On Sunday, October 16, the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region hosted its annual gala at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, gathering more than 1,000 elected officials, community leader, activists and supporters. During the gala, ANCA-WR Board Chairwoman Nora Hovsepian, Esq. eloquently outlined the priorities of the Armenian Cause. Below is the text of her speech.
Welcome to the 2016 ANCA Western Region Annual Gala Banquet! We are once again sold out with over 1000 attendees here, and thanks to the unwavering leadership and meticulous attention to detail by our wonderful Banquet Committee Chair, Mrs. Lina Davidian, and her dedicated and incredible team of volunteers, we are sure to have a memorable and inspiring evening. A big thank you to all our donors, activists, honorees, and elected officials for being here to support the ANCA and our important work for the Armenian Cause for justice.
As you saw, many of our endorsed candidates are here, including old friends and reliable allies as well as new friends who have gone through a screening process to earn our organization’s coveted endorsement. Believe me, our endorsement does not come easily, and we don’t take our role in helping guide the Armenian-American vote lightly.
At a grassroots level, our HyeVotes team, in collaboration with so many organizations in the community, has successfully registered over 30,000 new voters in the past few years, and we are working diligently to already Get Out the Vote. So please use your handy ANCA voter election guide, and let’s use our collective voting power to help elect every one of our endorsed candidates!
These are certainly trying times globally and domestically, as well as for our own Armenian Nation on so many fronts, that it sometimes can be overwhelming and disheartening.
Nevertheless, a bright spot amidst all the chaos is the consistent and persistent work of the ANCA, where we are focused like a laser beam on what we have to do and what we can do with the limited resources and yet dedicated manpower that we have.
In a tumultuous sea of party politics, we have proudly managed to remain non-partisan with many friends on both sides of the aisle. As the largest and most effective grassroots organization advocating for the Armenian Cause, the ANCA acts as an equal opportunity bulldog with a single litmus test for all its political endorsees and allies:
If you understand, protect, and promote the interests and goals of the Armenian-American constituency, then you earn our loyalty and support regardless of your political party affiliation, race, religion, and whether you are of Armenian descent or not.
But if you choose instead to succumb to the wining and dining and lavish travel opportunities offered by well-paid Turkish or Azeri government lobbyists, then what you earn is our wrath.
Just ask former ally and Turkish mouthpiece Dick Gephardt who lost multi-million dollar public contracts because the ANCA mobilized and exposed his shameful abandonment of his principles in exchange for Turkish lobbying money.
And just ask the Los Angeles Times, which referred to us as a political force to be reckoned with, or the Sacramento Bee which praised the high voter turnout rate of the Armenian-American voting bloc as a potential determinant in upcoming elections, or the Washington Post, which labeled us the second most effective ethnic lobby in the United States.
All this says a lot about where we were and how far we have come – and we should all be proud of the work we do in such a difficult environment.
The Armenian Cause for Justice has many facets including justice for the Armenian Genocide and its consequences, justice for the safety and security of the dual independent Republics of Armenia and Artsakh, and justice for the goals and needs of the Armenian-American Diaspora.
What can this justice look like today?
For starters, instead of remaining silent in the face of atrocity, the US must finally implement its own laws by withholding military and foreign aid from so-called Turkish and Azeri allies who commit war crimes against their own people. This would be justice.
Our political friends in Washington can easily draw attention to our Cause by speaking boldly and loudly through op-ed pieces and on political talk shows and cable news. Influential voices can go a long way in shaping public opinion if they call out the State Department’s ongoing inherent hypocrisy toward Turkey and Azerbaijan, stop mis-labeling them as important strategic allies, and demand accountability not only for their anti-Armenian policies but also for their anti-American policies. This would be justice.
The US State Department must stop pressuring Armenia and Artsakh to accept one-sided so-called compromised solutions which will only benefit Azerbaijan and ensure the destruction of Artsakh and our People. This would be justice too.
At least it would be a start.
But our challenges are not just on the geopolitical front. We face many challenges from within as well.
So in order to pool our resources and maximize our overall efficiency and effectiveness, our new Board of Directors has set three areas on which to focus its work in the coming year:
First, we will take concrete steps to empower our 28 local chapters throughout the Western Region. We already established our new ANCA office in Denver, defeated a pro-Azeri resolution in Idaho, and held successful Advocacy Days and Town Hall meetings in Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Washington. And our California chapters will mobilize their large local communities into action.
Second, we will focus on expanding and improving our already successful internship programs. As we announced the launch of the new Walter & Laurel Karabian Public Policy Fellowship at last year’s Gala Banquet, this year we are proud to announce that our first fellow has begun the program. We will expand the ANCA-Western Region Internship Program, and actively recruit young professionals for the ANCA Leo Sarkissian Internship and Capital Gateway programs in Washington DC, and now for the Walter & Laurel Karabian Public Policy Fellowship in Sacramento as well.
Third, we will soon launch a new fundraising program which will enable community activists to participate by signing up for monthly and annual giving programs, corporate sponsorships, estate planning, and other innovative tools by which our donors and supporters can contribute resources according to their means. Every dollar is stretched to its maximum value as we utilize our funds in the most effective possible way to spread our message within public sectors at every level.
But we can’t do any of this without you. As a community, we must dare to be bold. We must dare to be demanding, to stand up for our rights and for what’s right. We must clearly articulate our expectations and demand accountability for promises unkept. We must make our collective voices heard – through the ballot box, the media, on the streets and in the halls of government. For as Muhammad Ali once said, “Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
So I leave you with this challenge to see the potential of our strength, to dedicate yourselves to our Cause, to stand strong and stand proud with our compatriots who are in crisis, in Syria, in Artsakh, in Turkey, and in Armenia; to fight injustice against our People no matter where they are; to run toward what seems to be impossible and to make it real. Activate by joining your local ANCA chapter. Sign up for $50 per month. Register as a Rapid Responder. Volunteer. Vote. Act and make your voice heard.
Whether you are a grassroots activist, a donor, an elected official, or a political candidate, there is something for everyone who is willing to devote time, money, talent and skills to our Cause. The umbrella is the ANCA. Come and join those who not only believe in and appreciate justice, but those who fight for it.
Thank you all again for being here. It’s just the beginning, and I’ll see you in the trenches.