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Articles by: Lucia Pasqualini

  • Federica Marchionni, honorees of the 2016 Columbus Day Parade
    Facts & Stories

    My Mentors/8: Federica, a Visionary Woman

    When I think back to my childhood, I realize that I was never pushed to think big or dream beyond my boundaries. When I announced that I wanted to become a diplomat, most of the comments were discomforting and discouraging. Nevertheless, I never listened

    to them and studied very hard without questioning my chances of passing a quite dif cult exam. I realize now that the hardest part of realizing your dreams is believing in yourself beyond any rational criteria. It is something

    I hadn’t pondered much before meeting Federica Marchionni, whose vision and lucidity expanded my self-awareness.

    Meeting Federica

    I had been living in New York for almost a year when one day I received a phone call from an Italian friend who asked me if I had met the new head of Dolce
    & Gabbana USA. My friend had heard nice things about her and had been trying to get in touch with her. That was the rst time I heard about Federica.
    I met Federica over dinner with a mutual friend a few months after her arrival in New York. She was all smiles and friendliness with everybody, and exuded enthusiasm and eagerness to know everything. She was impeccably dressed and perfectly at ease.

    That rare gift of listening Federica is a curious person. She has that rare gift of listening attentively to everybody and seeing immediately new and different options. This is a quality that I noted from the very rst moment we met.

    She rapidly became an active member of the Italian community, even that which lies beyond New York. Surprisingly, for a person from the world
    of fashion and luxury, she proved open towards all sorts of milieus. I witnessed this attitude rsthand during a lunch for the Italian–American Chamber of Commerce. We were having a conversation, and I told her about a project I was working on with the Metropolitan Opera to implement Italian subtitles for Italian operas.

    I did it with no ulterior motives, yet her sincere interest in the project surprised me and prompted me to action. She told me that the D&G collection for the upcoming season was inspired by the world of opera and that it might be a good idea to support the initiative. At the same time she was frank with me: she would rst have to consult with the designers to support such an initiative. Federica ultimately managed to persuade the designers, who wound up making the biggest contribution in support of the project. When she called me to give me the good news, I couldn’t believe it. She had kept her promise, as she always does. I am perfectly aware that a company as big as D&G would never have supported us had my and Federica’s paths not crossed. I have frequently thought back on that casual talk which began our friendship.

    Empowering other women

    After that, we became much closer. She lived a few blocks away, and our children attended the same neighborhood school, Scuola d’Italia G. Marconi. My children became friends with her son Gabriele, and our families spent evenings and holidays together. We shared the common experience of working mothers who try to balance different priorities and responsibilities day in and day out. She was always supportive, and I was happy to refer my Chinese babysitter to her on weekends or whenever she needed.

    Thanks to her distinctive and inclusive approach, Federica rapidly became an active member of many institutions in New York, especially those that support other women, being herself a true advocate of other women. That is another quality that sets Federica apart; she truly believes in empowering other women. That is what she did with me in the three years we spent together in New York, by her example and advice.

    A true mentor

    What has always struck me about her is her profound self-awareness and con dence. Federica would proudly recount her humble origins and her clear and extraordinary vision about the goals she set for herself back when she attended university. She had always dreamed of working in the US and achieving a position of leadership. Her long service to D&G is an inspired story in which intelligence meets audacity, courage, and style. Federica has always been able to seize on opportunities and pave a way to achieve her goals. I was not shocked when she was appointed CEO of Lands’ End. Her incommensurable generosity and gratitude also had a great in uence on her life.

    Federica has always been a kind and honest con dante in moments of dif culty. I remember during one conversation complaining about something that had not worked out as I had expected. She wisely told me, “Lucia, you must thank God every day for the gifts you have received and have mercy! You are incredibly lucky, never forget it!” Federica opened my eyes that day, so that I saw life from a different perspective. Her advice was always sincere, and sometimes quite frank, but it always pushed me to grow professionally and personally.

    Once I was very upset and she did not console me as I had expected. She acted asatruementor.Shefocused herattentiononhowIwas mistaken and suggested I change my attitude. It was not exactly what I wanted to hear in that moment, yet she was right. That has always been her approach to becoming a better person and an exceptional professional. I thought hard about that conversation and was happy that nothing had changed between us. Neither has anything changed after she assumed her new responsibilities at Lands’ End. Federica remains the same person. Despite being much busier, she is still quick to answer an email or pick up the phone whenever I need her. She was the rst to call me when the earthquake struck central Italy a few weeks ago, having remembered that I originally come from the devastated area and that my mother still lives there.

    Taking an active role in the Italian-American community
    She herself hasn’t forgotten her origins, which is why I was not surprised when she called last summer to inform me that she accepted an invitation to
    an honoree of the Columbus Citizens Foundation in 2016. Like Alberto Cribiore, she is another Italian who immediately understood the importance of taking an active role in the Italian-American community. Congratulazioni Federica! I wish I were there to celebrate you. You are an amazing honoree, and I am very grateful for our friendship, which shall continue wherever life takes us. 

    *Lucia Pasqualini: is former Vice Consul in New York

  • Life & People

    Learning (and Teaching) How to Become Italian

    I remember vividly the first time I lunched at Marea. I’d heard rave reviews of the restaurant ever since arriving in New York and was curious to try it for myself. A few months after settling in, I found an excuse to go. I can still recall the table where I sat with two dear friends and where we received a special visit from chef and owner Michael White.

    At the time I knew nothing about him. Surely I didn’t expect him to pop into the dining room and introduce himself very politely in impeccable Italian.

    He had heard that there was a table of Italians, so he came out to greet us. I could not help but ask him where he learned to speak Italian so well. He explained to me that he worked for many years at the renowned restaurant San Domenico in Imola.


    Becoming Italian

    Michael comes from Wisconsin, where he studied to become a chef. After school, he decided to spend three months in Italy to improve his culinary techniques. Michael immediately fell in love with Italian cuisine and culture and ultimately ended up staying in Italy for 7 years. Under the wing of Gianluigi Morini, the chef at San Domenico, Michael gained a deep understanding of all the secrets behind an Italian dish, starting with a knowledge of Italy’s products and avors, avors that he could taste and breathe in thanks also to his personal interactions while discovering il Bel Paese.
     

    And it also happened that he fell in love with Giovanna. The couple met in Emilia Romagna. However, he speci ed, she is originally from Molise, just like my husband. Molise is a tiny region little known abroad, but Michael was intimately familiar with the best products in the region. He even knew the little pastry shop in my husband’s hometown!
     

    Michael speaks Italian with Giovanna and his daughter Francesca at home. Francesca studied at the Scuola d’Italia. Italian language is part of his life, just like his restaurant Marea, which exudes pure Italian avors and tastes. That day, he proudly showed me how every single piece of decor in the restaurant comes from Italy. The chairs, the lamps, the tablecloths, the cutlery – everything is Made in Italy, even the wood which decorates the walls comes from Italy! In fact, while I entered the restaurant, I was immediately struck by a small detail that only an Italian eye would recognize: Richard Ginori’s plates elegantly set on the tables. The restaurant itself is an ode to the Italian lifestyle.
     

    The importance of language
    I was very impressed by Michael and remember my first lunch at Marea fondly. The original Italian dishes were perfectly executed by a chef who places importance on using excellent and authentic products and knows how to combine the avors in true Italian fashion. After that lunch, I chose to celebrate my husband’s birthday at Marea. By night Marea has a unique atmosphere.

    I like the way the maître d’ and the waiters welcome guests at the entrance and very elegantly guide them to the table. I have always felt a certain kind of magic, a special music emanating from the ambience.
     

    Over the years Marea became the restaurant closest to my heart and Michael a person who inspired me a lot. I consider him one of the ambassadors of Italian gastronomy in New York. He is the one who made me aware just how much knowing the language can be the vehicle to a deep understanding of the secrets of Italian creativity, and I am convinced that Michael’s talent became more rounded and re ned thanks to his knowledge of the language. This conviction grew within me and it is now a theory that I have been trying to spread in my new position as head of the promotion of Italian language abroad for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
     

    Magic atmosphere

    A few weeks ago I went back to New York for the rst time since returning to Italy almost two years ago. I came back to visit old friends and old haunts, Marea among them. I wrote to Michael a couple of months in advance to reserve a table and inform him that I was returning and would love to say hello to him.

    My first  day in New York I happened to be passing in front of Marea and decided to enter to make sure that everything was ne with my reservation. I was still in the doorway when the maître d’ recognized me and welcomed me with a great smile, kindly pointing out that I was few days early for my dinner! I had met the maître d’ only a few times before leaving New York, yet he recognized me right away. It felt as if I had never left New York, and I was very happy to be back.
     

    On the evening of my dinner, I was the rst to arrive at the restaurant. There was a different maître d’. This time I told him my name and he immediately welcomed me as if he knew everything about my dinner party, that I was visiting again and how much I loved Marea. I asked if Michael was at the restaurant. He said that he was not sure if he was in New York. I asked him if he could check, and he did. When he came back he told me that I was right: Michael was in the kitchen!

    The waiter escorted me to the table and, as I entered the main dining room, I felt the same magic I had felt every previous visit. A short while later Michael came to my table. We hugged each other right in the middle of the room and exchanged a few words in Italian. Then he came back to the table later, when all the guests had arrived, to introduce himself in Italian, just like he did the rst time we met, with the same grace and modesty. Michael was in the kitchen the entire night and prepared a unique menu for my friends. That night I was overjoyed to have spent a very special evening with some of my dearest friends and delighted to be in the great hands of an exceptional chef and friend.
     

    The Ambassadors we need

    I would love to meet other Michael Whites of the world, authentic ambassadors of Italy’s cuisine and lifestyle. I know many more exist and I feel extremely proud whenever. I meet people from around the world who love Italy so much. Michael’s example opened my eyes to how much non-natives with a robust knowledge of the culture and language can help promote the lifestyle, riches, and beauty of Italy all over the world. Grazie Michael! 

    * Head of the promotion of Italian language abroad for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 


    Michael White is Chef &
     Owner of AltaMarea Group 
     


  • Op-Eds

    MY MENTORS. Learning to Give Credit Where Credit is Due

    Ieri ero al Met per Elisir e ho provato i nuovi sottotitoli in Italiano. Brava, funzionano proprio bene. Io ero scettico ed invece Lei ha avuto ragione a portare avanti il progetto ed io sono felice che Lei mi abbia convinto a partecipare. Grazie. Alberto.

    “Yesterday I was at the Met to see Elisir and came across the new Italian subtitles. Bravo. They work very well. I was skeptical, yet you were right to pursue the project, and I’m very happy that you persuaded me to participate in it. Thank you. Alberto”

    I received this email from Alberto Cribiore just a few days after the opening of the Metropolitan Opera season back in September 2012. I had seen Alberto only a few times, and back then he did not even know who I was. I included his name on a list of people who might support a project for instating Italian subtitles for Italian operas at the Met, seeing as he is renowned for being one of the greatest opera lovers and one of the largest benefactors of the Met among the Italian community in New York.

    2013 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi, and the Italian Consulate decided to commemorate Verdi with a special initiative. For many years, The Met had subtitles for the operas, and they were available in many languages, except Italian. That very peculiar omission has become the origin of a debate among many Italians living in New York. It was time to fill the gap.

    That is why we made a proposal to introduce Italian subtitles exclusively for Italian operas, in order to facilitate people’s understanding of the original libretto and allow them to better appreciate the melody and beauty of the opera itself. After an exchange of ideas, Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met Peter Gelb accepted our proposal under the condition that we would be responsible for raising the funds for the project. We were not surprised at his request, and the Consul General assigned me to oversee the task. 

    It was my first fundraising experience, one that turned to be very illuminating and showed me New York from a different perspective. With the precious guidance of Lisa Calello, I started to think about all the people who love opera, the many Italian-American organizations and companies who could support a project of this magnitude.

    I visualized this initiative to be an example of the cooperation among the different components of the Italian community in New York. In no time I’d received the support of Italians, Italian–Americans, and all of the prominent Italian-American organizations and Italian companies. There was only one name absent, yet it was a name I could not imagine missing from the list of numerous supporters: Alberto Cribiore.  His participation in the project held a very special meaning. I asked Lisa to contact his assistant to check if he received the letter of the Consul General and to stress the fact that his involvement in the project was very important to us. 

    A few days passed before I received a phone call from Alberto Cribiore. He told me that he was basically in favor of introducing the original libretto, as they did at La Scala in Milan, but skeptical about the outcome. He was afraid that it would have the effect of summarizing the text. I told him the agreement with the Met was to use the original libretto, and that I would personally oversee the realization of the project with the help of the Principal Conductor, Fabio Luisi. We had quite a fervent discussion, at the end of which Alberto consented to support the initiative. Nevertheless, when I hung up the phone, I wasn’t completely happy about the outcome. I had the feeling that I did not persuade him completely and that he only said yes because I was so insistent. This left me feeling a little bittersweet. 

    The email he sent me after the premier of Elisir was completely unexpected and made me realize that everything really is possible in New York. I would have never thought the Vice Chairman of Citibank would have taken his time to send me a thank-you note! With this very simple gesture, Alberto taught me many lessons. He showed me the strength of being able to change one’s mind, the importance of setting priorities and finding the time for everybody, and how a very successful executive operates.

    In fact, Alberto did much more. During the Gala of La Fondazione in 2013, Alberto was awarded for his extraordinary commitment to the arts. On that occasion Alberto was interviewed for a short video realized by the i-ItalyTV team, which was shown during the award ceremony. In front of the entire Italian community in New York, and in the presence of the Consul General, Alberto mentioned the project of the subtitles in Italian at the Met and thanked me personally for having taken the lead on the initiative. At that moment my heart stopped beating. I could not believe he was really saying that. I felt like everybody was looking at me, and they probably were! I was blushing. His words were so unusual for Italian standards and I was not used to being acknowledged in front of such a big audience. Now, I am aware that there was no reason to be embarrassed. 
     

    That night, Alberto taught me one of the most important leadership lessons of my life and a basic rule of meritocracy: the importance of giving credit where credit is due. He taught me that people are judged by results, and one’s reputation may be built day by day through concrete action; it does not derive from a role or position; an approach that I have found so deeply grounded in the American culture. Thanks to Alberto, I have permanently incorporated this very simple rule into my private and professional life.

    After the subtitles project he became very cordial toward me, and I started to see him with different eyes as well. Alberto is a very active member of the Italian community in New York and I usually met him solely during official events. He is not only involved with the Italian community; he is also the founder of the Bocconi Students Association in New York and has always been an important point of reference for the Consulate; he is a member of the Italian Welfare League and the Columbus Citizen Foundation.

    I gradually realized how peculiar his circle of friends and contacts was for an Italian, born and raised in Italy. In fact, having understood the importance of working together, he is one of the very few Italians deeply in touch with the Italian-American community. For this reason I was not surprised to learn that Alberto accepted to be the Grand Marshall of the Columbus Day Parade in 2015. He is the first Italian born in Italy to have been granted the honor. Only a few Italian celebrities have ever been Grand Marshalls in the past. This happened in a different context and position. Being a Grand Marshall today implies receiving the honor and the responsibility to support the Columbus Citizen Foundation in its mission, and Alberto did that with great generosity and intelligence, aware of the fact that being part of the American culture involves becoming an active member of that circle. 

    Alberto is an extraordinary role model and a mentor for many Italians living in New York, including me. I am very grateful to him for the amazing example he has set for many people and on many occasions. You proved to me that exceptional people care about individuals and their personal growth. It is up to us to grow the seeds of the lessons that life offers us every day. 

    Grazie Alberto, il tuo esempio mi ha dato coraggio ed insegnato che osare con garbo, convinzione ed intelligenza funziona! 

    *Lucia Pasqualini is Former Vice Consul in New York

  • Op-Eds

    Jhumpa Lahiri, In My Words

    I planned to purchase the bilingual version of the book during my next journey to New York, then something unexpected happened to me. One Monday morning I received a copy of her book in my office. An American girl who loves Italy and whom I have tried to help settle there, sent me a copy of the book. I was happy to receive it: it was as if she had read my mind. A couple of days later, I met the director of the Center for American Studies in Rome, and he mentioned that Jhumpa Lahiri was going to present her book at the center the following week. What a thrill! He asked me if I wanted to be part of the event. I don't even remember what I said but I guess it was “yes,” because the day after I received an invitation to a panel for which I was to be the moderator. 

    In altre parole describes Lahiri’s personal journey of learning Italian, a language she considers aplace of affection and reflection. Her account of the journey is poetically and magically touching. Her words took me back to my own personal story; every chapter reminded me of a chapter of my life. I had not expected Lahiri’s world would turn out to be my world.

    The book is about the story of a profound love for the Italian language, the kind of love that I have personally felt for languages since a very young age. Languages have always fascinated me. At six, I wanted to learn English. When I was 14 I obliged my parents to send me to a summer camp in England and refused to talk to them for a week until they finally  consented. At the time, my English was miserable. My pronunciation and comprehension were very limited. In spite of all my efforts and my profound passion for the language, I always had the impression of not speaking it well enough. Dictation was a nightmare. Once I got a D: I still remember that defeat vividly. Nonetheless, I did not give up. I had several pen pals and I used to spend a lot of time writing to them. Each summer I went to England and my English was never good enough. My improvements were miniscule; in my eyes, everybody spoke better than me. In England I met a girl my age who spoke English marvelously. I admired her immensely and admired her knack for the language. She was my role model. If she made it, I could make it too. I had exactly the same feelings that Lahiri so impressively describes in her book: a continuous sense of failure.

    One of the first chapters of Lahiri’s book is dedicated to the dictionary, which made me smile to myself, since on Sunday mornings I used to read a monolingual dictionary. I would spend hours looking up new words and checking their proper pronunciation. I always kept a dictionary handy. I had many. They were all torn, like the one with the green plastic cover that Lahiri bought at the Rizzoli bookshop in Boston before her first trip to Italy. When I walked, I used to think in English. In my imagination I created stories and situations in English. It was my way of practicing the language.

    I went to college to study political science, where I grew to realize that I wanted to understand the world and that languages were the key to opening many doors, the instrument with which to communicate with people from all over the world and to understand the world. I decided to study German, a language and culture that interested me greatly. In high school, I had been struck by Caesar’s De Bello Gallico, a text about German customs. Then I studied Kant and became fascinated with his thinking and the categorical imperative. I wanted to understand him better, to read Kant in his own tongue.

    I don’t know if German chose me or I chose German. It was love at first sight, the kind of love Lahiri felt for Italian from the moment she encountered it: a true, elective affinity. Lahiri’s magical world opened a door that I had kept half closed for many years. Page after page led me to reflect on my own experience and feelings, the sense of constant inadequacy in approaching a new and difficult language like German. Her arrival in Rome in the middle of August reminded of my arrival in Trier as an Erasmus student. I didn’t know where to go and I was not sure I would be able to explain myself or even ask where the dormitory was. I knew I could speak English but I urgently wanted to become a part of that world. Immediately.

    Lahiri’s impassioned determination to learn Italian was the same as mine. And her experience in Rome was the same I had in Germany: The endless notebooks full of words, words that you fall in love with at first sight then vanish the day after in that incomprehensible ocean called the brain. The implacable effort to be part of a world you love profoundly yet will never completely be a part of. The unrequited love. The final awareness that there is no such thing as the perfect knowledge of another language no matter how much time and energy you dedicate to it. The surprising discovery that you do not belong to your mother tongue, either, but to a wider and much more relative dimension.

    Being a diplomat brought me to China. I had never considered studying Chinese and had hitherto felt indifferent to the language. Nevertheless, when I was posted to the Italian embassy in Beijing I decided to study it. I could not conceive of living in China for four years without communicating with the local population. I ended up finding Chinese very fascinating and stimulating. Learning Chinese opened my personal door to China. My knowledge of Chinese is limited but I dream of one day giving a speech in Chinese!

    Conversing with Lahiri in Rome was an immense joy. The way she talked about her relationship with Italian is pure poetry, that poetry which comes both from the heart and that other mysterious place, the brain. I asked Lahiri if she was happy in Italy. She answered that it was the happiest period of her life. I couldn’t help but think of Italians’ own, quite different perspective of the country.

     
    Thank you, Jhumpa, for being an extraordinary ambassador of the Italian language and of all the languages.

    Thank you for sharing with us your fear which is my same one and of many others. I will never speak perfectly but I have learned not to be afraid of express myself in any language. People are more comprehensive and less judgmental that we are with ourselves. The beauty of learning languages stays in the process of learning a language and a culture, the essential key to understand the others and to dialogue with them.

    *Head of the promotion of Italian language abroad for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
     

  • Life & People

    Lisa, a Life in the Service of the Community

    When facing a new job, we may feel a bit disoriented initially. That is how I felt when I arrived in New York. At the time, I was not completely aware of what my new role entailed.

    I had just spent four years in Beijing where I served as chief of staff to the ambassador, and
    was still enchanted by this extraordinary experience and felt very fortunate to have had the opportunity to live in China during a period of great change.

    Although I learned many important lessons during my “Chinese years,” once in New York I realized that I was about to face quite different challenges.

    After completing two assignments abroad, I am now aware that this initial feeling of estrangement is an intrinsic component of being a diplomat. In a way, it is also a healthy thrill...

    An authentic public servant
    In New York I encountered a very special person who took me by the hand and gently and patiently guided me in my new life. I am extremely grateful for this encounter, for I know for certain that my experience in New York would not have been the same without the precious assistance and attentive and supportive guidance of Elisabetta Calello, or Lisa, as everybody knows her.

    Lisa has been the personal assistant to the Consul General of Italy in New York for more than 40 years. During that time, she has been the priceless link between the Italian-American community and the Italian Consulate.

    She knows everybody in the Community and everybody knows her. She dedicated her life to her community and country, Italy, as an authentic and genuine servitore dello Stato (public servant). The very first formal events that I was invited to attend I did not exactly know either what to expect or what to say. I never had public exposure in China, and official ceremonies were strictly formal and just different.

    Lisa was the person who helped me the most in my new assignment. Day after day, event after event, Lisa became a very important person to me. She knew every detail about a particular event, association or person.
     

    She was always able to give me the right suggestions to help me face any situation. She always enthusiastically supported me and was by my side during each project and in every consular matter, even if it was not her assignment. Lisa has always been naturally zealous and passionate about her job. I could always count on her, and she was always the one who encouraged me to take on a new initiative and make an idea a reality.
     

    When we were raising funds to help instate Italian subtitles for Italian operas at the Metropolitan Opera, I discovered that Lisa had incredible relationships with colleagues across the board. It is thanks to her that we managed to involve persons I did not even know at the time. She was the one who mentioned me about Paul Montrone and his previous role as general manager at the Met.
     

    She arranged an appointment with him despite the fact that he no longer lived in New York, and it is his support that led to an official recognition of the project on the playbill of the Met for 3 years!
     

    A precious link to the community
    Lisa introduced me to extraordinary people and their stories. Many had a major influence on my personal and professional growth, and many have earned my profound affection. Thanks to her patient guidance and wise assistance I managed to discover the inner side of the Italian-American community. Lisa came to the United States with her family at very young age from the Italian region of Calabria.

    She knew firsthand what lay behind each immigrant’s story. At the same time she is an example of that American culture in which everything is possible. In a very gentle yet persistent way, Lisa always invited us to get to know more about every aspect of our jobs.

    I vividly remember how much she cared about a meeting with Professor Mario Mignone, the Director for the Italian Cultural Studies at Stonybrook University, with whom I have worked very closely to promote the Italian language during my tenure in New York and I am still in touch with now.

    She knew that I was very involved with La Scuola d’Italia and she always gave me ideas and proposals about promoting and supporting it. She was the one who often talked to me very highly about Jack Spatola, the inspiring leader of the FIAO (Federation of Italian-American Organizations) in Brooklyn. And I remember her words when I wanted to start the first Dual Language chapter in Brooklyn.

    I knew I could not make that happen without Jack’s help. It was thanks to his great commitment and charisma that we managed to involve the Italian-American community in this important project, and it was also thanks to Lisa, because, as always, she knew exactly who to contact and involve to bring a project to fruition.

    At first I did not completely comprehend the full extent of Lisa’s suggestions, but they always came in a manner so polite and persuasive that it was impossible to say no to. Only after a while I truly understood Lisa’s tips and I could not imagine having to do without her precious advice. Lisa’s role was undoubtedly very instrumental for our work in many different ways.

    Thanks to her very special sensibility, over the years Lisa has been able to build solid relationships and acquire a great respect. Lisa was there for everybody, without any difference of status. She cares about people and everybody knows that. She interprets her role as a true servant of the community.

    I remember she once told me “to understand the community, you must love the community!” I did not immediately understand what she meant but that sentence made a great impression on me and I carried it inside myself and often pondered its true meaning, a meaning that I deeply comprehended the last year of service in New York. That was her secret: Lisa knew the community because she has loved and loves the community profoundly.
     

    A sincere mentor
    Lisa taught me many significant lessons by her impeccable yet humble example. She was my greatest source of inspiration in my professional growth and in my personal life. Her discreet guidance taught me the beauty and power of paying attention to each and every one. She gave me the courage to look inside myself, which allowed me to discover who I was and who I wanted to be.

    She encouraged me when I needed to be encouraged and consoled me when I was upset. She acted as a true and sincere mentor. I owe her so much and I will always be grateful to her for inspiring me tremendously.

    Last but not least, she taught me one of the most precious lessons that I will always carry with me: the power of genuineness. She once told me, “Don’t worry, Dr. Pasqualini. There is no need to beanxious: youwillbegreat! Speak from the heart and everything will be fine!” She was right. I suddenly realized that people did not care if I made mistakes during my speech: they caught the sincerity of my words and became spontaneously tolerant and friendly. You opened my heart, my eyes, my ears and, most of all, my mind! Grazie Lisa, you are and will always be in my heart!                    

    *Lucia Pasqualini is Former Vice Consul in New York

  • Op-Eds

    My Mentors / 3. Maria Bartiromo: The Force of integrity

    In September 2010, I had just arrived in New York and was exploring the city. One Saturday afternoon, I entered the huge Barnes and Nobles bookstore on 86th Street, where I was struck by the cover of a book by Maria Bartiromo.
     

    That was the first time I heard of Maria. A few weeks later I was invited to attend my first Columbus Day Gala Dinner, where, it turned out, Maria Bartiromo was the Grand Marshal of the Columbus Day Parade. My memory of that night is still very clear; Maria’s speech touched my heart profoundly.
     

    My grandfather Pietro had been born in Philadelphia in 1916, and I realized that, up until that moment, I had no vivid understanding of his experience. Maria’s words allowed me to envision the story of my grandparents and millions of other Italians who immigrated to the United States over the centuries. For the very first time, I grasped the true essence of a country founded on immigration.

    Maria’s words elegantly illustrated the pride she took in being American and Italian. The speech was very emotional. That was the first of many events to come during which I had the opportunity to see Maria. She has always actively participated in the Italian-American community, and her involvement extends to the Columbus Citizens Foundation and the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF).

    I first spoke to Maria on March 2011, during President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano’s visit to New York on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy. I was in charge of organizing the visit, and Maria was the Master of Ceremonies at a special gala in honor of the President. She also held a beautiful interview with him.

    When the organizers traveled ahead to New York, they requested a meeting with Maria. She arrived very punctually at the St. Regis Hotel; the organizers, on the other hand, were delayed. Maria patiently waited for the arrival of the Italian delegation by conversing with us. I was struck by her smile and attitude. She must have been very busy, yet she never once looked annoyed.

    That was the first lesson I learned from Maria: the importance of paying any commitment—and one’s interlocutors—the proper respect. After President Napolitano’s visit, my relationship with Maria became very cordial. We often attended the same events, meeting again at the Scuola d’Italia Gala in March 2012. After the event, I received an email from her. I was impressed. Not only had she beaten me to the punch, her email conveyed my exact feelings. Like all excellent journalists, Maria is naturally curious. She has that special gift of understanding people at a glance, of seeing the person behind the title.

    After receiving her email, I had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know her more intimately, and the more I talked to her, the more I was fascinated by her extraordinary charisma. Her presence alone makes her stand out. When she enters a room, you cannot help but be drawn to her light. Her modesty and humility come naturally, as is usually the case with someone at ease with herself. Later, I read her book The 10 Laws of Enduring Success and suddenly realized the reasons for my fascination. Each chapter revealed another facet of her inner beauty.

    The book is a collection of the lessons she has learned in her life, both from personal and professional experience. It captures the essence of a person who is passionate about what she does and has always had the courage to risk choosing her own path, a path based on her strong ethical convictions and the vision she has of herself; a person who continuously and humbly strives to be a better human being; a person of profound integrity; a person who has always had a sense of what she wants to achieve and how to do the right thing. For Maria, doing the right thing means taking care of other people; giving back to the community; setting an example in your personal life as well as the life you lead as a member of society.

    Maria has been Master of Ceremonies for the Columbus Day Celebrations for many years now, and no matter what, she has never failed to fulfill that duty, a sign of her gratitude to the community and the pride she takes in her Italian-American roots. The gala has also been a moment to gather her family together. I have always loved seeing her surrounded by her beautiful family. It speaks volumes about her character.

    Maria’s book is still on my bedside table, and I love flipping through it whenever I’m in need of guidance. Thanks to her book, I discovered who I am and what I want to be. Maria has been and still is a role model and a great source of inspiration.

    Her example and the lessons I learned from her own personal experiences have taught me a lot about the importance of mentorship. She taught me that mentors do, in fact, exist, and it depends on each of us to be able to seize upon the secret of their success.

    Maria’s approach toward life reminds me of something my mother used to tell me when I was a child: “Surround yourself with people better than you and treat them well.” Clearly, she was encouraging me to look for mentors who could help me become a better person. I feel extremely grateful that Maria is part of my life and blessed for her friendship.
     

    Grazie Maria!

    *Former deputy-consul in New York Lucia Pasqualini continues her collaboration with i-Italy with a series of portraits of people who have taught her important lessons.

  • Op-Eds

    MY MENTORS /2. Lucio Noto - Lessons in Leadership


    What makes New York special are indeed the people. New York is a melting pot of brilliant, creative, enthusiastic, passionate, and visionary people who believe in an idea, in a dream, in other people. During my stay in New York in my capacity as Vice Consul of Italy, I met many extraordinary people. I feel extremely fortunate to have had such an opportunity. 




    I met Lucio A. Noto in July of 2011 during an event at the Council of Foreign Relations. His smile emanated both warmth and self-confidence at the same time. That evening I did not know who he was, and I could not imagine how much this person would influence my life. Lucio Noto was born in Brooklyn to Italian parents who had moved from Sicily early in the century. 



    He worked for Mobil for most of his working career and had the talent and good fortune to rise to the top of the company. He is a renowned top executive, and thanks to various circumstances, it so happened that he  became one of my mentors.              

     
    The secret of true leadership    
    After the summer, Lucio invited me out for lunch. It was the first of many more  which were to follow, the beginning of a  true friendship. I got to know him in this  way. Lucio enjoys the pleasure of fine  dining and is an expert on Italian wines. The choice of the restaurant and the wine  was a ritual of sorts. And while I learned  things about him, I also discovered much  about myself. 


    Lucio Noto is a true leader  and, as such, he is also humble and  genuinely curious of everything. I noticed  as much even in the smallest of details,  including the swift way he would establish  a relationship with the waiters and the  sommeliers. I recall once him talking to a  sommelier named Pascaline. He enjoyed  conversing with her. At the time, she was  going through a very difficult period in her  life, and Lucio would give her advice and support. 


    A very cultivated person, Lucio has many  different interests and is one of few Italian Americans who speaks fluently  Italian. I enjoyed our conversations immensely; they opened my mind to a  different approach toward people both  in the personal and professional sphere.  Each lunch we had together became for me a lesson of leadership and style. Lucio has the ability to understand people at a glance. This is one of his greatest qualities, a trait, I find, that is shared by many successful people. He possesses an ease in dealing with people, and always manages to get the best out of them. He knows what he wants and how to get it; but what is striking is the polite and  charming way in which he does it.              
     
    The ability to understand people    
    As time went by, I started to ponder the ability to understand and inspire people.  I realized how much these qualities could be powerful and effective. There are many other skills that a leader should have, and the ability to transform an organization  begins not by setting a direction, but by  getting the right people. Thanks to Lucio’s example, I understood how important it  is for a leader to possess a great sense of empathy and to motivate one’s team.  I learned the importance of listening  to people and of giving them the well  deserved attention and recognition. 


    I experienced how a positive attitude in the  working environment has a tremendous  influence on the results of teamwork. I  understood that a great leader is aware  of this very simple principle and needs to  be able to build relationships with people  very naturally. It may seem simplistic, but  I learned so much just by observing him in  a restaurant!          
     
    A natural gift    
    Once, Lucio told me that he never introduced himself as the CEO of Mobil,  but as part of Mobil. A leader does not need  to underline his own role, because power  does not derive from such a role, but from  the inner awareness of oneself and of one’s  capabilities. 


    Lucio has a natural gift: he derives pleasure from getting along with  people in every context and possesses the  ability to make them feel like the most  important person in the world, simply by  an honest appreciation of one’s particular  qualities, which he immediately recognizes  in people. He improved and refined this  art through his world travels. He worked  for Mobil in Japan, in Italy, and in Saudi Arabia. He spent many years abroad and  never spent long periods of time at the  company’s headquarters: he enjoyed his  job and his life outside the country. He  loved getting to know different cultures  and languages, just like a true diplomat. 


    He inspired me then, and continues to do so  Most of the lessons I learned from Lucio Noto are the result of my personal  perception. We have never really spoken about leadership. There was no need. His  example counts more than any words  might. Furthermore, every time I needed  support he was there, to guide or advise  me on many different occasions. 


    Thanks  to him, I better understood New York  and I was able to be better at my job. He  lead me by hand where I would not have  dared to go. Thanks to his suggestion, I  embarked on a large fundraising project  for the Italian Subtitles at the Met, a very  important initiative of the Consulate General of Italy in New York. The project  meant a lot to me for many different  reasons. He asked me: “what can I do  for you?” And he immediately offered to  sponsor one of the Italian operas of the  season showing me how to proceed: a  sponsor for each opera. It worked out!  


    Lucio’s trust and guidance during the  project paved my way, allowing me to  discover my full potential. Through it I  learned how much can be accomplished  in New York, and believe me…a lot can be  accomplished!      
     
    Mentoring USA
    Lucio boosted my confidence, little by  little, one lunch at a time.... He helped me  to see that which was already within me,  something that I did not know I possessed.  He changed and enlarged my perspective  on life. I have always yearned to become a diplomat; I never considered other career  options. He showed me a different path  in life that I never considered. I came to  understand that dreams have no time  constraints. Thanks to his inspiring words,  I came to understand what vocation is.  Now I know that serving my country is  not my job, but my inner vocation. His mentorship brought me to reconsider  myself and my life in a different spectrum.  


    Now I know that there are numerous paths  my life can take, and that I am strong  enough to conquer any of them, and  this awareness gives me a great deal of  confidence. I owe so much to Lucio Noto,  and I am very grateful for that. Inspiring role models are more precious than any material gifts. They can change your life for the better.  Grazie, Lucio!  

  • Op-Eds

    MY MENTORS / 1. Matilda Raffa Cuomo - A Most Inspiring Woman

    When Governor Mario Cuomo sadly passed away in January of this year, I suddenly started thinking about his wife Matilda and all that she has taught me. Every New Yorker knows the great Governor Mario Cuomo, but not everyone knows how lucky a man he was to have Matilda next to him.

    It is often said that behind every great man there is always a great woman. Indeed Matilda is a woman who did not give up her career as she followed her husband’s: instead, she embraced her husband’s career and found her own way to express herself through the projects that she created and supported. Together they have built a wonderful family and made great contributions to society. She played a very important role in her husband’s life and in many other lives, including mine.

    I had the privilege to get to know Matilda, and remember very well the first time we met. It happened a few months after my arrival in New York in September 2010. She came to visit the Consul General together with Aileen Sirey Riotto, the President of the National Organization of Italian American Women (NOIAW). Having just arrived, I did not know much about the Italian-American community or its numerous organizations. But I vividly remember all the meetings that I had during my first few months in New York.

    Mentoring USA
    Everything was new to me; I was fascinated by the spontaneity of those who lived and worked in New York.  Although I knew Matilda Cuomo by name, I was immediately struck by her presence, her welcoming smile, and her humble way of interacting with people. Throughout our first meeting, she talked passionately about Mentoring USA, the project that she chaired in 1987 when her husband Mario Cuomo was Governor of the State of New York, and that she continued to nurture and support over the years. The program was developed in response to New York’s alarming school dropout rates and increase in teenage pregnancy. Volunteer mentors were trained, screened, and matched with children in New York Schools. She wanted to expand the project to Italy, in Campania, the region where her husband’s father was born. She spoke with such enthusiasm and passion about the importance of mentors for disadvantaged young people. Mentoring has always been her mission, and, above all, her vision. Through Mentoring USA, she has assisted thousands of young people, proving to be a distinguished advocate of women, children and families.

    Matilda was the first person who made me think of mentors in a way far different from what I had been accustomed to in my upbringing in Italy. During my four years in New York I learned on my own the meaning and importance of having mentors in your life for your personal and professional growth. I was very lucky to have met some special ones. I did not look for them: they came to me, and they embraced and guided me throughout my tenure in America. I have never experienced anything similar in Italy. Yet I would have loved to have had someone who could have guided me in my choices. Someone who could have encouraged my aspirations. Someone who could have understood and guided my inclinations. I am very grateful to my parents who allowed me to dream and to make my choices without any conditioning, despite the fact that my expectations were overwhelming for them. Thanks to my mentors, I now know that my dreams can be even bigger. They taught me that dreams have no ceiling, and that life can offer different paths thanks to the guidance of wiser persons who assist you in your choices. Matilda knows it very well and has dedicated her life to this objective. In American culture, people strongly believe in mentoring younger generations: it is a social responsibility. It is part of the principle of giving something back to society. We should also do the same in Italy. I feel so grateful to all my mentors. They helped me to look more closely at myself, to believe in myself and to boost my self-confidence. Little by little, always hearing their voices as I make my choices, I became more self-aware and able to decide who I want to be.  

    Leading by example

    Matilda Cuomo will always be one of my mentors, a very special one and not just to me. She proved to be an excellent mentor, first and foremost to her family with her wonderful and accomplished children. Over the years, I had the opportunity to meet her several times, to get to know her better, and to watch her play an important role in the Italian-American community. She leads by example: I watched her move within the various worlds she created for the Italian-American community in New York. In her role in Mentoring USA, Cuomo continues to be a teacher to many people. She was a founding member of NOIAW. She created a special project for the State of New York, “Due case, una tradizione,” an exchange program between New York State and Italy for high school and college students. She has always been a great promoter of the Italian language and a supporter for the reintroduction of the Italian Language in the high school Advanced Placement Program. She still works very hard to keep alive her Italian heritage.

    The importance of humility
    Through her extraordinary example and commitment, I have learned many things.
    She taught me that everyone defines herself and her role in society through concrete action. She taught me that you must work hard: and she continues to do just that both graciously and brilliantly. She taught me that balance is the secret to having it all without renouncing a woman’s role as a great mother. But, first of all, she taught me the importance and strength of humility. Matilda always welcomes everybody with a disarming, sincere smile, making you feel  part of her world immediately. This is a very special and precious gift.  

    Cara Matilda, thank you for mentoring and inspiring me.

  • Life & People

    Arrivederci New York!

    When I was appointed Vice Consul of Italy in New York I never imagined how much the experience would change me both professionally and personally. I did not yet know what it meant to hold such a post in a city like New York, or how special New York is for Italy. Nor had I fully realized how much thiscity had been shaped by Italian immigration and how much it has been influenced by the Italian American community.

    My first Columbus Day

    I remember vividly the first event I attended in an official capacity almost 4 years ago. It was

    the Columbus Day Parade in Queens. Each borough has its own parade as part of the Columbus Day celebrations. At the time, I did not even know what a parade was. When I was informed that Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney would be the Grand Marshal, I remembered never seeing a Member of the Italian Parliament at a similar event. This was my first contact with the ItalianAmerican Community and American democracy. I was very struck by the presence of a Congresswoman at the parade. On that day I understood that in a democracy a politician is always close to his or her constituency and the constituency’s needs.

    When I went back to the office the following Monday, Lisa Calello, who has served as the assistant to the Consul General for the past forty years, asked me: “How was the parade?” She then told me something I will never forget: “To get know the community, you need to love the community.” After four years in New York, I finally realized what she meant.

    The ‘three souls’ of the community

    I have attended hundreds of events across New York and Connecticut. I have met thousands of people, the “three souls” of the community: the ItalianAmericans of second or third generations; the Italians who came to the US in the fifties and sixties; and the newest wave of immigration, the Italians who in Italy are often called the brain-drain generation. One must learn to grasp the great asset this multi-faceted community represents for Italy. If Italian is spoken everywhere in New York today, it is thanks to the Italian American community, which has worked hard to promote an appreciation of Italian culture. This was not always so. There was a time when Italians hesitated to speak their own language. In many cases they tried to assimilate by changing their family names.
     

    Italians literally built New York

    But Italians have literally built New York City, from subway to the Empire State Building and the George Washington Bridge, to name just three monuments. Italians have also contributed greatly to the political and social development of the city. The history of New York has been made by such Italian American leaders as Fiorello La Guardia, Rudolph Giuliani, Mario Cuomo, Bill de Blasio, and Andrew Cuomo. Italians who have fought against inequalities and organized crime include Joe Petrosino, Carmine Russo, and Arturo Giovannitti, among many others. There are thousands of Italian names among the officers of the NYPD, the FBI, the Secret Service, and the Fire Department. These men and women are our strength and an extraordinary resource.

    The importance of Italian language

    Over the past four years, I have been trying to help the community to meet and work together in new ways and on new issues. I have been particularly involved in the promotion of the Italian language, more as a personal mission than as a duty. The study of the Italian language is one of the best ways to promote Italy abroad. I have met Americans who have been successful because they have learned our language and through our language learned to love our country and culture. An excellent example is Michael White, one of the most admired chefs in New York City. His wildly popular Italian restaurants are an example of the authentic value of Italian culture and the Made in Italy brand.
     

    That is one of the reasons why we worked so hard to make sure that there were Italian subtitles for performances of Italian operas at the Metropolitan Opera. We wanted Americans who love Italian opera also to enjoy the original libretto. This project was made possible thanks to Italian Americans, Italians, and Italian companies. This is an example of the substantial impact that the community can have by working together.

    Before my term comes to an end in a few months, I am working on another dream: to bring the Italian language to the New York City public schools. 
     

    When I first read an article about the French dual-language programs in the New York public schools, a light bulb lit up in my head: why shouldn’t we do the same for Italian? When three parents – Piera, Martina, and Marcello – came to the Consulate a few months ago asking for support to organize a dual-language program in Italian in New York’s Public Schools, I thought it was destiny. We then organized an event at the Consulate to explain what a dual-language program is and how to create one for Italian. Not knowing how much interest to expect, we were amazed to receive more than 200 RSVPs and messages of interest.

    Sharing language, culture, and roots

    The response of the community exceeded expectations. I was overwhelmed, realizing all of a sudden there was something else I had not fully understood. I had considered the three souls of the Community to be three different groups with different needs and little or nothing in common. This is not true. They do have something in common. They share the same essential need: to maintain the culture, the language, and the roots of our country.

    After four years in New York, I am deeply in love with my community! Arrivederci New York!              

  • Arrivederci New York!



    When I was appointed Vice Consul of Italy in New York I never imagined how much the experience would change me both professionally and personally. I did not yet know what it meant to hold such a post in a city like New York, or how special New York is for Italy. Nor had I fully realized how much thiscity had been shaped by Italian immigration and how much it has been influenced by the Italian American community.
     
    My first Columbus Day
    I remember vividly the first event I attended in an official capacity almost 4 years ago. It was the Columbus Day Parade in Queens. Each borough has its own parade as part of the Columbus Day celebrations. At the time, I did not even know what a parade was. When I was informed that Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney would be the Grand Marshal, I remembered never seeing a Member of the Italian Parliament at a similar event. This was my first contact with the ItalianAmerican Community and American democracy. I was very struck by the presence of a Congresswoman at the parade. On that day I understood that in a democracy a politician is always close to his or her constituency and the constituency’s needs.

     
    When I went back to the office the following Monday, Lisa Calello, who has served as the assistant to the Consul General for the past forty years, asked me: “How was the parade?” She then told me something I will never forget: “To get know the community, you need to love the community.” After four years in New York, I finally realized what she meant.
     
    The ‘three souls’ of the community
    I have attended hundreds of events across New York and Connecticut. I have met thousands of people, the “three souls” of the community: the ItalianAmericans of second or third generations; the Italians who came to the US in the fifties and sixties; and the newest wave of immigration, the Italians who in Italy are often called the brain-drain generation. One must learn to grasp the great asset this multi-faceted community represents for Italy. If Italian is spoken everywhere in New York today, it is thanks to the Italian American community, which has worked hard to promote an appreciation of Italian culture. This was not always so. There was a time when Italians hesitated to speak their own language. In many cases they tried to assimilate by changing their family names.

     
    Italians literally built New York
    But Italians have literally built New York City, from subway to the Empire State Building and the George Washington Bridge, to name just three monuments. Italians have also contributed greatly to the political and social development of the city. The history of New York has been made by such Italian American leaders as Fiorello La Guardia, Rudolph Giuliani, Mario Cuomo, Bill de Blasio, and Andrew Cuomo. Italians who have fought against inequalities and organized crime include Joe Petrosino, Carmine Russo, and Arturo Giovannitti, among many others. There are thousands of Italian names among the officers of the NYPD, the FBI, the Secret Service, and the Fire Department. These men and women are our strength and an extraordinary resource.
     
    The importance of Italian language
    Over the past four years, I have been trying to help the community to meet and work together in new ways and on new issues. I have been particularly involved in the promotion of the Italian language, more as a personal mission than as a duty. The study of the Italian language is one of the best ways to promote Italy abroad. I have met Americans who have been successful because they have learned our language and through our language learned to love our country and culture. An excellent example is Michael White, one of the most admired chefs in New York City. His wildly popular Italian restaurants are an example of the authentic value of Italian culture and the Made in Italy brand.

     
    That is one of the reasons why we worked so hard to make sure that there were Italian subtitles for performances of Italian operas at the Metropolitan Opera. We wanted Americans who love Italian opera also to enjoy the original libretto. This project was made possible thanks to Italian Americans, Italians, and Italian companies. This is an example of the substantial impact that the community can have by working together.

     
    Before my term comes to an end in a few months, I am working on another dream: to bring the Italian language to the New York City public schools. 

     
    When I first read an article about the French dual-language programs in the New York public schools, a light bulb lit up in my head: why shouldn’t we do the same for Italian? When three parents – Piera, Martina, and Marcello – came to the Consulate a few months ago asking for support to organize a dual-language program in Italian in New York’s Public Schools, I thought it was destiny. We then organized an event at the Consulate to explain what a dual-language program is and how to create one for Italian. Not knowing how much interest to expect, we were amazed to receive more than 200 RSVPs and messages of interest.
     
    Sharing language, culture, and roots
    The response of the community exceeded expectations. I was overwhelmed, realizing all of a sudden there was something else I had not fully understood. I had considered the three souls of the Community to be three different groups with different needs and little or nothing in common. This is not true. They do have something in common. They share the same essential need: to maintain the culture, the language, and the roots of our country.

     
    After four years in New York, I am deeply in love with my community! Arrivederci New York!