Washington, DC (May 26, 2023) – An evening celebrating the contribution of Italian Americans to the success of the United States and solid relations with Italy, during which scholarships were awarded to deserving young Italian Americans. This was the theme of the 34th edition of the National Education and Leadership Awards (NELA) Gala, organized yesterday in Washington DC by the Sons of Italy Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA) in the presence of Italian Ambassador Mariangela Zappia, Honorary Chair of the Gala, and the five figures of the Italian-American community who were awarded this year for their contribution to the community: Congressman Bill Pascrell, Co-Chair of the Italian American Congressional Delegation; actor Tony Lo Bianco; and leading figures in the U.S. business world, such as Anthony Naccarato, Jill Albertelli, and Augustin Tellez.
“The relations between our two countries represent an indestructible alliance, a strategic partnership, and a long, deep friendship,” stressed Ambassador Zappia, recalling what Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said last year in her first message to the Italian-American community. The Ambassador also recalled the tragic deaths and damage in Emilia-Romagna, thanking the Italian-American community for the concrete solidarity shown and expressing admiration for the strength, courage, and determination of the local population in these difficult times: “But it is not a surprise,” said the Ambassador, “all of us know how strong, courageous, and resilient Italians are.”
Gala guest Joseph Sciame, President of the Sons of Italy Foundation; Robert Bianchi, National President of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA); and actor Joe Mantegna, who presented the various moments of the evening on stage.
Ambassador Zappia highlighted the important role of OSDIA and the Italian-American community in promoting the teaching of Italian – the third most studied foreign language in the United States in 2021 – and U.S. tourism to Italy, primary foreign destination for Americans, with about three million Americans visiting Italy in 2022. She also highlighted Rome’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo, focused on “People and Territories: Urban Regeneration, Inclusion, and Innovation,” and highlighted the important role that the large Italian-American community (estimated at about twenty million U.S. citizens) will have in the promotion of a new campaign dedicated to Turismo delle Radici (tourism based on family and cultural roots) to combine the rediscovery of their own origins with the promotion of Italy’s great heritage of art, culture, and landscapes.