Life and passionate pursuits deserve celebrating. The Premio all’eccellenza del lavoro e alla cultura Italiana nel Mondo, bestowed upon four honourees at a gala dinner and fundraiser on October 25, 2018, certainly was that – celebration in grand style. This was the 18th edition of the Premio, and third to take place in Toronto, since its inception in New York, in 1994, with Luciano Pavarotti as one of the first honourees.
The Premio Italia Nel Mondo 2018 celebrated four remarkable Italian-Canadians making a difference in their fields: entrepreneur and philanthropist Toni Varone, banker Fausto Gaudio, labour leader Joseph Mancinelli, and writer and editor Licia Canton, with a special tribute to the memory of the late Italian-Canadian businessman and auto executive Sergio Marchionne, widely known for turning around Fiat and Chrysler.
For all the impressive backgrounds and outstanding achievements of the four honoured Italian-Canadians, for all the weight of the Premio’s impressive 20-year history and global reach (with venues such as New York, Los Angeles, Melbourne, London, Saõ Paolo and Mexico City), for all the dignitaries present among 700 guests – including an exuberant appearance by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who celebrated the importance of the Italian connection to the narrative of Canada – the 18th edition in Toronto featured some remarkably humble acceptance speeches. These paid tribute to the families, the communities, and the human beings who laid the foundations for their accomplishments.
Licia Canton was introduced by Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni, as having “gone around the world, literally, giving readings,” from her two collections of short stories, Almond Wine and Fertility and The Pink House and Other Stories, and spoke of Licia’s calm and generous support and dedication to other writers and encouragement of their creativity to tell their own stories one sentence at a time: “My story is similar to yours. To that of your children. Or your parents. A loved one left his or her birthplace decades ago, so that you could have a better home, a better education, a better future. I am a beneficiary of that better future, here tonight, to receive this very prestigious Premio Italia nel Mondo. I am extremely grateful to my parents and to their generation. We reap the benefits of their migration. I acknowledge their hardships and the ease that ensued from their work and determination…I hope that they are proud of us, their progeny. I don’t know what kind of person I would have been if I had stayed in Italy…But I do know that I am the person that I am today because I was raised in Canada, and because I am attached to Italy.” To scan the names of past recipients and to find Pier Paolo Pasolini among those honoured for la poesia is to recognize the gravitas and humility that must accompany such an honour.
Special gratitude to Fondazione Italia President Corrado Prisco and to Vice-President (Canada) Alberto Di Giovanni for this gala event, which was also a generous fundraiser, with proceeds going to the Italy Earthquake Relief Fund as well as to the promotion of Italian culture in Canada. And thanks to all the nameless persons and communities who supported the honourees and their causes in the same spirit of generosity and gratitude. Please visit the web site: http://www.fondazioneitalia.it/ for more information.