The Last Goodbye


By John. M Viola

As the dog days of summer ascend upon Washington, D.C., and our eyes turn towards the impending fall, it is the time of year around the NIAF Headquarters that we begin to call “Gala Season”—those three months leading up to the signature event of our Foundation and, we hope, the Italian American community at large.

I’ve wanted to take the opportunity to put this message out to you, our members and supporters, to provide a little bit of context around the history of our Gala Weekend and the new direction that our team and leadership have been evolving it towards.

For those of you who have participated once or twice, or those of you that make it an annual pilgrimage, you have surely seen a drastic evolution in our annual event over the past 39 years.  This year marks the final occasion in which our Gala Weekend will be hosted at the Washington Hilton, the same place where we had our first gala 39 years ago.  It’s with some reservations, but mostly excitement, that we move our gala for the 40th Anniversary in 2015.

What started as a bi-annual dinner for a young Italian American foundation 39 years ago has evolved into an annual gathering of thousands from Italy and the United States and a weekend long schedule of celebrations and community business.  What was once only a dinner has grown into a weekend of conferences, movie screenings, meetings, parties and general merriment. But at the heart of it all, the mission remains the same.

First and foremost, it is to raise important support for a foundation that continues to be committed to doing all that it can for the betterment of every member of the Italian American community and for the preservation of our culture and heritage for future generations. And secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the Gala Weekend serves as an opportunity for all of us to get together once a year.

No matter where time and circumstances have taken us, whether we live in neighborhoods that our families first settled 100 years ago or far off in reaches of this great country, our Gala Weekend is an opportunity for us to be together in the comfort and celebration of our shared heritage and culture.

I invite you to look carefully at the weekend we have planned and think about being a part of what we do here in Washington at the end of every October.

For those who have participated in the past, it is the great chance to relive the memories in a familiar setting and create new ones with your NIAF family.  For those who have not been here, it is a chance to come and see what we are all about and get an understanding of just how much work the National Italian American Foundation does year after year to be your voice in Washington and an institution for all Italian Americans.

John M. Viola is the NIAF president and chief operating officer.

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