On the surface, this evening event in the heart of the Financial District in New York City seems a lot like any other VIP-filled gala for the consumer technology industry. A who’s who cast of characters peppered the tables throughout Cipriani 25 Broadway. There was drinks and dancing throughout the evening. A silent auction greeted attendees as they walked through the door (with some pretty sweet consumer tech products up for grabs, I might add). Awards were handed out, and there were a few tears shed during heartfelt acceptance speeches.
For all intents and purposes, this seemed like another opportunity for the top-flight names in the industry to puff their chests out and take a break from the daily grind.
But to look at the ADL Awards Tribute Gala through that limited view would be akin to looking at an iceberg jutting out of the ocean and assuming you’ve seen all that there is to see. (A credit to the evening’s keynote speaker Jason Sirois for that imagery.)
Have a Heart
The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 and is described as one of the nation’s premier human relations and civil rights organizations. The group was formed with the mission of combatting anti-Semitism and has since expanded to cover all forms of bigotry and hate.
The group takes on many forms as far as chapters and industry segments are concerned. Many state and regional chapters of the ADL exist throughout the county, as do industry-specific organizations—one of which is the National Consumer Technology Industry segment of the ADL. That’s the group that was gathered on November 4 to honor three distinguished guests.
Simply put, the evening and everything about the ADL proved that the consumer technology industry has a heart. Though companies compete on different levels in this industry, nights like the ADL dinner show how that competitiveness can be turned in on itself to create something special and truly inspiring. At a time in the U.S. when it seems like tensions are constantly at a tipping point, it was both eye-opening to hear personal stories of struggle, but also refreshing to hear about the kind of impact the ADL can have in local communities.
Sirois, who’s the National Director of No Place for Hate at the ADL, gave a powerful presentation that featured real stories from local high school and middle school students in New York City. The stories shared were at times shocking, but not entirely surprising. Through the students’ stories and his own personal experiences, Sirois painted a hopeful picture of the future. The way we get there, he said, is through constant education at all levels—from young school kids to adults and community-wide efforts. Sirois gave some brief examples of ADL’s take on creating this environment of acceptance and understanding, which included that impactful iceberg analogy.
Practicing What They Preach
Words in a written article can only go so far as to actually effect change or make you understand just how important an organization like the ADL is. Its the actions that an individual takes on a daily basis, in their lives at home and at work, that really send the message.
And its through actions of inclusion, acceptance, and understanding that the ADL chooses to recognize three individuals each year. This year, those individuals were:
Tom Hickman, Nationwide Marketing Group, Patricia Rienzi Legacy Award. Tom is an Executive Vice President at Nationwide, the largest buying group of independent appliance, electronics, furniture, and bedding dealers in North America. Since joining the group in 2012, Tom has been instrumental in crafting the strategic alliance between the HTSA buying group and Nationwide, and piloted the launch of Nationwide’s Home Technology Specialists Nationwide group. Tom has also had stints at Harbour Appliance & TV (an independent retailer), BrandsMart USA, and Toshiba.
Joe Stinziano, Samsung Electronics America, Torch of Liberty Award. Joe is the Executive Vice President of Samsung’s Consumer Business Division. In the role, he is responsible for overseeing sales and marketing for the company’s consumer electronics products in the TV and home entertainment, audio, home appliance, and personal computing categories. He joined Samsung in 2009 after spending time with Sony, AT&T/Lucent, and D&M Holdings.
Mike Edwards, formerly of eBags, American Heritage Award. The former CEO of eBags.com, Mike has been involved in many brand transformations and business turnarounds at some of the leading companies in the consumer tech space as well as the fashion industry. He also previously served as the head of global merchandising at Staples, and he was the CEO of Borders Group, Inc. Mike also had stints at companies like Lucy Activewear, Jo-Ann Stores, Target, and The May Department Store.