Armenian Americans Reach out to Republicans at National Convention

NEW YORK–Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) activists joined Republican Armenia’s from throughout the country this past week–descending onto the Big Apple to interact with elected officials and spread their message among the thousands of party faithful that filled the convention halls and hospitality suites at the quadrennial Convention of the Republican National Committee.

The Armenian American participation at the Convention highlighted the leadership of dozens of Congressional Republicans on issues of special concern to the Armenian American community–including Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus Co-Chairman Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)–and George Radanovich–the lead author of the Genocide Resolution. On the Senate side–leading advocates of Armenian issues include Senators Mitch McConnell–who chairs the panel that writes the foreign aid bill–George Allen–and John Ensign. The Administration–in contrast–has been less supportive on Armenian American issues–having opposed a number of key initiatives–including those recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Armenian Americans took full advantage of opportunities in and around Madison Square Garden–meeting with State delegations–attending receptions and speaking directly to key Party officials. During these interactions–they explained issues of concern to Armenian Americans–ranging from recognition of the Armenian Genocide–to increased aid–expanded trade–the lifting of the blockades–and self-determination for Karabagh. They noted–as well–the large and politically active Armenian American communities in several key swing states–including Ohio–Florida–Pennsylvania–Michigan–Wisconsin–Nevada and Oregon.

At a Veteran for Bush event on August 31 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan–the keynote speaker–Congressman Duncan Hunter–Chairman of the Armed Services Committee–was interviewed by ANCA activists. He commented on his long-standing relationship with Armenia’s–and noted that he had recently joined the Armenian Caucus. When asked about Genocide Resolution–the California Congressman’stressed–"It did happen–the Armenian Genocide." He related a story of Armenian friends who were his family neighbors who had taught him about how the Ottoman government had attempt to annihilate its Armenian population during World War I.

At the USS Intrepid–now permanently docked as a museum at a pier on the Hudson River–the Massachusetts delegation sponsored an event featuring Governor Mitt Romney. Attending the event was Congressman Joe Knollenberg of Michigan–who also spoke to ANCA activists on various Armenian issues–including the resolution of the Mountainous Karabagh conflict. Congressman Knollenberg stated that he believed in the right to self-determination of the people of Artsakh and would continue to defend this principle. The ANCA of Michigan recently held a community briefing and fundraiser for the Congressman.

Congressman Buck McKeon (R-CA)–who represents the Santa Clarita area of Los Angeles–commented to ANCA representatives that he is committed to issues of concern to Armenian Americans. He also related stories of his longstanding relationships–both personal and professional–with Armenian Americans back in his home district.

ANCA activists also met with Mayor Scott Avedisian of Warwick–Rhode Island–the youngest Mayor in the history of that city. Mayor Avedisian credited the local ANCA chapter’s hard work and support in his campaign victory and encouraged Armenia’s from all party affiliations to become more involved in politics to ensure that the Armenian American viewpoint is heard. The Mayor congratulated Glendale Mayors Rafi Manoukian and Bob Yousefian for joining the "small but growing club of Mayors of Armenian ancestry in the United States."

"We’re fortunate to have so many great Armenian Americans involved in the Republican Party–from both the East coast and the West coasts," commented Doug Geogerian–ANCA-ER Executive Director. "This convention was a tremendous opportunity for us to thank our Republican friends and encourage others to support our issues."

ANCA activists Sevag Demirjian and several other volunteers joined Georgerian as part of the ANCA delegation at the Convention throughout the week. Also playing a central role in this effort was Massachusetts delegate–John Meurgerian–who is a former ANCA "Leo Sarkissian" intern and recently returned from serving in Iraq with the Army’s 4th Infantry. Other delegates included community activist Bob Simonian–who earlier this year worked on securing Genocide recognition statemen’s from the Governors of various states who previously had not had a stance on this human rights issue.

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