My Mentors / 3. Maria Bartiromo: The Force of integrity
In September 2010, I had just arrived in New York and was exploring the city. One Saturday afternoon, I entered the huge Barnes and Nobles bookstore on 86th Street, where I was struck by the cover of a book by Maria Bartiromo.
That was the first time I heard of Maria. A few weeks later I was invited to attend my first Columbus Day Gala Dinner, where, it turned out, Maria Bartiromo was the Grand Marshal of the Columbus Day Parade. My memory of that night is still very clear; Maria’s speech touched my heart profoundly.
My grandfather Pietro had been born in Philadelphia in 1916, and I realized that, up until that moment, I had no vivid understanding of his experience. Maria’s words allowed me to envision the story of my grandparents and millions of other Italians who immigrated to the United States over the centuries. For the very first time, I grasped the true essence of a country founded on immigration.
Maria’s words elegantly illustrated the pride she took in being American and Italian. The speech was very emotional. That was the first of many events to come during which I had the opportunity to see Maria. She has always actively participated in the Italian-American community, and her involvement extends to the Columbus Citizens Foundation and the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF).
I first spoke to Maria on March 2011, during President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano’s visit to New York on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy. I was in charge of organizing the visit, and Maria was the Master of Ceremonies at a special gala in honor of the President. She also held a beautiful interview with him.
When the organizers traveled ahead to New York, they requested a meeting with Maria. She arrived very punctually at the St. Regis Hotel; the organizers, on the other hand, were delayed. Maria patiently waited for the arrival of the Italian delegation by conversing with us. I was struck by her smile and attitude. She must have been very busy, yet she never once looked annoyed.
That was the first lesson I learned from Maria: the importance of paying any commitment—and one’s interlocutors—the proper respect. After President Napolitano’s visit, my relationship with Maria became very cordial. We often attended the same events, meeting again at the Scuola d’Italia Gala in March 2012. After the event, I received an email from her. I was impressed. Not only had she beaten me to the punch, her email conveyed my exact feelings. Like all excellent journalists, Maria is naturally curious. She has that special gift of understanding people at a glance, of seeing the person behind the title.
After receiving her email, I had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know her more intimately, and the more I talked to her, the more I was fascinated by her extraordinary charisma. Her presence alone makes her stand out. When she enters a room, you cannot help but be drawn to her light. Her modesty and humility come naturally, as is usually the case with someone at ease with herself. Later, I read her book The 10 Laws of Enduring Success and suddenly realized the reasons for my fascination. Each chapter revealed another facet of her inner beauty.
The book is a collection of the lessons she has learned in her life, both from personal and professional experience. It captures the essence of a person who is passionate about what she does and has always had the courage to risk choosing her own path, a path based on her strong ethical convictions and the vision she has of herself; a person who continuously and humbly strives to be a better human being; a person of profound integrity; a person who has always had a sense of what she wants to achieve and how to do the right thing. For Maria, doing the right thing means taking care of other people; giving back to the community; setting an example in your personal life as well as the life you lead as a member of society.
Maria has been Master of Ceremonies for the Columbus Day Celebrations for many years now, and no matter what, she has never failed to fulfill that duty, a sign of her gratitude to the community and the pride she takes in her Italian-American roots. The gala has also been a moment to gather her family together. I have always loved seeing her surrounded by her beautiful family. It speaks volumes about her character.
Maria’s book is still on my bedside table, and I love flipping through it whenever I’m in need of guidance. Thanks to her book, I discovered who I am and what I want to be. Maria has been and still is a role model and a great source of inspiration.
Her example and the lessons I learned from her own personal experiences have taught me a lot about the importance of mentorship. She taught me that mentors do, in fact, exist, and it depends on each of us to be able to seize upon the secret of their success.
Maria’s approach toward life reminds me of something my mother used to tell me when I was a child: “Surround yourself with people better than you and treat them well.” Clearly, she was encouraging me to look for mentors who could help me become a better person. I feel extremely grateful that Maria is part of my life and blessed for her friendship.
*Former deputy-consul in New York Lucia Pasqualini continues her collaboration with i-Italy with a series of portraits of people who have taught her important lessons.