Passing the Torch at Berkeley: Reviews

Parto Piran-Moradi, PAAIA Bay Area Chapter Leader

October 13, 2010 – Educational and motivational, yet delivered in a dynamic and entertaining forum, the Northern California Passing the Torch of Success on 10.10.10 was simply superb. The sold-out event tantalized us with names and faces of prominent Iranian-Americans from various fields and walks of life. All those featured embodied the passion, dedication and achievements of our community and made us tremendously proud. These ten outstanding individuals inspired us to passionately pursue our dreams, set our goals as high as the stars, and give back to our world community. 

We learned from them that perseverance and strength of character are precursors to “luck”. Glued to our seats, we witnessed the early failures and later triumphs, gazed appreciatively at broadcasts and prominent publications featuring many of our guests and celebrated the achievements and accolades from the White House to our own house. We attentively listened to “lessons from a climb” learning that our aspirations should be reaching the top of mountains and not hills. Collectively, we gasped as pictures of a horrific facial tumor on a Haitian woman disappeared at the hands of a skillful surgeon, and held our breath as the sounds of the space shuttle countdown echoed in the hall.

The success of the event was punctuated by two proclamations, one from San Francisco City Supervisor, Ross Mirkarimi, another by a representative of Governor Schwarzenegger, and a video greeting by Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. In-between the hearty applause, occasional chuckles and emotional musical performance, the audience was enraptured by the entire show. It was heartwarming to witness the young faces of our community and listen to the courageous speeches of two next-generation Iranian-Americans as they promised to nurture the torch of success, unite our community and forever keep the fire of our heritage blazing.

WATCH the PTT Slide Show


From: Roshie Towfighi
Date: Oct 10, 2010, at 7:35 PM
To: Nahal Iravani-Sani

Good Evening Nahal Jon,
I wanted to let you know that we just arrived home from PAAIA event and although I have been on the road for the past hour I am still deeply emotional so I decided to send you this e-mail.
This afternoon’s event was simply amazing….. I enjoyed every minute of it and was so sad when it ended. You have affiliated your self with a remarkable group of Iranians that I am proud to call “HamVatan”. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to listen to their stories and I wish that I could have taken notes!!!!
You did an amazing job and deserve every bit of the recognition that you received from Ross and the Governor’s office. I am proud to have such an amazingly bright young woman as a friend. A great role model for our community indeed!!!

From: Linda Mazaheri
Date: Sun, Oct 10, 2010 at 9:55 PM,
To: Nahal Iravani-Sani

It was a truly amazing event. I was extremely touched and impressed by every minute of the afternoon. I loved the fact that the series of programs were geared towards our younger Iranian American generation. Both of my children had a great time and were very engaged. You are an inspiration to us all. We are all very proud of you.

From: Tara Ahmadi
Date: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 1:03 AM,
 To: Nahal Iravani-Sani

Salaaaaam Nahal joon,
khasteh nabashi.

It was very nice to meet you( although it was very short). I enjoyed every moment of the program and I absolutely loved your final speech. PAAIA has such an amazing goal and it really touched my heart to hear all those words of unity and kindness. I learned alot. You did not only pass the torch of success today, but also the lantern of oneness, unity and kindness. I hope that I can be a part of your future programs and learn even more.
Thank you for the great work.
Take care,

From: Shahrzad Makaremi
Date: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 1:33 AM,
To: Nahal Iravani-Sani

I wanted to say congratulations with an amazing event! I also wanted to thank you, this event was so incredible, so inspirational, and so much fun
I hope we can work together soon!

From: Shad M
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2010 10:05:04 -0700
To: Nahal Iravani-Sani
Subject: PAAIA event

Dear Nahal,

On behalf of Shayan and everyone that attended last night’s spectacular PAAIA event, Passing the Torch at UC Berkeley, thank you very much for organizing such an awesome event here in the Silicon Valley. I wanted to personally drop by to say hello, but imagined you were very busy at the time and thought it would be better to send an email after the event.

I’m very happy and excited to see PAAIA’s mission of working with successful and well recognized prominent Persian American leaders to help strengthen our ties within our communities here in the U.S., whether it be future leaders in politics, medicine, finance, space exploration, news media, music artists, business leaders or other aspiring professionals. The event was extremely inspirational and all the speakers, including the music performance was absolutely amazing.

After attending PAAIA’s event, I would certainly like to encourage my colleagues and friends that I know to also help participate with PAAIA’s mission to help further strengthen the lives, communities and representation of Persian American professionals living in America.

Again, thank you for organizing this event. Along, with my younger brother, Shi (CC’d), I would like to somehow get involved, either with my time or other contribution to help support PAAIA’s mission of connecting successful Persian American leaders with those that inspire to follow in their footsteps.

Kindest regards,

From: Minoo Saghri
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2010 08:26:10 -0400
To: PAAIA Bay Area Chapter
Subject: Re: Oct. 10 Berkeley RSVP

Dear Nahal Jan,
Thank you for a first class event. You make us all proud.
You not only did a great job organizing, but your speech was outstanding too. I look forward to seeing you on the stage, as one of the interviewees at a future PtT.


From: “maryam”
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2010 09:34:00 -0700
To: Nahal Iravani-Sani
Subject: Congratulations!

That was one amazing event on Sunday. The set design and speaker set up was so effective in capturing the attention of the audience. The speakers themselves were so captivating and their words of wisdom taken in deeply by the audience. So proud of you, Nahal Jan.

From: Niloufar Nouri
Date: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 12:35 PM,
To: Nahal Iravani-Sani

Nahal joon salAm,

I hope you are doing well and have had a chance to rest after such a HUGE undertaking. vaagha’an dastet dard nakoneh. Everything was so well organized and wonderful.

I am so glad we got a chance to attend and it was absolutely inspiring to hear from such amazing people in our community. I can’t wait till my kids are old enough to take them with me, so they can take pride in these accomplishments.

Thanks for making it all possible 🙂
take care of yourself now, and take a vacation, you deserve it 🙂

ghorbanat, niloufar

From: Shayan Mohammadi
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 2010 14:06:30 -0700
To: Nahal Iravani-Sani

Subject: Re: PtT event review


I wanted to write a review of the recent Passing the Torch event at UC Berkeley. I enjoyed the event so much that I felt compelled to also write down some of the highlights of the event for those who either couldn’t make the event and also to further encourage all people who haven’t already done so to register to become official members of PAAIA.

If I had to describe the event I wouldn’t call it good or even great. I truly believe the event was phenomenal, and even that is an understatement.

It became immediately obvious that all facets of the planning for this high level event were accounted for. Even as we waited for the doors to the auditorium to open for seating, we could hear classical Iranian violinist music while we waited. This is but one example of the subtleties being well thought out in advance.

The co-hosts were very good and had excellent chemistry working together. I have heard lots of things about Maz and some people have compared my jokes to his. While I never actually attended one of his performances, his jokes about funny cultural pluralism between Iranian and American culture definitely resonated loud and clear to not only the young audience members, but just as importantly to the parents and older generation in the crowd as well.

In high level terms there are many subtle things that I really appreciated about this event. One is that the guest speakers were all very successful, but not just in traditional industries Iranian Americans are historically represented. There were two very famous public radio personalities, which for me growing up first-generation Iranian American, was really inspiring to see fellow Iranians take the paths least traveled and do so well. The two stories about how these talented and passionate individuals rose to the top would make anyone proud, regardless of what industry one wishes to enter. Life lessons about perseverance, humility, and making family members’ proud transcends all industry groups, sectors, and fields. I am personally passionate about high finance, but the stories of overcoming challenges inspired me to not give up on my personal career goals no matter how difficult or elusive. There was Hamid Biglari, whose profile I was very familiar with prior to attending the event. More than a handful of people I talked to outside after his speech considered him in one word, “brilliant”. There was a real estate developer, public policy experts, radio personalities, journalists, and doctors and engineers. I really can’t see how the invitees could be any more representative of the variety of interests of the younger generation in the audience. As they say, “there was something for everyone”.

Personally, I was truly moved by the video of the first Iranian American astronaut. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, and this video was a very emotional experience, in the best way possible, that is. To hear about a woman who always wanted to go to outer space, and to have that dream for so many years, and to one day finally be able to experience it come to fruition. Anyone that has had any dream, no matter how big or ambitious, would have tears come to their eyes after watching that video (either literally or figuratively). Tears of joy, no less 🙂

I knew from the moment I learned about PAAIA that this organization was different and going to be very special. After experiencing the event live first hand, I am so compelled to get involved with the organization in any little way that I can, least of which involves becoming a member (which is absolutely free, takes little to no time online, and convenient).

In summary, the event was a monumental success. I am going to pass the word around about this organization to everyone that I know. And hopefully this review will motivate those who are unsure to sign up as members and experience firsthand these high level “fire-side” chats with some of the most accomplished individuals in our collective community.

My sincerest thanks goes out to all the efforts of PAAIA Bay Area Chapter leaders, UC Berkeley ISAA members, and especially PAAIA Board Member Nahal Iravani-Sani for putting this together.

Shayan M.

From: Mani Farhadi
Date: Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 4:50 PM,
To: Nahal Iravani-Sani 

I can’t thank you enough for all the effort you put forth in organizing and hosting the Passing the Torch event in Berkeley on 10/10/10. It was completely beyond my expectations. Everyone I spoke with was just blown away by the event, and that’s not easy to do with an Iranian crowd! Beforehand, we thought we would be impressed, but what an understatement – the event was powerful, inspiring, uplifting and rejuvenating. I really appreciated the variety of speakers, from the various industries, backgrounds, geographic locations, age groups, genders and perspectives. Certainly Maz Jobrani and Rudi Bakhtiar were excellent hosts, with good chemistry, sense of humor and thoughtful questions. The flow of the program was smooth, with the Q&A format allowing for some personal stories and glimpses of each personality to come through. Having the current Iranian students stand up and introduce themselves to the audience was really a sign of the future generation stepping up. There is hope! I totally got goosebumps from watching Anousheh Ansari and her video! Even my sons (ages 15 and 11) were able to absorb the dynamics, relate to the speakers and take lessons and inspiration away from it. Altogether, it was just an unbelievable event. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Date:October 11, 2010 at 5:56pm
Subject: So Inspiring…

Nahal jaan aziz,
I just wanted to thank you for the outstanding program that you organized yesterday on behalf of PAAIA. It was truly inspirational, particularly for the younger generation. The balance between the humor of Maz and the charm of Rudi and the gravity of the speakers and the topic of their individual successes struck a perfect balance of playfulness yet respect that made a full afternoon’s schedule entirely unforgettable.
Your signature meticulousness and care were ever-present and reflective in all aspects of the day’s event. It’s the countless time-consuming details that add the special touch to such a program, and they are all so very deeply appreciated!
Khasteh nabashid,

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