DENVER, Colo. – The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region honored Colorado Governor John W. Hickenlooper on Monday with the organization’s highest recognition – the prestigious Freedom Award – for his resilient leadership and dedication to and tangible achievements for Armenian Genocide awareness and human rights.
“I am honored to be recognized by ANCA Western Region in the Centennial Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide,” remarked Governor Hickenlooper upon receiving the Freedom Award from ANCA-WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan. “Thank you to the Armenian community for diligently working for genocide and human rights awareness to educate and empower all Coloradans and Americans.”
Hickenlooper graciously accepted the Freedom Award presented by ANCA WR Executive Director Asatryan at the end of the meeting that took place earlier today at the Governor’s office in the Colorado State Capitol Present at the meeting were also ANCA-WR’s Simon Maghakyan and Tatev Oganyan, ANCA-Colorado co-chair Jirair Christianian, and ANCA-Colorado advisor and former state Senator Lois Tochtrop, Armenians of Colorado (AOC) Board President Sona Hedeshian, AOC Centennial Committee chair Anahid Katchian Logue, Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles Sergey Sarkisov, and Deputy Consul General Artak Galstyan.
“We are deeply grateful for Governor Hickenlooper’s strong leadership and ongoing commitment to forcefully defending and advancing issues critical to Armenians worldwide,” remarked ANCA-WR chair Nora Hovsepian, “as well as his staunch support for the proper recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the Armenian Memorial Garden on Colorado State Capitol grounds in memory of those who perished in 1915. Our recognition of Governor Hickenlooper is a testament to ANCA’s growing commitment to recognizing and empowering the commendable work of all of our communities and their devoted supporters throughout the United States.”
The group also took the opportunity to thank the Governor for proclaiming December 6, 2015 as the 10th Anniversary Commemoration of Djulfa and his unwavering support of issues important to the Armenian community. Discussion topics during the meeting also included recognition and teaching of the Armenian Genocide, recognition of Artsakh’s Independence and right to self-determination as well as support of Syrian refugees, the recent initiative of eliminating double taxation between the United States and Armenia, and potential partnership between Colorado and Armenia and Artsakh.
Past recipients of the ANCA Freedom Award include former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John M. Evans, United States Ambassador to the United Nations and Pulitzer Prize winning author Dr. Samantha Power, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, the late U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, former U.S. Senator Robert Dole, former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole, and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords Baroness Caroline Cox.
A native of Pennsylvania, John Hickenlooper has been the Governor of Colorado since 2011. He is a lifetime entrepreneur who ran as a “dark horse” to become Mayor of Denver in 2003. He led the campaign to pass FasTracks, the largest regional transportation initiative in U.S. history, and helped convince the 34 metro mayors (2/3 Republican) to unanimously support and pass the 0.4% sales tax increase at the ballot. He recruited top managers to his cabinet from business and wherever he could find them. In eight years he had streamlined the total workforce by 7%, the first such reduction in Denver’s history. In 2005 TIME Magazine named him as one of the five top big-city mayors in America. When he was inaugurated Governor of Colorado in 2011, having run on his history of collaboration for community good, he became the first Denver mayor to be elected governor in 150 years. He also became one of the first geologists to become a governor in the history of the nation, and the first brewer since Sam Adams in 1792.
Despite his business background, Governor Hickenlooper has also devoted considerable attention to human rights issues. In 2014, on the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, he became the first governor to recognize and apologize for the 1864 mass murder of several hundred Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians in southeast Colorado, and has since launched a campaign to memorialize the massacre with a permanent memorial on the grounds of the Colorado State Capitol, not far from the Armenian Genocide Memorial Garden. In 2015, when most US governors expressed opposition to accepting Syrian refugees, Governor Hickenlooper became one of the few state executives to speak in support of welcoming Syrians fleeing the ongoing civil war.
Hickenlooper’s support for the Armenian American community spans over a decade. As mayor then governor, he consistently issued Armenian Genocide proclamations. In 2012, Governor Hickenlooper authorized a proposal by Armenians of Colorado (AOC) to install a khachkar memorial on the grounds of the state capitol’s existing Armenian Memorial Garden. On April 24, 2015 – the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, he became the first US Governor to unveil the unprecedented Colorado State Capitol Khachkar. During the unveiling that was attended by hundreds of Coloradans, Governor Hickenlooper expressed “hope that those who come to the Capitol will make sure that the khachkar is on the itinerary of every school group… And hopefully these kids will be inspired to renew the fight against bigotry in their own lives, whether it is speaking out on an act of bullying on a schoolyard or organizing action against genocide in Africa or some parts of Asia.”
Gov. Hickenlooper’s latest support for the Armenian American community was expressed on December 6 – the 10th anniversary of the destruction of Djulfa khachkars, one of which was replicated for the Colorado capitol. In the first ever gubernatorial declaration on Djulfa, Governor Hickenlooper memorialized “the deliberate destruction of the world’s largest collection of medieval khachkars at Djulfa; [which] has been documented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science,” and stated that “Coloradans are encouraged to visit the State Capitol and view the replica Djulfa khachkar.”
In addition to the presentation of the Freedom Award, the December 7 meeting included a discussion of issues of concern to the Armenian American community, including genocide education and trade opportunities between Colorado and Armenia. The meeting with Governor Hickenlooper followed a Sunday, December 6 Shine a Light on All Genocides candlelight vigil and program, organized by AOC in partnership with ANCA-Colorado and other community organizations, during which nearly a hundred individuals, including public officials and dignitaries, came together to conclude the Centennial Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Colorado.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues. For more information, visit www.ancawr.org.