California Legislature Commemorates Armenian Genocide

Professor Richard Hovanissian was honored by California State legislators on Monday at the State Capitol
Professor Richard Hovanissian was honored by California State legislators on Monday at the State Capitol

Professor Richard Hovanissian was honored by California State legislators on Monday at the State Capitol

SACRAMENTO—Both houses of the California State Legislature on Monday passed resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide and urging Washington, which continues to deny the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915, to follow suit. The legislature also held a State Capitol observance for the 103rd anniversary.

Senator Anthony Portantino with prof. Richard Hovannisian, his fellow legislators and members of the community at the State Capitol on Monday

Senator Anthony Portantino with prof. Richard Hovannisian, his fellow legislators and members of the community at the State Capitol on Monday

State Senator Anthony Portantino authored the Senate Resolution 107 along with Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Senate Pro Tempore Emeritus Kevin de-Leon, Senator Wilk, and Senator Newman. SR 107 continues the State Senate’s strong condemnation of Genocide denial and formally asks the Turkish Government to return seized private and church property to its rightful owners.

In his floor speech, Senator Portantino admonished Turkey to end its century of denial and to end threats to Artsakh that continue today.

State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian makes a presentation during the State Capitol Armenian Genocide observance event.

State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian makes a presentation during the State Capitol Armenian Genocide observance event.

“I am very proud to represent the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia and I am honored to fight for the proper and accurate historical accounts of the Armenian Genocide. The appropriate embrace of history will help Armenians around the world heal in the face of an organized denialist campaign. Having traveled to Yerevan and Artsakh and learning about so many of the tragic stories descendants of survivors tell continues to tug at my heart and inspires me to do all I can to help in this effort,” added Senator Portantino.

“I am honored to join with the Armenian Caucus to coauthor a resolution recognizing and commemorating the Armenian Genocide. While Washington continues to accept Turkey’s’ century of denial and Azeri aggression toward Artsakh I am proud of California’s efforts to lead by example and annually recognize the Armenian Genocide and expose and condemn civil rights abuses perpetrated against the Armenian people,” added Portantino.

State Assemblymember Laura Friedman addresses the Armenian Genocide commemoration event on Monday

State Assemblymember Laura Friedman addresses the Armenian Genocide commemoration event on Monday

“We commemorate the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and the 1.5 million lives lost. What happened 103 years ago can never be undone, but through education we take steps to ensure that history never repeats itself,” said Senator Scott Wilk. “The strength of the survivors and their descendants is evidenced by the leaders, innovators and thinkers of Armenian descent who have enriched our communities and thrived both here in America and throughout the world.”

“Today, we remember and honor the 1.5 million souls lost during the Armenian Genocide and celebrate the strength and perseverance of our community,” stated Assembly member Adrin Nazarian. “Our community is flourishing in California yet we must remain vigilant against injustice, home and abroad.”

“We reflect today upon one of the darkest chapters in our shared history,” said Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale). “In the Capitol and across California, we pause to honor the 1.5 million lost, we celebrate the resiliency of the Armenian people, and we remind our leaders that until there is worldwide recognition of the genocide, justice is denied.”

Earlier this year the Armenian Caucus invited California high school students to participate in its 4th Annual Essay Contest. Students were asked to write an essay nominating a notable Armenian-American to the California Hall of Fame. The nominee must have lived in California or have a strong connection to California, and the writer must share with the director, in the form of a memo, one person that should be featured in the Hall of Fame and the reason(s) that this person should be honored.

The winners of the 4th Annual Essay Scholarship are:

First-prize: Warren Alphonso, a senior at Stockdale High School in Bakersfield. Warren nominated California Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian.

Second-prize: Daniel Barkev Chaderjian, a senior at Fullerton Union High School in Fullerton. Daniel nominated Gabriel Injejikian, an immigrant from Syria who helped establish the first Armenian Day School in North America in the 1960s.

Third-prize: Odelia Justin, a senior at LA County Probation Camp Scott in Santa Clarita. Odelia nominated her probation officer Azet Stepanyan, an immigrant from Armenia who despite great adversity, entered a life of public service and motivated Odelia to graduate college.

During the Senate and Assembly floor sessions Senator Wilk and Assemblymember Nazarian honored Professor Richard Hovanissian as an outstanding Armenian-American and presented him with a Joint Legislative Resolution commemorating the genocide.

Professor Hovanissian is a well-respected scholar known for his five-volume history of the First Republic of Armenia. He is a professor of Armenian and Near Eastern History and the first holder of the Armenian Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Armenian History at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); a Distinguished President’s Fellow at Chapman University; and an adjunct professor of history at the University of Southern California to work with the Shoah Foundation.

The Armenian Caucus also provided legislators with the book, “There Is Only The Earth” by Scout Tufankjian.

The Armenian Caucus was formed in 2015. It is a platform for Armenian-American voices at a statewide level and is open to all legislators, Armenian or not, who are interested in learning more about the community’s issues.

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