(Washington, D.C. – October 17, 2023) – The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) 48th Anniversary Gala, held on October 14, 2023, in Washington, D.C., at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, brought together a remarkable assembly of esteemed honorees, influential guests, and supporters to celebrate the rich heritage and achievements of Italians and Italian Americans. The evening was a resounding success, featuring a surprise appearance by the President of the United States, Joe Biden, alongside the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden.
The First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, first took the stage to express her gratitude to the NIAF leadership team and the entire Italian American community. Her heartfelt remarks paid homage to the enduring values of Italian Americans and the importance of preserving and passing on this remarkable heritage to future generations.
In a moving speech, she recounted her own family’s journey through Ellis Island, underscoring the shared values of loyalty, generosity, kindness, and faith that have been cherished by Italian Americans for generations. Dr. Biden conveyed her pride in serving as the first Italian American First Lady and the importance of keeping these values alive.
The gala guests were then surprised when the First Lady called upon her husband to come to the podium. President Joe Biden lightened the atmosphere with his characteristic humor. He shared personal anecdotes from his life growing up in a neighborhood with a strong Italian American presence and humorously claimed that he deserved the Order of Sons of Italy Man of the Year award he once received.
The President praised Italian Americans for their enduring contributions to art, literature, and culture. He cited Michelangelo’s dedication to setting angels free from marble as a metaphor for the Italian American spirit, and he commended the community’s relentless pursuit of excellence.
The NIAF Gala honored several distinguished individuals, including Gerry Cardinale, Founder and Managing Partner of RedBird Capital Partners; Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO of Formula 1©; Veronica Berti Bocelli, CEO of Almud Music Editions and Vice Chair of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation; legendary musician and songwriter Neil Giraldo; and Dr. Sara Farnetti, acclaimed medical doctor and scientist, for their outstanding achievements and contributions to various industries. Italian actress Cristiana dell’Anna, who portrays Saint Francis Cabrini, in the upcoming film CABRINI, delivered an inspirational speech.
The evening also celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the Italian Air Force, with Lt. General Luca Goretti hinting at the possibility of the Frecce Tricolore flying the Italian Flag over American skies in the future.
Emilia-Romagna, the NIAF 2023 Region of Honor, was prominently featured, with Stefano Bonaccini, the region’s president, participating in a ceremonial opening of an 80-pound wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese alongside the president of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, Nicola Bertinelli.
Also, during the gala, NIAF announced its newest partnerships with Aurelio De Laurentiis to offer grants to aspiring filmmakers and an accord with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to launch Roots Tourism in 2024 for Italian Americans. The gala was further graced by the presence of special guests, including Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman of ESPN and Sports Content at The Walt Disney Company, iconic race car driver Mario Andretti, Italian actress Cristiana d’Anna and Grace Nelson, among others.
The sold-out, star-studded event was made possible through the generous support of sponsors, including the region of Emilia-Romagna, RedBird Capital Partners, Blastness, Campari Group, Colavita USA, Ferrero GE Healthcare, Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, Hassler Roma, Intesa Sanpaolo, Interstate Commercial Real Estate, Nero Group, Sbarro Health Research Organization, The Francesco and Mary Giambelli Foundation and Three Chord Bourbon.
For more information about the National Italian American Foundation and its initiatives, please visit www.NIAF.org.