It was a very patriotic evening the Italian American community! Four leaders in business, government and entertainment received awards during the Sons of Italy Foundation (SIF) 25th Silver Anniversary National Education & Leadership Awards(NELA) Gala held on May 23, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
The honorees were: Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne; General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.); actor Gary Sinise and Sky TV’s Robert Corrao.
Sergio Marchionne, chairman & CEO of Chrysler Group LLC and CEO of Fiat S.p.A., received the 2013 SIF Award for Excellence in Global Business. Mr. Marchionne is credited with turning around two major automobile companies: the Italian auto manufacturer, Fiat and the American manufacturer, Chrysler. In addition to his duties as head of the two auto companies, Mr. Marchionne serves on numerous boards of directors, including Fiat Industrial S.p.A. as chairman and the European Automobile Manufacturers Association as president.
Mr. Marchionne is bilingual in Italian and English having been born in Italy and raised in Canada.
In accepting his award, Marchionne stressed the importance of moving from interdependence to integration. “It’s a philosophy that has played a key role in the Fiat-Chrysler partnership from the very beginning. It is a partnership which is driven by people who are willing to listen to each other, who are willing to share experiences, exchange knowledge and ideas, and expand their horizons. And in bringing together the best of our two groups, we’ve embraced both the Italian heritage of Fiat and the distinctly American identity of Chrysler. In many respects it is an idea that is very familiar to the Sons of Italy, which takes pride in an Italian-American culture that draws strength from both traditions,” Marchionne said.
General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) received the 2013 SIF Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service for his career in the military and diplomatic fields as the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and 65th U.S. Secretary of State. He is also the founding chairman of America’s Promise Alliance, a non-profit that aims to make children and youth a national priority by focusing on lowering the high school dropout rate. Under Gen. Powell’s leadership, the organization has become the nation’s largest multi-sector alliance that focuses on the well-being of young Americans.
The SIF Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service is presented annually to a person who is not of Italian heritage. The award and the recipient reflect the significance of working together to build a better global community. Past recipients include former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden; and U.S. Senator Jack Reed.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Gen. Powell referred to the commonality of the immigrant experience, regardless of the origins, and proudly remarked upon receiving his SIF award, “I always say that I’m an honorary Italian, but tonight I can finally say that I’m more.”
Actor and activist Gary Sinise received the 2013 SIF Award for Courage & Patriotism. As founder of the Gary Sinise Foundation, Mr. Sinise works to assist the men and women who defend our country. His foundation partners with a range of organizations that support U.S. service personnel and veterans, including the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which builds customized smart homes for severely wounded veterans. A skilled musician and entertainer, Mr. Sinise has also performed for U.S. troops around the globe with his “Lieutenant Dan Band.” Along with NELA Gala emcee Joe Mantegna, Mr. Sinise hosts public television’s annual National Memorial Day Concert.
Accepting his award after a moving introduction by Mantegna, Sinise spoke about what inspires his work. “If by highlighting what I do shines a light on these brave men and women, that’s one way I feel like I can serve.”
Robert F. Corrao is CEO and chairman of the Ski TV Network, a national high definition television network broadcasting via direct satellite and DSL technology to LCD screens at premier ski resorts across the United States, delivering over 60 million impressions through year round TV programming. He received the SIF’s highest honor, its National Education & Leadership Award for 2013. Accepting the award, Corrao proudly spoke of his Italian roots, the importance of education and his long history with the SIF. “All this Italian blood in my heart right now is boiling over.”
During the NELA Gala, the SIF also recognized the men and women who have served or are serving our country. Present at the dinner were U.S. military personnel, active, veteran and wounded warriors. The SIF has long collaborated with and supported the Wounded Warrior Project.
About 1,000 guests attended this year’s NELA black tie gala. Among the special guests were: U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Raymond T. Odierno, Claudio Bisogniero, Italy’s Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIH AIDS researcher, Jack Reed, U.S. Senator representing Rhode Island, Doug Flutie, former NFL quarterback, Bob Johnson, BET founder Mack McClarty, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, Franco Nuschese of the premier Italian restaurant in Washington, Café Milano, Judge Francis Allegra of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and the recipients of nine SIF national scholarships
Past attendees have included U.S, presidents; members of the Cabinet and the Congress; and foreign diplomats. Previous SIF honorees include President Bill Clinton; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; AIDS researchers Anthony Fauci and Robert Gallo; the late Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro; former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, USMC (Ret.); and entertainers Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Regis Philbin, Annette Funicello, and Joe Mantegna.
The Sons of Italy Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Sons of Italy, the nation’s oldest and largest organization for people of Italian heritage. The SIF has contributed to date $125 million to medical research, disaster relief, scholarships, and cultural preservation, along with other special projects. NELA Gala proceeds help fund these philanthropic programs.
Source: OSIA as revised
Photos by Max Taylor