Dr. Antonio Di Carlo, MD, Professor of Surgery and Chief, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, and Surgical Director at Temple University Hospital.
From medicine and science to film-making, the Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum presented the finalists of their $8,000 grants for films exploring the Italian American experience. Finalists included Leaving the Factory, by Alessia Crucitelli and Andrew Levay, on the mistreatment of Italian immigrant women factory workers, and their struggle to overcome oppression; Rossi & Company, by Agata De Santis, on the history of the 112-year-old Italian American gift shop in NYC’s Little Italy, and the struggle of its 71-year-old owner to keep it open; Defending the Peninsula, by Charles Vincent Sabba, on how Italian Americans in law enforcement work with Italian law enforcement to protect the artistic and cultural patrimony of Italy.
Alessia Crucitelli, announced as the winner during the Gala, commented: “This is a story about Italian immigrants, written by an Italian immigrant, and made by a multicultural crew that included Italians. I’m grateful to everyone involved because they stuck with the project during pandemic-related setbacks.”
The forum dedicated to the Italian American Reputation Lab was also a not-to-be-missed moment. The 2022 report assessed the reputation values of Italy and Italian Americans in the US: the overall rate has improved by 38.3% in the last thirty years. Nevertheless, Italian Americans are the third community for the number of mentions and the first of European-descendance across American media. As pointed out by Robert V. Allegrini, President of the National Italian American Foundation, “We are honored to host the presentation of the first report during our annual event. This is a very interesting study on a relevant theme aimed to improve the relations between the USA and Italy while also providing structured information to companies looking at investing in America, which is also part of our mission.”
For those interested in global matters, the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Education Luncheon featured General Jack Keane offering an overview of the security challenges and the importance of America’s cooperation with allies and partners, including Italy. On the same note, the European House Ambrosetti had a panel on Italy’s role in guaranteeing transatlantic security and Western values. As mentioned by Valerio De Molli, Ceo of the organization, “The strategic relationship between Italy and the United States has profound roots that reach back into history. Today the US is Italy’s number three trade partner and the biggest outside Europe.” He continued by saying that “our country, with its expertise and technologies, could be one of the US’ key partners in sustainability, green transitions, and the 4.0 transition of Italian manufacturing companies.”
Lastly, among the new initiatives that took off during the weekend, the LUISS America Foundation launch brings the Italian university, based in Rome, at the heart of a new collaboration for NIAF. This foundation wants to encourage exchanges between Italy and the United States through commerce, international relations, and law. Two scholarships, to be administered by NIAF – one for an Italian American undergraduate student and one for an Italian American graduate student to attend LUISS University – were also announced by the two parties. The foundation will play the role of an operational hub for both fundraising and new stakeholders and will get ideas and resources from the Alumni community, a network of more than 54,000 professionals across five continents. LUISS Vice President, Paola Severino, who traveled to the States together with some other representatives, stated: “LUISS is proud to contribute to a new page in the history of Rome-Washington relations, an emblematic step in times of high uncertainty. Connecting the higher education system and the industrial system of our countries with this ideal bridge means building a solid basis for the creation of fundamental new skills and opportunities for generating economic growth and a common vision of the world.” Professor Raffaele Marchetti, Deputy Director for Internationalization at LUISS, was excited about the new American footprint: “LUISS has taken a further important step in its global development, strengthening its engagement in the US at a crucial historical moment, in which transatlantic relations are very solid politically, economically, in the field of defense, and security.” Rector Andrea Prencipe pointed out, during his presentation, how “These new LUISS initiatives in the US consolidate and accelerate our internationalization path, which counts more than 315 partner universities in 64 countries.” He then concluded by saying that “the global approach of our Athenaeum continues, therefore, along two lines: preparing students with an international mindset and interdisciplinary knowledge to face the complexity of future challenges, and strengthening our relations with companies and institutions overseas, also through the network of LUISS Alumni, true ambassadors of our University.”
The long day of learning and meetings ended with a Gala dinner that celebrated six distinguished Italian and Italian American honorees for their exceptional achievements and leadership roles in their respective fields. The honorees included the 70th US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, in recognition of his service to our country; Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., Congressman serving the 9th Congressional District of New Jersey and Co-Chair and Dean of the Italian American Congressional Delegation; Giada De Laurentiis, chef and Emmy award-winning television personality, known for the Everyday Italian show on the Food Network; Jason Castriota, automotive designer, strategist and innovator; Ornella Barra, Chief Operating Officer for the International division of Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Paolo Scaroni, Deputy Chairman at Rothschild & Co, Chairman of Giuliani S.p.A and Chairman of AC Milan, the Italian football team and winner of the 2022 Serie A.
Maria Bartiromo, NIAF Board Member, anchor and Global Markets Editor for FOX Business Network and FOX News Channel, and Joe Piscopo, one of America’s most popular comedians and a former Saturday Night Live star, hosted the Gala dinner, whose menu was curated by chef Giada de Laurentiis and was inspired by Tuscan cuisine.