Here’s Looking at you Kid!

Here’s Looking at you Kid!

Photo credit: Courtesy of NIAF

“I believe that you’ll find tonight’s celebration uplifting and hopeful,” said Pat Harrison, CEO of CPB and Gala Chair while welcoming more than 4K guests to a virtual gala celebrating NIAF’s 45th Anniversary honoring Dr. Anthony Fauci with the Leonardo DaVinci award for leadership in health and science.

Prior to the event, Harrison sat down for an exclusive interview with Dr. Fauci, tracing their Brooklyn roots and the significance of the Italian culture and community while reminiscing about their shared heritage.

Q: “How did growing up Italian in Brooklyn shape your childhood?”

A: “I’m sure anyone who’s had that shared experience with me knows it was a very nurturing and embracing atmosphere. The entire neighborhood was your family. So that to me had a great influence on me because I have always been a people person caring about people. And that was one of the things that drove me into medicine as a profession. Ever since I was a child, as long as I could possibly remember, it was always people caring about each other. And that is the hallmark of the Italian American experience.”

Q: “I was thinking about this in light of what we’re all going through today and the Jesuits teach that we should live with enthusiasm, with joy, with gusto. And that’s very much part of the Italian culture, but how can we really do this at a time of great peril and anxiety? I think a lot of people want to know what sustains you.”

A: “What sustains me Pat is the importance and the significance of the problem that I’m addressing. Right now the end is not necessarily insight in the middle of a historic pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen in 102 years since 1918. You know that getting worn out, getting burned out, getting too tired to go any further is not an option. I mean, that’s just it.That’s not in the cards, no matter how many hours you work, no matter how worn out you feel, you just got to keep going because the problem is of such a magnitude. You just can’t let it get ahead of you.”

Dr. Fauci has been going to the NIAF Gala for years so Pat asked him why. “Is it for the pasta?”

A: “The pasta is good. You’ve got to say that. And it’s amazing. I can’t imagine how we do it every year, where you have so many people in a room and it’s always al dente. I can’t figure that out how they did that. Some people can’t do it for four people, but when you do it for that number of people, well it’s because of the spirit and the old friends.”

Enter Mary Ann Esposito of Ciao Italia who made Fettucine Fauci with Fresh Mushrooms i.e. Fettucine Fauci ai Funghi Freschi and encouraged guests to prepare in advance and enjoy while watching the gala.  Get the recipe here.

The evening’s hosts were Maria Bartiromo, NIAF Board Member, two-time Emmy Award winner, and anchor of Mornings with Maria and Maria Bartiromo’s Wall Street on Fox Business Network, and Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo on Fox News Channel; and Joe Piscopo, NIAF celebrity Ambassador and radio show host.

“I’ll tell you what’s great. Dr. Fauci is from Brooklyn.  Maria, you’re from Brooklyn. Pat is from Brooklyn. Let’s have a little shout out for Jersey please.”

“I love being with you every year. I know that Dr. Fauci grew up in Bensonhurst. I grew up in Dyker Heights, so it was right down the block from each other. We certainly grew up with the same values and the same work ethic and all of the beautiful love and support that our family instilled in us. So I’m so grateful for my Italian-American upbringing.”

“Let us encourage exchanges of people and ideas especially the younger generations and bring out the best of what our great countries have to offer in all fields. From culture to art, from fashion to food, from cutting edge technology to our outstanding space collaboration, our friendship is indeed thriving.”  Italian Amb. to the US Armando Varricchio    

“Tonight is an interesting night for me to be speaking to you while you are in the United States. And I am here in quarantines in Rome.”  US Amb. to Italy Lewis M. Eisenberg

“45 years ago, the national Italian American foundation created a powerful voice in Washington for the millions of Americans who trace their roots to Italy. Since that time, major figures in entertainment, business, philanthropy, humanitarianism politics, and others who have excelled in their fields have been honored by NIAF.  I’m so proud to join the many other NIAF supporters and congratulating Dr. Fauci on this well-deserved recognition. He and Niaf represent the best of America.” Joe Mantegna

“While fashion and style change over time, Dr. Anthony Fauci has not changed his commitment to serve America since he came to the national Institute of health more than 50 years ago.”

“I’m fortunate to be part of the history of rock and roll. But today we are making our own history as we [fight] the world battle, a devastating pandemic that has impacted all of our lives. Certainly few people are doing more to fight COVID than our friend at NIH, Dr. Anthony Fauchi. He’s been protecting the United States from crippling diseases for five decades, and I know it will help get us through this difficult time. Just keep in mind a song I wrote: Love will keep us together.” Neil Sedaka

“I want to thank you for your determined and informed leadership and helping this nation combat the COVID pandemic.  Millions of African-Americans who are disproportionately impacted by the COVID virus depend on you and owe you a debt of gratitude for your steadfast commitment to help our community address this dreadful tragedy and look forward to a brighter future.”  Bob Johnson

“At the first presidential debate in 1988, Vice President, George H. W. Bush was asked: Who was his hero and who young Americans should look up to’? His answer. Dr. Tony Fauci.”

“I’d like to send my regards and greetings to Anthony Fauci.  I had the great pleasure of becoming an acquaintance of Dr. Fauci  at the time of the Harvard 1992 AIDS epidemic conference in Amsterdam where he and an amazing collection of scientists were working on that very daunting threat.” Francis Ford Coopola

“Dr. Fauci has dedicated his life to addressing the unexpected health issues that cause suffering throughout the world. And I am confident that his leadership will bring us to better days. Catherine and I send our congratulations and best wishes.”  Michael Douglas

“Dr. Fauci represents the best of America in this challenging time. We do need the medical community to guide us and I am comforted and grateful to Dr. Fauci for leading the effort. I would like to express on my gratitude.” Isabella Rossellini

“Yo Doc, I want to thank you for all the selfless hard work you’ve done this year. I know you’ve inspired and encouraged so many of the people who are going to try and help us beat this virus for good.  I wrote a song so I want to sing a couple of verses for you. It’s called ‘I got the cure’ and hopefully next year or sooner we could all come back together and you could help me sing the song, holding the cure in your hands.”

“While COVID is keeping most of us at home these days, people like Dr. Anthony Fauci goes to work each morning with one goal – to see our nation through the most devastating pandemic in a century.” Leonardo DiCaprio

“We both spent our lives as Italian-American role models, me playing murderers, gangsters, you devoting your life to keeping us safe. It’s never been more important. These past nine months, I’ve watched you resist often hostile political pressure and I’ve admired that you’ve never betrayed your values or your commitment to us. There are 330 million patients under impossible conditions. You’ve acted with dignity, integrity, and humanity. Please keep it up, please. We depend on you. We’re grateful to you, and we salute you for this richly deserved honor. Bravo Maestro.” 

NIAF Chairman Patricia de Stacy Harrison Interviews Dr. Anthony Fauci: