Italian president gets Dan David Prize at TAU

Other winners include writer Margaret Atwood, Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore.

May 11, 2010 04:13
3 minute read.
Dan David Award Ceremony Attendees

Dan David Award Ceremony Attendees 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was one of the recipients of the prestigious Dan David Prize, which was awarded at a gala ceremony at Tel Aviv University on Sunday night.

Inaugurated in 2002, the prize is awarded annually to individuals or institutions – past, present and future – that have made excellent and outstanding contributions to humanity in the sciences, arts and humanities.

Napolitano received the award in recognition of his dedication to the cause of parliamentary democracy; Canada’s Margaret Atwood and India’s Amitav Ghosh, for their compelling literary works exploring the history and social issues of 20th-century society; and American Prof. Leonard Kleinrock of the University of California – known as the father of the Internet – Intel co-founder Dr. Gordon E. Moore, and computer scientist Prof. Michael O. Rabin of Harvard and Hebrew universities, for their seminal research and groundbreaking innovations in computer technology.

The prize was given in the presence of Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, who is a law graduate of TAU; philanthropist and inventor Dan David; TAU President Prof. Joseph Klafter; and numerous dignitaries and academics from Israel and abroad, including diplomats representing the countries of all the laureates.

In the citations explaining the reasons for singling out the winners of this year’s prize, Napolitano was characterized as one of the most prominent leaders of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), whose “courage and intellectual integrity have been crucial in healing the wounds of the Cold War in Europe, as well as the scars left in Italian politics and culture in the wake of fascism.”

He was credited with being a crucial player in the process of the Italian Historic Compromise, which bridged the chasm between the Italian Left and Right, and thus integrated the PCI fully into Italian politics, enabling it to participate in government for the first time since World War II. Napolitano became one of the first members of the PCI to serve in an Italian government coalition and was later elected speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. His election in 2006 as president of the Italian Republic has been supported by a wide parliamentary coalition, encompassing parties across the spectrum of Italian politics. He was also influential in moving the PCI toward a pan-European and also Atlanticist position, which had wider repercussions among other European left-wing parties, and toward the adoption of a more measured and balanced policy on the Middle East.

The total value of the prize is $3 million, and the laureates in each category receive $1m.

As in previous years, the laureates donated 10 percent of their prize money toward 20 scholarships for outstanding doctoral and post-doctoral students from all over the world.

The Dan David Prize seeks to impact the next generation of leaders. It involves high school students through the “Name Your Hero” essay competition, in which students submit essays proposing candidates they consider worthy of the prize. Selected students participate in an advanced writing workshop at Tel Aviv University, and the winning students are awarded monetary prizes.

David himself has an honorary doctorate in philosophy from TAU and is a member of the TAU board of governors. An industrial photographer by training, he dreamed of designing a technology for instant photos. When the dream was realized, the photo booth became a fixture around the world, enabling people to take their own ID photos by dropping a coin in a slot and posing in front of a screen.

When his invention was still in the dream stage, David was unable to progress because he was short of money. He found a backer, and through the man’s generosity, was able to make his own scientific contribution to the world.

Now he rewards others who have contributed in other fields, and provides incentives for the next generation.

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