ANCA Salutes Ambassador John Marshall Evans as a True Patriot

Elizabeth Chouldjian, the ANCA’s communications director in Washington,, presented the Freedom Award in absentia to former US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans for his courageous stand in recognizing the Armenian Genocide in 2005. Evans was subsequently prematurely recalled this year as ambassador due to pressure from the Turkish government. Richard Hoagland was nominated by President Bush to replace Evans, but his nomination has thus far been blocked through the efforts of the ANCA and the grassroots activism of the Armenian American community. Below is the complete text of Chouldjian’s remarks: "It all started simply enough. A typical town hall meeting where the US Ambassador to Armenia was slated to give an update about US Armenia relations and answer a few questions. And then, the unexpected –John Marshall Evans, a man who had closely studied the events of 1915; who had spoken to State Department lawyers about the proper terminology to refer to those event; who was continuously bombarded by questions about the State Department’s bankrupt policy of genocide denial, and who was frustrated by that same State Department’s selective memory when it comes to its own history on genocide prevention–decided to speak a simple truth. "I will today call it the Armenian Genocide." I remember it like yesterday. The call from Roxanne Makasdjian from the Bay Area ANC–relaying the news and confirming the statement–"I will today call it the Armenian Genocide." The Bay Area ANC press release, which would touch off a firestorm–an 18 month saga that is still playing like a Hollywood movie–but is all too real. Within days, Ambassador Evans would have to retract his words not once but twice–thanks to the handy work of the Turkish government and their multi-million dollar hired guns in Washington DC. And while publicly praising the Ambassador for his 35 years of service to our great nation, the State Department leadership was quietly setting the stage for the unceremonious firing of a devoted statesman–not just from his post in Armenia–but from the foreign service in general, for uttering eight simple words: "I will today call it the Armenian Genocide." And to add insult to injury, that same State Department would go so far as to nominate a denier of the Armenian Genocide–Richard Hoagland–to serve as US Ambassador to Armenia–a move stopped, for now, as Mayor Villaraigosa stated, through the nationwide mobilization of ANCA activists and people of good conscience culminating in a dramatic "hold"–a block of the nomination by New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez. The State Department’s shamelessness on this issue, didn’t really hit me until a few weeks ago. Some 450 Armenian Americans had gathered in Washington, DC to mark the 15th anniversary of Armenian Independence. The who’s who of American foreign service were there–several former US Ambassadors to Armenia, State Department Caucasus point man Matt Bryza, and a host of other State Department folks and–Ambassador Evans. ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian, never shy to bring up the tough issues, spoke eloquently of the courage of a man who dared to speak a simple truth. Hundreds rose to their feet in honor of Evans in deafening applause, while the State Department and a handful of misguided Armenian Americans — poor souls who have, sadly, lost the backbone of their forefathers — remained seated, uncomfortable and isolated. My friends, if my 90-year old father were at the event, he would have summed it up in one word. "Amot"(shame). As I look at the current situation in the State Department, I am reminded of a quote by the first US Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson said, "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle stand like a rock." Is this the State Department of Jefferson? Is this the legacy of Henry Morgenthau? Are these the fundamental truths–the moral values–that this great nation is built upon? Our message to the State Department is clear–withdraw the Hoagland nomination, come clean on the firing of Evans, and end the shameless pandering to the Turkish Government. And if the State Department doesn’t have the guts to stand by one of its own, to honor the man, who tried to bring dignity and morality to American foreign policy, then the Armenian National Committee of America will. ANCA-WR Freedom Award recipient John Marshall Evans cannot be with us this evening to accept his award–he is technically affiliated with the State Department until November 30th–shackled to their bankrupt policies for a few more weeks. But that won’t stop us from standing up today in salute of a true American patriot. This is for you, Mr. Ambassador.

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