September 4, 2018
My very esteemed journalists from all over the world and from faraway places, distinguished authorities, thank you. I must say that I owe you a great deal for everything that you have done for our company and myself. As you know, the dream I have cherished all my life is to work in order to foster the moral and economic dignity of human beings. I have always maintained that a business needs to make a profit, there's no doubt about it, but this profit must be obtained with ethics, dignity and morals. Moreover, a part of it must be returned to the business itself to strengthen it, another part must be allocated to the company workers, and another portion must go to mankind, because it is our duty to embellish and preserve humanity.
I spent the first part of my life - until I was 15 - in the countryside, and I treasure wonderful memories thereof. We had no electricity at home, we worked the land with animals, and so I can still remember the smells, the shapes of this land, the earth that is mother to all things. I never saw my parents argue, and I still cherish the memory of my grandfather, a slim and smiling man, who would look up and pray, wishing for Creation to send the fair amount of rain, wind, cold. This concept of fairness is fascinating. That's when I started working on the idea of leading a life that could strike a fair balance between profit and giving back.
Then, when I was about 15, my family decided to move closer to the city, because back then my father's dream - and the dream of all farmers, for that matter - was to find employment in a factory. It turned out to be a very intense change, because my father, a very strong man, would never complain about the hard work or the meagre wages, but he would often sadly report the unfair treatment and humiliation he was subject to. And in the evenings, after work, he would wonder what he had done wrong to deserve this offence. I must admit that this left a deep mark in me, I was only 15-16 back then. That's when I said to myself: «I do not know what I will do in my life, but my dream is to work to foster the moral and economic dignity of human beings». Then I spent ten years of my life hanging out at the local cafe, where there was always someone willing to listen to my sorrows. We would discuss topics ranging from politics, women, economics, and theology. I am reminded of the great Heraclitus' statement, Polemos is the father and master of mankind.
The debates at the cafe often touched upon philosophy, that's when I came across Kant: I was just over 17 back then and I still find Kant difficult to understand today, imagine what it was like back then; however, some of his enchanting thoughts struck a chord with me; the first one: «Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me», and then, listen how marvellous this one is, «Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end».
I then decided to “work with cashmere”, because I wanted to manufacture something that you pass on to others, namely a product displaying top-notch Italian quality and high craftsmanship, manufactured whilst fully respecting the humanity and dignity of workers along the process. Moreover, my dear friends, I wanted everyone to work under better conditions, unlike those suffered by my father and my brothers. You know, we all go to work day in day out carrying within ourselves some sort of burden, an in-born malaise of the soul, and working in a slightly better place does make the difference: the great teacher Jean Jacques Rousseau stated that human beings are creative if everything surrounding them is orderly and at peace with creation.
Then we decided to move here, to Solomeo, the hamlet where my wife was born; I myself was born in a village nearby, so this is my culture somehow. We decided to restore it, why? Because listening to the Spirit of the place and the wise words of our masters, I wanted to act as a guardian. This a the concept I learnt from my master emperor Hadrian: «I feel responsible for the beauty in the world».
In this great achievement that we have called "Project for Beauty", we have favoured restoration over construction: for nearly 35 years we have restored this hamlet that we call "Hamlet of the Spirit”.
When restoring and building we have listened to the wise words of our masters, who have taught us to lend our ears to the “genius loci” or spirit of the place.
We wanted our projects to have a three-year horizon, but also a three hundred years and a thousand-year one. Pursuant to this, we have built a "Theatre", a secular temple of art, a "Winery" as a tribute to "Earth, the Mother of all things" and a Monument to "Human Dignity”. I have always been attracted to Greek culture, the culture of the polis, whereby: ”If your doorstep is clean, your entire city will be clean”. “It is our duty to leave you a city that is more beautiful than the one we inherited”. I must admit that I live as an Italian but I have always thought as a Greek.
I believe that we have experienced a time of civilisation crisis, where the great values of man lay dormant. Heraclitus stated: «Whilst things rest, the world regenerates itself». And I argue that we are experiencing a great reawakening from the spiritual, civil, human, religious, ethical point of view, and we need it, since we need to restore our great ideals, we need to believe that we cannot run and rule mankind through science only, we rather need to combine mind and soul; we must join together Voltaire and Rousseau, Apollo and a Dionysus, we need to start from there.
I want to make two very important remarks targeted at you, young people. First, we - the older generation - have taught you that fear is inescapable. Secondly, we have warned you that unless you were proficient at school, you would be sent to work, thus linking work to an idea of punishment; hence, work has lost his nobility; we have deprived it of its moral and economic dignity. The great Lorenzo de' Medici seated Michelangelo, who was 15, beside senior philosophers around the same table, because he wanted to attach the very same degree of moral and economic dignity to work, to arts and crafts alike. There's something I have always been very keen on: "a fair balance between profit and giving back”.
Mankind is entirely new, everybody knows everything and we need to behave accordingly. I would define this way of behaving as some sort of contemporary humanistic capitalism, displaying respect for the human beings and for creation in general. I have always thought that culture is the seed of civilisation and I must admit that the only thing I really need is books. Hadrian also pointed out: «Books showed me the way in life, then life made me understand books».
I have the feeling that we are perhaps experiencing the greatest migration in the history of mankind, and we have to trust this active integration; I like the fact that in our daily business we never use the word globalization but rather “universalism of mankind”. This is what we need to once again discuss. I think that we overwork, we are online too much, and this brings about an even stronger malaise of the soul, which I call "digital background noise”. Saint Benedict used to say: «Every day you shall look after your mind through learning, your soul through praying, and work»; I believe that we need to redress the balance between work and personal life.
Internet, I don't know if you agree, has changed mankind, and what are we now supposed to do with this marvellous gift? We have to try and govern it because it has made the burden in our soul heavier. Therefore, together with you, I would like to beg the great innovators I call “young contemporary Leonardos” and ask them to meet, to discuss and then to tell us how to use these technologies properly and in such a way that they do not steal the soul given to us by Creation. This is the great request I would like to submit to these noble men.
I am pretty convinced that this is a golden century. In the 16th century European merchants and tradespeople came back from America bringing potatoes, tomatoes, maize, and changing European agriculture. That's when Erasmus from Rotterdam, a great genius, stated: «O my Lord, I hope I can live some two more decades, because the golden century is upon us». So, what do we need? We need good people, enlightened people. We must live like my great master Marcus Aurelius taught us: «Live according to nature, plan as if you were to live forever, live as if it was the last day of your life».
And now I would like to express a very special wish to all of us: may Creation shed light on our path, thank you immensely.