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Highlights of 1999 NELA Gala

Tony Bennett, Larry King, and President Clinton Light up Stage at Sons of Italy Foundation® Gala

Frank Sinatra, Jr., and Tenor Michael Amante Dazzle Audience

Contact: Diane E. Crespy, (202) 547-2900

Washington, D.C., May 27, 1999 - A stellar crowd of 800 corporate CEOs, nonprofit executives, government officials, entertainers, and other dignitaries gathered at the National Building Museum to join the Sons of Italy Foundation® (SIF) in honoring Kmart President and General Merchandise Manager Andy Giancamilli, Tony Bennett, and 12 young Italian-American scholars, and to hear special performances by Frank Sinatra, Jr., and his orchestra, and tenor Michael Amante, at the 11th Annual National Education & Leadership Awards (NELA) Gala on May 22, 1999.

"The 1999 NELA Gala was truly an occasion to remember. We were graced with the support of major corporations, dignitaries, and celebrities, as well as a visit by President Clinton," SIF President Paul S. Polo said. "This is the most successful NELA Gala to date, and our supporters should be proud to know that many worthwhile causes - including education, disaster relief, and health care and medical research - will benefit from their generous financial and service contributions."

Emcee Larry King entertained the audience with anecdotes of growing up in Brooklyn, and opened his tuxedo jacket to reveal the trademark suspenders, proving that "it's really me." As the presidential seal was placed on the podium, King joked that his mother was looking down at him saying, "That's better than a doctor."

Prior to the presentations, tenor Michael Amante sang two arias, "O Sole Mio" and "Nessun Dorma," and received two standing ovations.

For the second year in a row, President Clinton addressed the gala audience, which included HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, Italian Ambassador to the United States Ferdinand Salleo, Rep. Connie Morella, actress Connie Stevens, and singer Isaac Hayes. He then shook hands at a receiving line and also took time to meet all the National Leadership Grant Competition (NLGC) scholarship recipients.

"I want to congratulate Andy Giancamilli of Kmart and Tony Bennett for their awards tonight. We have the president of one of our great retailers and America's greatest living pop singer; that's a pretty good representation of the gifts that Italian Americans have given to our nation, and you should be proud of them," Clinton told the audience.

". . . Those you honor tonight for their gifts - from physics to music, to political science, to community service - prove that people of Italian descent will continue to make enormous contributions to our country in the century just ahead," Clinton said of the scholarship recipients.

Giancamilli received the SIF's National Education & Leadership Award (NELA) for the superior leadership and dedication to education he has demonstrated in business and his community. He rose rapidly through the Kmart ranks to his current position, and had equal success at Perry Drugs, where he began his career. As President of Kmart, he plays an active role in Kmart's community programs, which include Kmart Race for Kids and the Kmart Family Fund.

Like no other organization, the Sons of Italy® uniquely celebrates our heritage, our respect for leadership, the spirit of family, and our commitment to education and learning," Giancamilli said, upon being presented the NELA, a Lalique Crystal Bamara Lion.

"I grew up believing in the Italian honor code - that you must give back the same, if not more than, what you take. Honesty and integrity cannot be compromised, for those principles are at the very core of who we are," he continued.

Tony Bennett was on hand to receive the 3rd Annual Humanitarian Award, a Baccarat Crystal American Eagle, for his philanthropic endeavors and commitment to mankind. SIF Spokesperson and actor Tony Lo Bianco presented the award.

Frank Sinatra, Jr., and his orchestra closed the event with a nearly hour-long set in honor of Tony Bennett. He included "One for my Baby," "Masquerade," "That's Life," and ended with the last line of one of his father's signature tunes, "My Way."

The Sons of Italy Foundation® is the philanthropic branch of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the longest-established, most demographically diverse organization of men and women of Italian heritage in the United States. The SIF is dedicated to supporting and developing education, cultural, and other philanthropic programs for the benefit of all Americans, especially those of Italian descent.