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UNITED STATES | Italian-American Dignitaries Salute the 35th Annual Sons of Italy Foundation Gala Celebrating Sicily


Washington D.C., May 31, 2024 – Leaders in public service, business, arts, and humanitarianism were honored at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington D.C. on May 23rd by the Sons of Italy Foundation® (SIF) at its 35th Annual National Education & Leadership Awards (NELA) Gala.


Opening remarks were provided by OSDIA President and SIF Chairman, Michael G. Polo, and SIF President Joseph Sciame. The Honorary Co-Chairs for the event were Alessandro Gonzales, from the Embassy of Italy to the United States, and the Honorable Thomas R. Souzzi, U.S. Representative.


Deputy Chief of Mission, Minister Plenipotentiary Alessandro Gonzales, conveyed warm regards on behalf of the Embassy of Italy to the United States, highlighting the significance of celebrating Sicily, a region rich in culture, history, and arts.


The Italian region of Sicily, the birthplace of OSDIA founder Vincenzo Sellaro, was recognized as the Italian Region of Celebration. Two videos were presented by the Sicilian Department of tourism, and a delegation from the Vincenzo Sellaro Lodge #3009 in Palermo, Sicily was in attendance as honored guests. All guests in attendance received a handcrafted pinecone made by a Sicilian artisan from Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto (province of Messina). These pinecones, symbols of luck and prosperity in Sicilian tradition, are crafted in the renowned Caltagirone ceramics style.


Best-selling author, producer and filmmaker Adriana Trigiani served as Mistress of Ceremonies. The National Anthems of Italy and the United States, respectively, were performed by Maria Fassio Pignati with a Presentation of the Colors by the Takoma Park (MD) Police Department Honor Guard. Jazz singer Vanessa Racci provided the musical entertainment.


“Having just returned two weeks ago from Italy with the team designated by our OSDIA National President Michael G. Polo, we saw, felt, and believe that the ties to the Motherland Italy are even stronger this day,” said SIF President, Joe Sciame. “Our DNA is secure in the representation of the Italian Embassy here tonight and the honoring of the region from where my own and so many of our grandparents emanated – La Sicilia!”


The SIF is the philanthropic arm of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America® (OSDIA), the nation’s largest and oldest organization for people of Italian heritage.