“I want that car,” said former Congresswoman Connie Morella, pointing to a white 2013 SRT Viper parked in the National Building Museum last night.
“It’s available,” replied Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Fiat SpA (F) and Chrysler Group LLC. “For a price.”
The occasion was the Sons of Italy Foundation National Education and Leadership Awards Gala; Chrysler donated the car for an auction that would support the group’s work.
The Italian-born Marchionne received the foundation’s Award for Excellence in Global Business. As is his custom, Marchionne flouted the affair’s black-tie expectations with a pullover sweater. He said he couldn’t remember the last time he wore a tuxedo.
Robert Corrao, the chairman and chief executive of Ski TV Network, was given the National Education and Leadership Award. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service.
Powell remembered the Italian-Americans he grew up with in the Bronx, especially “Sammy the shoemaker,” who taught the young Powell how to play poker.
Gary Sinise, who said his family hails from “a small town near Potenza,” accepted the Award for Courage and Patriotism for his work with military families and wounded warriors, as well as a $15,000 check for his Gary Sinise Foundation.
Jars of marinara sauce and bottles of olive oil decorated tables. Guests ate filet of beef followed by blueberry-mousse cheese cake.
“Where’s the pasta?” one guest asked. Banfi Centine Bianco and Banfi Rosso Di Toscana wines were poured, allaying his concern about loyalty to the homeland.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the gala, which has raised a total of $30 million. The foundation provides scholarships to Italian-American students, assists in natural disasters in Italy and the U.S. and promotes Italian culture.
Democratic Congressman William Pascrell of New Jersey says he isn’t big on titles, but he didn’t balk Wednesday night when he was inducted into the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, and became a Knight of the Italian Republic.
“I wish my mother and father were here,” he said after receiving Italy’s highest honor at a ceremony and dinner at Villa Firenze, the residence of Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero.
Also inducted was Republican Congressman Patrick Tiberi of Ohio. The Italian-Americans are co-chairmen of the Congressional Italian-American Delegation, promoting Italian language education and fighting negative stereotypes of Italians in popular culture.
Before the ceremony, Congresswoman Karen Thurman, Florida Democrat, and former Congressman Ron Klink, now a senior policy adviser at Nelson Mullins, relaxed on patio chairs on the house’s terrace overlooking a 22-acre lawn.
A buffet of zucchini risotto and pasta orecchiette was served. Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio also visited the terrace, enjoying the warm night and the fragrance of gardenias.
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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