Before Panoram Italia talked with him by phone in the late afternoon of August 25, Lecce had just wrapped up a conference call, and hours before that he had attended Minister Julian Fantino’s second annual community BBQ. Lecce had arrived in Toronto only the day before from a trip to Italy that combined sightseeing with a business commitment: meeting with Primo De Luca, the new Canadian Honorary Consul General to Friuli.
Lecce has always had a clear commitment to his goals. He graduated from Western University with a degree in Political Science, and while at school, Lecce merged his leadership skills with his passion for philanthropy by serving as the president of the university and volunteering with various charities.
Lecce is glad he made the most of his time at university, and it’s something he advises to other young people who are pursuing their studies: “I would encourage students to pursue their passions. My message is simple: take advantage of opportunities to get involved. It’s certainly within everyone’s grasp to make a difference on their campus or in their community.”
And Lecce’s involvement with both the international community and the one closer to home has always been evident. While he was at Western University, he led a group of student volunteers to help with Habitat for Humanity’s reconstruction efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Inspired by his volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, Lecce co-founded The Burgundy Brick Foundation in 2007 — a non-profit organization that assists with low-income housing within the GTA. He has also been involved with the Terry Fox Foundation as well as Relay for Life, a charity that raises funds for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Lecce says he owes this sense of duty and dedication to helping those less fortunate to his family, citing that he learned from them the values of hard work, charity and discipline.
He points out that although he has his political plate full in Ottawa, he comes home whenever he can in order to spend time with his loved ones, which include his parents, older brother and two nonnas. “I put a big premium on maintaining that relationship,” Lecce says. “It’s a 500 km drive from Ottawa, but I make an effort to come back and see them.”
He notes that because he’s lived abroad since university, he doesn’t get homesick as much as he used to, but his family values have never wavered. “At a very personal level I promised myself that I would stay connected and involved in Vaughan and my home and not lose sight of my beginnings.”
He adds that this sense of maintaining links is also apparent in the individuals he respects and is influenced by. “I’ve learned that true leaders remain connected to their families and to their roots,” he says, and this is something that he noted in Minister of International Co-operation Julian Fantino.
Lecce joined Fantino’s reelection campaign in 2012, and the experience of working with Fantino left a positive impression on Lecce that continues to this day. “He is a mentor,” Lecce says. “[Fantino] is a value-based leader…and his uncompromising love for Canada is very inspiring.”
Lecce’s work and commitment to charitable causes was recognized in May when he received the Youth Achievement Award from the National Congress of Italian Canadians. “It was an incredibly humbling experience,” Lecce says of the honour. “As a recipient it gave me an opportunity to think about the sacrifices of my family and those pioneering men and women who made that difficult decision to leave their native land in the pursuit of something better.”
It’s no small wonder that Lecce has already set new goals for the future. “The next step for me is to complete another degree,” Lecce says. “It’s important to have goals and to be accountable to your goals,” he adds. “And it’s important to be self-motivated in order to achieve them.”
written by Rita Simonetta