Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region Chairwoman, Nora Hovsepian made the following speech:
Wow. I don’t think there is a dry eye in the house. The video we just saw brought back so many emotions: nostalgia, pride, reflection, and most of all, hope for the future.
I am willing to bet that nearly every single person in this room was there on that historic day and felt the same way, as we marched with 166,000 of our compatriots through the streets of Los Angeles, to show the world that after losing 3/4 of our People to Genocide, we have risen from the ashes. As a community, we came together, and I especially want to acknowledge the leaders of our churches, specifically Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Bishop Mikael Mouradian, and Reverend Joseph Matossian, all of whom spared no effort in joining with us to ensure that our demands as a Nation would be heard loud and clear.
A half a world away from our Homeland, Southern California has become the undisputable capital for our collective demands. After facing denial and revision of history for 100 years, we have strengthened our resolve; we have built powerful alliances, and we have ensured that the crime against humanity, this crime against us, does not remain unpunished.
The tide is turning, as the Turkish Government grows more isolated and alone in the world. With the universal call for accountability from its own allies Germany and Austria, the powerful support of the Vatican, the rising democratic movement of Kurdish, Armenian and other minorities in Turkey, and our own relentless determination on every front, we enter the second century of our rebirth stronger than ever.
Since the Genocide, we have created a powerful Diaspora, we have regained independence for Armenia and liberated Artsakh, and we have grown into what numerous influential editors and politicians describe as the second-most powerful ethnic lobby in the United States. This is no small feat.
Dear friends, honored guests and officials, and fellow activists:
Welcome to the ANCA-Western Region’s amazing 2015 Annual Banquet. I guarantee that by the time you leave here, you will be moved, inspired; and you will remember what you felt on April 24th this year, just as the 600 activists who attended our Grassroots Conference this weekend felt, as they were motivated by all of our panelists to do more for the Cause.
While Eric Bogosian brought the remarkable history of Operation Nemesis into mainstream literature, Geoffrey Robertson and Karnig Kerkonian challenged us with new ways to secure Genocide reparations and fight for recognition of Artsakh through the legal system.
Matthew Karanian and Aris Nalci helped us to understand and seek our roots in Western Armenia, while Scout Tufankjian and Paul Von Blum reminded us of the sheer strength of our survival.
And our friends in elected office, Congressman Adam Schiff, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, and Glendale City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian highlighted our political potential and how to maximize it to counter the multimillions of dollars spent by the Turkish and Azeri lobbies to try to buy political influence.
Thank you to all the panelists, those who are both present tonight and those who are absent, whose enormous contributions made this year’s conference the best one yet.
Organizing events like Grassroots and this Banquet costs money, and we could not have done it right without the generosity and encouragement of Varant and Hoori Melkonian, who sponsored both events this year. Their enthusiasm for the work we do is infectious, and their unwavering and consistent support over many years has been a source of comfort as we dutifully face our financial challenges.
We also give special thanks to the Honorable Walter Karabian, who is going to surprise us with an announcement later tonight, to Ara and Natalya Abrahamian who sent in their generous donation even though they were unable to join us tonight, as well as the Nadjarian, Karapetian, Ghailian, Chraghchian, Sarian, Sepetjian, and Martirosyan families for their generosity in ensuring tonight’s success.
I also want to acknowledge the presence of the Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the United States, His Excellency Tigran Sarkisyan, and the Permanent Representative to the U.S. from the independent Republic of Artsakh, the Honorable Robert Avetisyan, both of whom flew all the way here from Washington DC to join us.
And finally, thanks to each and every one of you, the 1400 strong in this great hall, this year’s Banquet is the largest and most successful one we have ever had.
But this doesn’t just happen, of course. It is due in large part to the creative vision and stubborn determination of our Board Treasurer and Banquet Chair Steve Artinian, who set early goals and met them. He ably led a steering committee of past Banquet chairs and assembled a dedicated team of volunteers and committee members to ensure that every detail is covered. Thank you to all of you.
And none of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of our wonderful staff not just now, but throughout the year, as they face every challenge with optimism, innovation and drive. Thank you to all of our Western Region staff and interns, but especially to our Executive Director Elen Asatryan and our Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan, who work night and day to lead our offices and help us accomplish the goals we set for ourselves.
And what lofty goals they are. This year has been truly momentous in every way. As we commemorated the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, we challenged ourselves and made great strides on every front.
We expanded the Western Region’s work into new areas in Arizona, Dallas, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, Washington state, and even right here in Sunland-Tujunga.
We are registering thousands of new Armenian-American voters through our Hye Votes initiative.
Our Annual Advocacy Day in Sacramento was unprecedented with 700 activists, as we collaborated with the newly-established Armenian Legislative Caucus founded by Assemblymembers Adrin Nazarian, Katcho Achadjian, and Scott Wilk.
We secured Genocide education in public schools by partnering with community college boards, school districts, and teachers’ unions to make presentations and provide our 30-minute film and companion book about Near East Relief to every school.
We continued to advocate for peace and self-determination in Artsakh, sending election monitors and lobbying for support of the Royce-Engel peace proposals to hold Azerbaijan accountable, finally, for its ongoing aggression.
But we cannot succeed alone. Just as 166,000 of us reignited the flame on April 24th, so we must continue. From our donors to our volunteers, from our voters to our educators, from our elected officials to our grassroots, we all have a role to play in harvesting our capital, promoting our vision, and taking the Armenian Cause to new heights of success.
So roll up your sleeves, open your hearts and your wallets, volunteer your time and expertise, stay active, and join us on this incredibly fulfilling journey as we honor our martyrs, demand accountability, protect Armenia and Artsakh, organize our communities, and enter the second century of our Nation’s rebirth with optimism, hope, pride and determination for both the Homeland and the Diaspora.
The March for Justice was not an end, but a beginning. The seeds have been planted, so onward we go.