Speech at the dinner at Giuseppe Cassano's home (October 23, 2014)
I am sure I express also the feelings of all the Italian fellows when I extend to our President George de Lama warm appreciation and gratitude for his decision to come to Italy on occasion of our event and meet all the fellows gathered in Rome.
I think that his decision to visit Italy as one of the his first visits out of US, as President of EF, is a clear sign of carefulness and consideration of the Philadelphia general headquarters for the vitality that the Italian Fellows Association demonstrated in the last years.
True: we have selected candidates of unquestioned professionalism and quality; have organized 3 very successful Eisenhower Days (and the 4^ is coming); have participated to the main initiatives of the EF (I have to remind the Paris Conference on Energy); have been present to several initiatives of the network (for instance The Colombo Conference, the St. Louis Unconference or the two previous Social Weekends in London and The Hague); have intensified the relationship with Philadelphia and with the Associations of other countries.
Ours is a success story, but it has not always been so: I remember that from 2001 to 2009 we, Italy, had only one fellowship, in 2003 (Alberto). I have to say that our Association was not dead but certainly sleeping: we did’nt meet regularly, but neither occasionally, no activity planned nor implemented; we had a statute but it was only on paper.
Philadelphia noticed this and, as I have said, punished us: no more fellowships to Italy.
But the Eisenhower spirit was still alive, like the embers under the ash: it never dies: it has only to wait for the right occasion.
And the occasion showed itself during the Istanbul Conference in the 2006, to which I was participating: the last day a French Fellow, Frederic Mauro, told me: France and Italy have never organized a serious EF event: why don’t we organize, with also other countries, a Conference in Paris? Of course my answer was: I have to speak with my collegues in Italy: and this is what I did, on occasion of a party of the US Embassy where I met Antonio, our previous President Maccanico and Frey. The Challenge acted like a catalyzer in Chemistry: all of us decided suddenly: we have to revitalize our sleeping Association: let’s meet the other Italian Fellow and decide. The positive reaction was immediate: practically all the Fellows reacted accepting meetings and new engagements.
For describing the climate, this is the mail Giuseppe Noia sent to me when I was able to reach him and announcing the re-start of the Italian EF Association: a short mail which confirms what I have said : “I’ll be certainly with you: for so long I was confident somebody would reactivate the circuit (though admitting do not have done too much, myself.”
A sens of guilt?
From there, the success story starts: our answer to Mauro was, unanimously , Yes: I was appointed member of the organizational Committee in Paris, where I had to go seven-eight times and where I worked with people become great friends: Claude, Frederic, Chris – many of them are here in Rome - . We gave non only a managerial collaboration but we raised much more money than any other country, also more than France: Pres. Wolf told me that without the 100.000 dollars from Italy, it should have been impossible to organize the Paris Conference.
Our new vitality was rewarded, of course, from Philadelphia: the fist prize was in 2009: his name is Camilla, the first Italian Fellow after a lot of years; but after the first, in the following year we got a second, Ludovica, and the following year Isabella. Including 2009 and also next year 2015, six new fellows are bringing their enthusiasm and energy to the Association.
So, the Italian Association not only has been revitalized in terms of activity, but also in numerical terms: we are more and are more active.
Which lesson may we get from this?
Every Fellow mantains forever his EF experience in his mind and in his hearth. Our fellowship period has represented something of really important for each of us. For me, certainly, then the duration was 8 months and the reason is evident: but now the fellowship’s duration is much shorter: anyhow I remember that Isabella –coming from the stay in the US – told me “it has been by far the most important experience in my life” and Camilla added “also for me”.
Some time we may need a stimulus: and this stimulus has to come from Philadelphia, some time it is not necessary. In both case each Fellow never forgets to be an Eisenhower Fellow and you, President de Lama, have to know EF may count on him forever.
Rome October 23, 2014