President Ronald Reagan

President Bill Clinton addressing NIAF Foundation

NIAF headquarters,
Washington, DC
The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF)

In 1975, a group of prominent leaders in both the private and public sectors including several Italian American members of Congress formed the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). The objective of the organization was to establish a presence in Washington, D.C., in the hopes of bringing attention to specific Italian American issues in the nation's capital and to provide an umbrella organization for the nation’s significant Italian American population. Accordingly, NIAF is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation, legally incorporated in the District of Columbia, dedicated to preserving and protecting Italian American heritage and culture. Since its beginning, NIAF has funded many important programs and projects including cultural events, educational programs, anti-defamation campaigns, scholarships, grants, seminars, and meetings with an array of world and national leaders. As a resource on all things Italian American, NIAF functions as a clearinghouse to the general public on information pertaining to the Italian American community. NIAF also serves as a liaison between the United States and Italy cooperating in conferences, sponsoring cultural/educational trips to different regions of Italy, and hosting visits of Italians to the United States. As the major Italian American voice in Washington, NIAF works closely with government and political leaders including the White House and the United States Congress in order to secure equitable consideration and treatment for Italian Americans and issues of concern to them. Additionally, NIAF has served as an extension of the Italian American Congressional delegation in the United States Congress since its inception.

From the outset annual awards dinners were held that attracted up to 3,000 people. It is significant to note that in addition to the importance of these events as fund raisers, these NIAF-sponsored annual awards dinners had a political dimension – they have been attended by nearly every Italian American member of Congress and every sitting president since 1976. One of the premier black-tie events in DC and the largest yearly gathering of Italian Americans in the country, NIAF has used this annual event to honor individuals including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Justice Antonin Scalia, Frank Sinatra, Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Andrea Bocelli, Gay Talese, Leon E. Panetta, Joe Montana, A. Bartlett Giamatti, Sophia Loren, and many others. NIAF honorees are recognized for their work in fields that include everything from Medicine and Science, Government and Public Service, Literature, Education, Humanitarian, Business and Industry to the Performing Arts.

Working with young people to preserve Italian America heritage for the next generation and providing educational opportunities for them is a special focus for NIAF. Aside from awarding scholarships, NIAF conducts an annual summer youth retreat, Students to Leaders (S2L) mentoring programs, and the Gift of Discovery student exchange program in Italy. NIAF also helps fund an Italian Language Village in the U.S., has created a database for study abroad programs in Italy, and has developed a comprehensive book on Scholarship Opportunities for Italian American Students. NIAF also remains committed to promoting the study of Italian Language at all educational levels, and was instrumental in having an Advanced Placement Test established in this subject for high school students. Additionally, NIAF labors towards advancing courses, programs, and endowed chairs in Italian American Studies at American colleges and universities. Moreover, the NIAF grants program has proven to be widely successful and has funded a variety of educational, research and cultural projects that preserve and promote Italian American heritage.

Serving the community through a variety of programs, NIAF strives to promote a positive and accurate image of Italian Americans to the American public. Highlighting the numerous and continuous contributions Italian Americans have made to the United States, NIAF continues to serve as the leading advocate for Italian Americans and their interests.

First Lady Barbara Bush addressing NIAF
Italian American Wall of Honor, NIAF Headquarters
NYSE's Chairman Dick Grasso addressing a NIAF Public Policy Forum on Capitol Hill
President Ronald Reagan meets with NIAF board and other Italian American leaders

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