Can Seven Outstanding Iranian Americans Inspire the Next Generation? Yes They Can!

Can Seven Outstanding Iranian Americans Inspire the Next Generation? Yes They Can!

Thursday May 6, 2010, Los Angeles, CA – On Sunday April 25th 2010, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans celebrated the third installment of its signature event, “Passing the Torch of Success”, at New York University’s Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.  The occasion was co-hosted by former CNN anchor Rudi Bakthiar and the ever-popular and talented comedian Maz Jobrani.  An inspired crowd of almost 700 attendees were moved by seven of our community’s finest individuals that came together for this occasion to share their remarkable life and career stories.

The event’s speakers included:

  • Mary Apick, award-winning actress, writer and producer, who discussed career confidences in advance of her performance in the critically acclaimed play “Beneath the Veil” playing that same evening at Lincoln Center;

  • Dr. Hamid Biglari, Vice Chairman of Citicorp, who shared ten insights with the next generation about how to live a fulfilling life, among them, work really hard and take destiny into your own hands;

  • Roya Hakakian, responding to questions about the challenges that she had faced on her journey to becoming a prominent journalist and author;

  • Mohsen Moazami who spoke from the heart regarding the challenges he faced as a youngster and how he was able to overcome those obstacles in becoming the leader of CISCO’s entire operations across the emerging markets;

  • Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani, chief investment officer for Private Wealth Management at Goldman Sachs, who responded candidly to questions from the audience about balancing professional, family and social obligations and the importance of philanthropic activities for our community’s image-building; and

  • Firouz Naderi, Associate Director of NASA’s JPL, who discussed the importance of giving back to the community and making a difference in just one person’s life.

One of the highlights of the event was the appearance of world-class concert pianist, violinist, and composer Tara Kamangar who performed Notes from Persia by Armenian Iranian Loris Tjeknavorian before sitting down for an interview.

Much to the delight of the audience, Senator Charles Schumer, the senior senator from the State of New York and the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, made a surprise appearance.   The Senator praised the Iranian American community for coming together under “a credible organization such as PAAIA to celebrate the community’s success and to create an influential voice”.  The audience was particularly pleased to hear that Senator Schumer, a staunch proponent of immigration reform, is working on a bipartisan bill which among other things would award green cards to immigrants who receive a Ph.D. or Master’s degree in science, technology, engineering or math from a US university.

Finally, Senator Schumer praised the labors made by PAAIA stating “there had been nobody talking about Iranian Americans, either positively or negatively, on the hill until PAAIA started.”  It is such testimonies that reaffirm the mission of PAAIA to enhance the image of Iranian American community. 

In line with the event’s theme of passing the torch to the next generation, PAAIA board member, Tamilla Ghodsi, announced the launch of two PAAIA programs designed to create a mutually supportive community.  The first is the Mentorship Program, a cornerstone of PAAIA’s mission to help strengthen and empower the Iranian American community, especially young people planning their careers, as well as early and mid-career professionals.  Under the leadership of Nina Beizai, the Mentorship Program, which is approaching the deadline for applications on May 31st, has received great feedback. The second is a national network of common interest groups or verticals, beginning with the launch of verticals in medicine, real estate, and finance, led respectively by Kaveh Alizadeh, a prominent reconstructive surgeon, Ali Mohamedi of Carlyle Development services, Faraj Saghri of JP Morgan, and Shervin Korangy of Blackstone. 

PAAIA recognized the tremendous help of its partners in organizing the event, including NYU’s Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Columbia University’s Center for Iranian Studies, Iranian Jewish Club at NYU, NYU Persian Cultural Society, Columbia Iranian Students Association and Iranian Alliances Across Borders.

The event concluded with an inspirational recognition of the leaders of the various Iranian American organizations in the Tri-state New York area for all of their efforts in building our community and helping serve as role models for the next generation, including Banou Inc., Iranian American Bar Association, Iranian American Society of New York, Iranian Jewish Club New York, Mehr Humanitarian Society, NJIT Persian Cultural Society, Network of Iranian Professionals, NoRuz at the Met, Persian Arts Festival, Persian Heritage Magazine, Persian Cultural Foundation, Razi Health Foundation, Shabeh Jomeh and Ziba Foundation.

The event was followed by a reception at NYU’s Rosenthall Auditorium and a networking AfterParty at Pranna Lounge hosted by MC Tehran SoParvaz and DJ’s Alix & Amir.  Corporate sponsors of the program included the Persian Cultural Foundation (www.persiancultural.org), Modern Prophecy (www.modernprophecy.com), Oznoz Entertainment (www.oznoz.com), Big Bad Boo, Homa Bridal, Baker & McKenzie LLP, the Iranian American Society of New York (www.iasnweyork.org), the Persian Heritage Foundation, PersianMirror.com, and the Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery.

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