News & Events

Our Italian Adventure/In Italo Veritas


 | Founder and CEO, Institute for Education | Posted: 12/16/2013 4:51 pm

2013 marks the “Anno della Cultura Italiana”, a year-long celebration of Italian culture in the U.S. While numerous festivities have been held in the States to fete the occasion, my family and I believed there was no better way to honor the U.S.-Italian friendship than to travel to Italy. We wanted to experience the country’s essence, learn about its history, absorb its cultural heritage, and feel its soul. And we wanted more than the average tourist experience would give us–to explore how historic Italy is connected to modern Italy and to learn about Italy’s leading scientists, engineers, technologists, and economists, who are poised to make great contributions to civilization at the beginning of the 21st century.

Hot Laps at Ferrari Modena Race Track in Maranello, Italy.

Hot Laps at Ferrari Modena Race Track in Maranello, Italy. 

Giorgio Caire di Lauzet, president of Dream&Charme, and his team facilitated the experience. Our trip began with a flight to Milan, where we stayed at Hotel Principe di Savoia and were treated to fabulous service and great people-watching (for example, business meetings in the lounge where high-powered women wore 5-inch heels and managed to look stylish and supremely competent at the same time). The next day, we were picked up at the hotel for the “Ferrari Challenge Experience”–hot laps at Modena racetrack in Maranello with a bona fide Ferrari Formula One driver.

The price was steep, but for a performance car lover, nothing can beat this adrenaline-fueled experience. All drivers got briefed by an instructor who explained the technical features of the cars and the racetrack. There was also an F1 Simulator beside the track, for practice. Then the driving started on the track with nr.1 Ferrari F430 Challenge. Each person got four laps. A friend said, “Driving was mainly cool because of the environment and atmosphere. Given that the cars are beasts and participants strap in with almost no training, it’s less of a race car driving experience than a whirlwind exposure to the high testosterone world of fast cars and fast tracks. The best part by far was observing how professionals handled the track after your turn was up. Makes you realize just how much of a sport this is!”

Back in Milan, we went to the Armani Restaurant, where everything from the napkins and chairs to the lamps and saltshakers were designed by Armani himself. While anyone can make a reservation, we had the privilege of dining with a few of Armani’s global design leaders. Each Armani representative was elegant, modern, and interesting–a living example of the style and class that the brand is world-famous for. Our dinner companions were also very astute; they knew right away that my Valentino summer dress was from the 2013 collection and that my platforms were Gucci. I learned all about Armani’s shades of grey, which was a nuance I had never picked up before.

Next, we visited Palazzo Arese Lucini in Osnago an hour outside of Milan. The owners, Count and Countess Arese Lucini were there to welcome and spend the evening with us. Dream&Charme organized it all. The count and countess are aristocrats, but they made us feel right at home. Their Villa was splendid and majestic, but also charming. Our hosts, joined by their beautiful daughters, spoke wonderful English. With Count Arese giving us a tour, we found ourselves continually in awe. While the American frame of reference can be measured in decades, theirs stretches across centuries, dating back to 1500. The Villa is truly a secret treasure.

Castello di Brazza, Friuli Venezia, Italy. Kelsey, COunt Corrado Pirzio-Biroli, and Chrstina on the tennis court! The Count was just recently awarded the Commendatore Della Republica decoration by the Italian government.

Castello di Brazza, Friuli Venezia, Italy. Kelsey, Count Corrado Pirzio-Biroli, and Christina on the tennis court! The Count was just recently awarded the Commendatore Della Republica decoration by the Italian government.

Count Marco Arese took us to the chapel where he was married–and where perhaps his daughters will wed. The chapel was built with the house in the first half of 1600 and frescoed by Storer in 1650 with scenes from the Bible, the Four Evangelists and, over the altar, a painting from Carracci with a depiction of Jesus on the cross. Our hosts were married here with special permission (“consecration”) from the Holy Pope for this specific wedding. For several centuries, women were not allowed to attend mass in chapel, but had to view the proceedings from their private quarters through small windows overlooking the chapel. Looking up and seeing them, you can imagine all the faces peering down on the service below.

The Villa’s library houses over 20,000 rare books, including the 1480 Bible, the “sacrilegious” Luther Bible, rare incunables, original first editions of Galileo and Newton’s works, the first edition of the French Encyclopedia, and reports and other documents from the American Revolution.

Count Arese spoke about the family being close to Napoleon and actively supporting him during his Italian campaign to free Northern Italy from the Austrian empire’s domination in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. The family holds in its archives numerous letters from the Emperor together with the Imperial seal, the camp bed said to be used by the Emperor during the Russian campaign (which they politely asked their guests not to sit or jump on), and the Légion d’honneur awarded to the family by the Emperor in exchange for the services rendered. The camp bed is in one of the guest rooms. Napoleon’s bed, can you imagine?

The Pizio-Biroli and Kemper Valentine family standing in front of the 11th century castle where Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is documented to have taken place.

The Pizio-Biroli and Kemper Valentine family standing in front of the 11th century castle where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is documented to have taken place.

To have the family share their treasures and stories was extraordinary, and made us feel close to history. As an American, I was continually reminded of the youth of our democracy.

Then there is Castello di Brazzà, in Friuli Venezia, near Venice–an extraordinary Villa and property almost like an American country club with two swimming pools, a tennis court, 11th century castle, chapels, and a museum exhibiting the family’s history.

Upon arriving, we were warmly greeted by owners Counts Corrado and Cecilie Pirzio-Biroli. Villa Brazzà has been in the Venetian Pirzio-Biroli family since the 10th century. Countess Cecilie Pirzio-Biroli comes from a noble Belgian family with five family crests, Cornet d’Elzius. Two cosmopolitan families with centuries of history.

They had the Villa manager take our luggage to our rooms. We were offered tea and then set out for a tour given by Count Corrado. The landscape from the Dolomite mountains to the Adriatic Sea is spectacular and serene–no traffic, no airplanes, just birds singing and our questions. We trekked around the property, learning about its history as we headed towards the family museum. Count Corrado regaled us with stories of his ancestors from centuries ago.

He spoke of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus; the explorer Pietro Savorgnan di Brazzà, founder of the African country of Congo; the Grand Admiral Tirpitz of the German Imperial Navy; General Alessandro Pirzio-Biroli of the Abyssinian, Greek and Montenegrin campaigns and his daughter Eugenia, who founded a city in Chile; as well as the well-known artist and student of Canova, Ascanio di Brazzà, and his wife Giacinta Simonetti, who alone was descended from two Doges of Venice.

Soon we approached the 11th century castle ruins in the backyard, which are said to have inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet! Luigi Da Porto and Lucina Savorgnan (both members of two distinct branches of the family Savorgnan) were in fact the real Romeo and Juliet.

After touring the Villa grounds, we changed into tennis clothes and played three sets of tennis, swam, took a nap by one of the pools in the shade, and relaxed, Italian style! In the evening, we joined the count and countess for cocktails on the terrace and dinner in the dining room. Our hosts had invited another aristocratic couple that owned a villa close by to join us. The pasta was fresh and al dente; the ham was thick, salty, with authentic flavors; and the fruit tasted like it had been picked that morning (indeed, it had been!) We washed it down with the fresh and bright local wine.

Pope Francis at St. Peters Square

Pope Francis at St. Peters Square

The conversation ranged from Italian and American politics to wine, music and Italian style and design. We felt as if we had been visiting for weeks! Federico, the heir, joined us with several of his 20-something friends for after-dinner drinks and coffee overlooking the property. Ah, the life… Aristocratic, elegant, chic, lively, and athletic!

Kathy, Kelsey, Christina Kemper Valentine and Jim Valentine in front of St. Peter's Basilica, The Vatican

Kathy, Kelsey, Christina Kemper Valentine and Jim Valentine in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican

The overwhelming highlight of our trip to Italy was going to St. Peters Basilica in the Square early on a hot, sunny morning, waiting for three hours, and then spending an hour with the Pope. Dream&Charme arranged the entire morning, including pick-up from the hotel and drop-off by the Square, which is tricky since many roads are closed when the Pope is scheduled to appear. We were met by our guide, Pietro, who weaved his way through the crowds and roads with us in tow. He shared many stories about his experiences in the Vatican. Pope Francis has grabbed the world’s attention with his open embrace of all humans, not just Catholics. From the moment he washed and kissed the feet of a Serbian baby Muslim girl to the occasion on which he broke Vatican protocol by bowing to Muslim Queen Rania of Jordan, this Pope started remaking the church’s image. He is humble and inclusive and reaching out to the poor and under served.

As the hour grew closer, the crowd’s excitement was electric and contagious. We felt a kinship with the people around us, no matter their faith. There were Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus all waiting for this holy man. Pope Francis entered on his Pope mobile and slowly rode around the huge square. A band was playing, and people were cheering and singing. It was heavenly. The Pope was energized, stopping frequently to hold, kiss, and bless people. I started to wonder if he would ever get to the stage beside us for his prayers and homily

The Pope’s remarks were delivered not only in English, but in Croatian, Polish, Portuguese, Arabic, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. His theme was inclusiveness–no one is considered unworthy in the church, we are all necessary, we all can be redeemed. I so admire and love the Pope. My family is Catholic, but not devout. His enormous heart and message of inclusiveness touched our souls. Even in the heat of a Rome summer morning, sitting on hard, hot chairs, baking, I could have listened to the Pope for hours. Several tourists from Argentina were sitting behind us. Of course, they could not stop waving and cheering “Popa Popa!” The joy and exhilaration he carried with him was infectious. The Buddhist monks sitting on the platform just a row in front of us felt the same way and were waving and clapping in awe.

That was the highlight of our Italian experience. It is still and shall remain with us all.

Next stop: Lake Como!

Dream&Charme arranged for us to arrive to Villa Sola Cabiati by boat. At once, we were struck by the Villa’s Baroque architecture. Upon the landing, we walked up a double staircase with an ornate greystone balustrade from the water to a wrought iron gate gilded with an “S” and a Duke’s crown. This was the summer residence of Duke Gabrio Serbelloni from the second half of the 1700’s.

Beyond the gate lay four parterre flower gardens arranged in the Italian style.

DEinner at Villa Sola Cabiati, Lake Como, Italy

DEinner at Villa Sola Cabiati, Lake Como, Italy 

The owners Counts Emilio and Elisabetta Gola and Marquise Slisabetta Lalatta met us at the gate and escorted us to the gardens for cocktails. It was as though we were a movie. Our hosts took us on a tour of the noble Villa and showed us magnificent rooms decorated by Tiepolo’s pupil from Milan, Francesco Conegliano, 18th century tapestries, the Sevres porcelain collection, and the four black Stradivarius violins that were played at Empress Maria Luigia of Austria’s funeral.

At dinner, the large doors opened up on to a view of Lake Como, with the colors on the walls complementing the lake’s colors. We dined with crystal, china, silver and service fit for kings, queens, and emperors. Legend has it that Napoleon Bonaparte spent many nights in the Villa.

Our unique dream Italian experience was topped off with a visit to Positano, on the Amalfi Coast. As always, Dream&Charme arranged everything. La Sirenuse, overlooking the bay of Positano, was our destination. Lemon trees, peaceful, enchanting terraces, white-washed walls, vaulted ceilings, handmade tile on the floors, and the finest service possible.

Thomas van Straubenzee, Jim Valentine, Lady Melissa Percy, Kelsey Kemper Valentine, Kathy Kemper, and Christina Kemper-Valentine on the terrace of La Sirenuse, celebrating with honeymooners, Van and Missy.

Thomas van Straubenzee, Jim Valentine, Lady Melissa Percy, Kelsey Kemper Valentine, Kathy Kemper, and Christina Kemper-Valentine on the terrace of La Sirenuse, celebrating with honeymooners, Van and Missy.

John Steinbeck, who often lived at La Sirenuse, said in 1953, “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”

Thanks to the Arese and Pirzio-Biroli families and Dream&Charme, the Kemper Valentine family captured some of the noble Italian soul, its culture of art, beauty, history, and design, and how these are connected to modern Italy’s heart.

Click here to view article on the Huffington Post

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IFE INFO Panel on the Internet of Things (IoT)

John Paul Farmer with White House Presidential Innovation Fellows Dr. Sokwoo Rhee, Dr. Joe Polastre and Geoff Mulligan

John Paul Farmer with White House Presidential Innovation Fellows Dr. Sokwoo Rhee, Dr. Joe Polastre and Geoff Mulligan. Photo Credit: Kevin Allen

The splendid Kalorama home of UNESCO Ambassador Esther Coopersmith is a place where beautiful things, from oil paintings to figurines to antique furniture, are everywhere. On Tuesday, June 16, the Institute for Education held a salon that imagined a future where the things we use are not just attractive and functional, but also smart. 

The panel included Aneesh Chopra, former Assistant to the President and the first-ever Chief Technology Officer of the United States, as well as White House Presidential Innovation Fellows Geoff Mulligan, Dr. Joe Polastre and Dr. Sokwoo Rhee. It was moderated by John Paul Farmer, IFE Emerging Markets Roundtable Co-founder and Director of Technology & Civic Innovation at Microsoft. 

An intimate gathering attended, including Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Eleanor Clift of The Daily Beast, Jill Dougherty of CNN, and IFE Steward Ed Henry of Fox News. Representing IFE were Co-founders Coach Kathy Kemper and James Valentine, Board of Stewards Chair Marci Robinson, and Innovation Steward Dr. Amy Geng.Watch a video recap of the “Internet of Things” here:

“Computing is moving to the edges,” said Polastre. The Internet, he noted, was designed for people to talk to people, but advances in technology have created opportunities for objects to communicate directly with other objects, collecting data and triggering actions that make our society more efficient—and even save lives.

What does it mean for things to be smart? Mulligan described a pilot program held in the homes of elderly, low-income residents of Montgomery County, Maryland, that greatly extends the capabilities of ordinary home smoke detectors. Recently showcased at the SmartAmerica Expo spearheaded by Mulligan and Rhee, the networked smoke detectors gathered data on smoke, gas, light, mold and pollen in the homes, and also monitored the motions of the people who lived there to ensure that they are healthy and active. Insights from these devices promise to improve quality of life for broad numbers of consumers.

Much of the potential of the Internet of Things lies in similar sensor-based efforts to gather information that will help us better understand trends and behaviors, and respond to them quickly. Think of a world where road sensors and traffic lights smooth out traffic jams and protect drivers, and houses and offices better conform to our needs.

“We might design a building that we think is better, but if we aren’t collecting data we don’t really know,” said Farmer. The Internet of Things can enable “feedback loops” that show us what’s working and what could be improved, and enable action to be taken in milliseconds.

Justice Breyer voiced support for the concept but raised questions about privacy and the role of government. He told the story of architect Frank Gehry, who prior to designing the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles spent eight months sitting with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra to better understand what the new venue would need to do.

“You don’t know what I need, and what’s interesting is, I don’t know what I need,” said Justice Breyer. “Is someone from the White House going to sit with me for eight months?”

Chopra, the author of “Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform the Government,” responded to Justice Breyer by describing “modest and well-defined” policy frameworks that directly empower individuals and create opportunities for innovation in the private sector. He cited the example of Pacific Gas and Electric, a California energy utility that instituted “Green Button,” a standard developed by the White House in collaboration with companies to allow consumers to securely download their own detailed energy-use profile with a simple online button-click. Individuals can then take advantage of apps and services developed by private industry to use the data to make smarter energy choices and save money. 

The panel agreed that we have seen only the beginning of what the Internet of Things can do to improve the lives of Americans. One day soon, Ambassador Coopersmith’s home might be more than a stunning collection of art and history. It could also be a place where seemingly ordinary objects make her guests happier, healthier, and a little bit smarter.

Contributed by Mark Schulte, IFE Fellow | Photo Credit: Kevin Allen
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IFE INFO to Host Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court

The Institute for Education (IFE) is pleased to kick-off its Fall Season with “A Tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves.” Justice Ginsburg will be introduced by Theodore B. Olson, former Solicitor General of the United States, co-author of the book “Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality” with David Boies., and a partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Washington, D.C. office.   The evening salon will be held at the Supreme Court of the United States on Monday, September 22, 2014. By invitation only.

About Our Distinguished Guest:

Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg_official_portraitRuth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice, was born in Brooklyn, New York, March 15, 1933. She married Martin D. Ginsburg in 1954, and has a daughter, Jane, and a son, James. She received her B.A. from Cornell University, attended Harvard Law School, and received her LL.B. from Columbia Law School. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Edmund L. Palmieri, Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, from 1959–1961. From 1961–1963, she was a research associate and then associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure. She was a Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963–1972, and Columbia Law School from 1972–1980, and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California from 1977–1978. In 1971, she was Co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, and served as the ACLU’s General Counsel from 1973–1980, and on the National Board of Directors from 1974–1980. She served on the Board and Executive Committee of the American Bar Foundation from 1979-1989, on the Board of Editors of the American Bar Association Journal from 1972-1978, and on the Council of the American Law Institute from 1978-1993. She was appointed a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. President Clinton nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and she took her seat August 10, 1993. Read More | Justice Ginsburg’s Opinions

About Our Performer:

denyce gravesRecognized worldwide as one of today’s most exciting vocal stars, Denyce Graves continues to gather unparalleled popular and critical acclaim in performances on four continents. USA Today identifies her as “an operatic superstar of the 21st Century,” and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution exclaims, “if the human voice has the power to move you, you will be touched by Denyce Graves.” Her career has taken her to the world’s great opera houses and concert halls. The combination of her expressive, rich vocalism, elegant stage presence, and exciting theatrical abilities allows her to pursue a wide breadth of operatic portrayals and to delight audiences in concert and recital appearances. Denyce Graves has become particularly well-known to operatic audiences for her portrayals of the title roles in Carmen and Samson et Dalila. These signature roles have brought Ms. Graves to the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Washington Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Arena di Verona, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opernhaus Zürich, Teatro Real in Madrid, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Los Angeles Opera, and the Festival Maggio Musicale in Florence. Read entire bio or view Ms. Graves’ website.

About of Introducer:

ted-olsonTheodore B. Olson is a partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Washington, D.C. office, a member of the firm’s Executive Committee, Co-Chair of the Appellate and Constitutional Law Group and the firm’s Crisis Management Team. Mr. Olson was Solicitor General of the United States during the period 2001-2004. From 1981-1984 he was Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice. Except for those two intervals, he has been a lawyer with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. since 1965. Selected by Time magazine in 2010 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, Mr. Olson is one of the nation’s premier appellate and United States Supreme Court advocates. He has argued 60 cases in the Supreme Court, including the two Bush v. Gore cases arising out of the 2000 presidential election, and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, prevailing in over 75% of those arguments. Mr. Olson’s practice is concentrated on appellate and constitutional law, federal legislation, media and commercial disputes, and assisting clients with strategies for the containment, management and resolution of major legal crises occurring at the federal/state, criminal/civil and domestic/international levels. He has handled cases at all levels of state and federal court systems throughout the United States, and in international tribunals. Mr. Olson’s Supreme Court arguments have included cases involving separation of powers; federalism; voting rights; the First Amendment; the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses; jury trial rights; punitive damages; takings of property and just compensation; the Commerce Clause; taxation; criminal law; copyright; antitrust; securities; campaign finance; telecommunications; the environment; the internet; and other federal constitutional and statutory questions. Mr. Olson is co-author of the book “Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality” with David Boies. Read More | Selected Appellate Litigation





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ALS Ice bucket challenge

White House Presidential Innovation Fellow, James Sanders and Coach Kathy Kemper, at Congressional Country
Club, 18th green, supporting the ALS Ice bucket challenge , with John
Paul Farmer, IFE EMR founder and co founder of the PIF program.


Posted in IFE Updates, Innovation | Tagged , , | .

IFE in September 2014 Washington Diplomat Spotlight

Diplomatic Spotlight September 2014 Internet of ThingsDiplomatic Spotlight September 2014 Internet of Things

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Power Pitch Panel features Andrew Mitchell, IFE EMR Co-founder

Stay Tuned! Power Pitch featuring Marbel airs today!

On today’s Power Pitch we have a company looking to speed up your daily commute with an electric skateboard! Matt Belcher is the founder of Marbel and he had 60 seconds to convince a panel of experts he has what it takes to become the next big thing. The panel included Andrew Mitchell, the founder and managing partner of Brand Foundry; Greg Selkoe, the CEO of Karmaloop; and Don Brown, a world champion skateboarder and chief brand strategist at Sole Technology. CNBC anchor Mandy Drury hosted the segment.

Link: http://cnb.cx/1xaPJnA

Watch the video above and let us know if you’re IN or OUT by voting during the Power Pitch segment today on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” in the 1pmET hour.

Please spread the word to have your networks log onto CNBC.COM/VOTE to vote IN or OUT on Marbel!

Suggested tweets: 

Smart skateboard speeds up commute http://cnb.cx/1xaPJnA | #powerpitch | @ridemarbel @karmaloop | @tampabaywave

Zip around town with this smartphone enabled skateboard http://cnb.cx/1xaPJnA | #powerpitch | @ridemarbel @kickstarter | @brandfoundryvc

Other handles: @ridemarbel | @belchco | @karmaloop | @selkoe | @brandfoundryvc | @mitchellcandrew | @mandycnbc | @kickstarter | @tampabayWaVE | @Don_Brown

Posted in IFE in the News | .
  • Testimonials

    “As someone who attends a lot of activities in Washington, Kathy Kemper’s IFE INFO gatherings are unique. They combine a rare mix of leaders from nationally renowned journalists, to local and national business people, Ambassadors and even Supreme Court Justices. They allow me to widen my view and expand my thinking.”

    -Chris Caine, IFE Board of Stewards