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Kazeminy hands out Ellis Island medals: board backs him fully and rebuts his lone accuser.

Iranian-born Nasser J. Kazeminy proudly handed out this year's Ellis Island Medals of Honor as chairman of the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO). He did so with the direct support of the group's Board of Directors who moved to dramatically stand with him in public solidarity as a means of repudiating the allegations made last spring by the organization's vice chairman, William Fugazy Jr.

In 1986, Fugazy's father, William Fugazy Sr., founded NECO to recognize the achievement of individual immigrants and the immigrant experience in general. Now Fugazy's son charges that Kazeminy is abusing his position to promote himself.

According to the New York Post, Fugazy charged last spring that Kazeminy had failed to hold election meetings to select new officers and has taken NECO into the red financially. He also accused Kazeminy of funneling money to other charities as well. "It's not a PR firm for him," says the younger Fugazy.

Nothing on the public record has happened since Fugazy made his charges. He remains on the NECO Board of Directors, and Kazeminy remains chairman. The other board members, including George Pataki, former governor of New York, Lee Iacocca, former president of Chrysler, and Louis Freeh, former director of the FBI, continue to back Kazeminy in the dispute.

The board wrote Kazeminy a letter calling the artcle in the New York Post, a Rupert Murdoch publication, "tabloid sensationalism" and noting, "The fact that no other media channel has referred to it underscores its total lack of credibility and truth."

The letter said, "The NECO Board of Directors fully supports you as chairman and has complete faith in your leadership." The letter slammed Fugazy, telling Kazeminy, "Your great mission of mercy and clarity of purpose overshadow a lone and baseless critic, shouting from the foul zone because he no longer has anything to offer in the real playing field where lives are being saved by NECO every day."

Kazeminy, who leads the Minneapolis investment firm NJK Holding Corp., joined the board in 2003. He made a fortune through computer leasing. He is known for significant financial contributions to charities.

A proud, naturalized American citizen for decades, he says the honor of standing within the Great Hall of Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants arrived at America's shores over a century ago, continues to take his breath away.


He recently reflected on the legacy of immigrants in America as NECO celebrated its 25th anniversary with a gala reception on Ellis Island where NECO presented its Ellis Island Medals of Freedom to 105 Americans, including Iranian-born Hamid Ansari, president of Prodeo Systems and husband of astronaut Anousheh Ansari; Kamran Khavarani, the painter and architect based in Los Angeles; Francis Najafi, CEO of Pivotal Systems in Arizona; Vali Nasr, professor at Tufts University; and Younes Nazarian, a businessman and leader of the Iranian Jewish community in Los Angeles.

In presenting the awards, Kazeminy observed that many Americans born abroad "read the Declaration of Independence. Many of us stop and reflect on where we were and where we are today because there were men who put their names on a piece of paper on July 4, 1776, and not only declared independence, but, appreciating what it meant if that revolution failed, signed the declaration to mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.' What an extraordinary act of bravery that, today, is being repeated across the world."

In remarks before the NECO gala, Kazeminy told nearly 2,000 people, "As Americans, tonight's medal recipients live in a country that celebrates the individual's unique contribution, and we recognize how the entire nation benefits from their selflessness. When our citizens are encouraged and rewarded for acting on their own initiative to better society as a whole, that is a democratic society working at its very best!"

Kazeminy himself received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1995, eight years before joining NECO's Board of Directors.

In his charitable activities, Kazeminy has sponsored orphanages around the world, assisted NECO in aiding earthquake efforts whether they are in Iran, Italy, China, Japan, Haiti or wherever natural disasters occur. He is also a supporter of democracy throughout the world as the major benefactor of the Foundation for Promotion of Democracy.

Standing in the Great Hall of Ellis Island, Kazeminy said, "I believe NECO's work is more important now than ever before. Twenty-five years after it was founded by a great American patriot, William Denis Fugazy, Sr., this organization has continued to fulfill its mission of keeping the colors of our American heritage alive and vibrant. Together, we have gone from strength to strength, helping ensure that the greatest nation on earth continues to welcome those wishing to share the responsibility of democracy," he said.

Like millions of other Americans--native-born and immigrant--Kazeminy celebrated the Fourth of July this month by grilling "dogs" with his family and lighting a sparkler on his back lawn in tribute to those who pledged "their sacred honor" some 235 years ago in the city of Philadelphia.
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Title Annotation:Diaspora: Around the globe
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Jul 15, 2011
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