President Obama meets with Italy’s President
President Obama meets with Italy’s PresidentReuters

The President of Italy was honored Friday in Washington, D.C. with the Anti-Defamation League’s highest tribute, the ADL Distinguished Statesman Award.

President Giorgio Napolitano was awarded for his “uncompromising, unequivocal stand against the evil of anti-Semitism” and for “defending the rights of immigrants, minorities and others underrepresented in Italian society,” by ADL National Director, Abraham H. Foxman during a ceremony at Blair House.  

The honor was bestowed in front of an audience of distinguished dignitaries, including the Italian Ambassador and top U.S. diplomatic and administration officials.

 “We thank you for your unflinching, uncompromising, unequivocal stand against the evil of anti-Semitism and your readiness to promptly, vigorously and clearly add your voice as Italy’s president in denouncing anti-Semitic and racist incidents,” Foxman said.  “You have continually made your commitment to this vital battle a clear part of your public life and political leadership.”

Foxman noted Italy’s close alliance with the United States and Israel, and Napolitano’s seminal role in nurturing those relationships.

He also noted the Italian president’s remarks several weeks ago on International Holocaust Memorial Day, in which he expressed dismay at the rise of neo-Nazi fanaticism and violence in Italy, and committed to making certain the lessons of the Holocaust are not forgotten.

“We treasure your longtime support of Israel and your advocacy on behalf of fair treatment for the Jewish state among the community of nations,” Foxman said.  “No wonder Israel and Israelis have such high regard for you and see Italy as such a close friend among the leading members of the European community.”

Past recipients of the ADL Distinguished Statesman Award include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (2009), Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski (2005), Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (2003), Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (2002), President Jacques Chirac of France (2000), Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis (1998), Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz (1997), Ambassador Madeleine Albright (1996), German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel (1995), and Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis (1990).