Since its inception in 1974 the GEI (Gruppo Esponenti Italiani or Group of Italian Representatives), has been a prominent Italian piazza in New York, connecting representatives from Italian businesses operating in the United States, as well as Italian leaders in industrial design and international affairs.
i-Italy sat down with GEI’s President Lucio Caputo for an interview.
One might say that GEI is the piazza of the Italian excellence. How did GEI come into existence and what does it take to manage such a piazza here in the US?
GEI was established over thirty years ago as a forum for the advancement of Italian business, science, and culture in the United States. Back in the Seventies a small group of Italian representatives in New York believed in fact that Italy, its many accomplishments and its high culture did not enjoy the reputation it deserved in the United States. They also maintained that misconceptions and ignorance often contributed to a negative image of our country.
Improving Italy’s image abroad became their personal goal. They agreed to make it their personal obligation to present the many positive qualities of Italian business and culture in New York and the USA.
GEI was created as a non-political and a not-for-profit organization that for the last 35 years has managed to raise the prestige of Italy among American business, political, and cultural leaders, as well as the press. Headquartered in New York City, GEI sponsors seminars, round-table discussions, and other events to promote Italy in all of its diversity to an American audience. The guests-of-honor participating in these events include the American ambassadors to Italy and the Italian ambassadors to the United States, the presidents of various Italian regions, U.S. senators and representatives, chairpersons of leading companies and financial institutions, journalists, cultural representatives, as well as numerous members of the Italian government and parliament. During the working luncheons for its members, guests, and press, each invited Italian or American personality will comment on his/her area of work and interact with the audience, contributing to the reciprocal exchange of views and facilitating direct contacts. GEI’s website offers a survey of the institution’s activities in recent years.
What are GEI’s major accomplishments in creating this network and in promoting Italy’s excellence in the US?
The apex of GEI’s activities is its annual presentation of the GEI Award to notable Italians and Americans for their outstanding contribution in furthering relations between the two countries. The goal of this award presentation is to create a widely publicized annual forum during which those present can share their thoughts on the topic of U.S.-Italian relations. The ceremony, attended by highly qualified Italian and American representatives in the fields of economics, commerce, finance, and press, aims to offer a new image of Italy through lectures, discussions, and an exchange of ideas as well as through extensive newspaper, radio, and television coverage in the United States and in Italy. The prize consists of a limited-edition sculpture designed by the well-known Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro
. Past recipients of the award include: Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the President of the Italian Republic between1999 and 2006; Gianni Agnelli; Guido Carli; retailer Luciano Benetton; former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo; late Metropolitan Opera
star Luciano Pavarotti; and banker and philanthropist David Rockefeller. A special GEI Award was presented to the President of Italy, the late Sandro Pertini, on the occasion of his visit to the United States.
GEI has also enhanced collaboration and friendship among its Italian members active in this country by focusing on important current questions and topics. Moreover, it grants scholarships to American universities and aids their Italian programs. With great satisfaction, our organizational model has been followed and reproduced in various parts of the world such as Canada, Great Britain, Argentina and Switzerland. This is a confirmation of our success.
Is there an upcoming project that you would like to announce?
GEI has met many of the goals it set at the beginning. It will face new challenges coming from the changing economic and political climate in the world. It will also keep deepening the relationship between Italy and the USA. This remains its most important task.