Bay Area ANC Salutes Ambassador John Evans at Annual Banquet

SAN FRANCISCO–Ambassador John Evans, who recently left his post as US Ambassador to Armenia, saluted a capacity crowd of 400 at the Bay Area ANC’s annual "Hai Tad Evening," last Saturday night, telling them, "Those of you who’ve devoted hours of your days, years of your lives, fighting for recognition for what happened to your forebears–I stand here tonight in admiration of all of you. I salute you tonight, and I also thank you for your efforts on my behalf, when it seemed to you as if I was being done an injustice." A 35-year US career diplomat to Europe and the Middle East, John Evans was Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia from September, 2004 to December, 2006. In February, 2005, Evans told an audience at UC Berkeley, "I will today call it the Armenian Genocide…There’s no doubt in my mind what happened. I believe in calling things by their name." As a result of his public statemen’s at around that time, Ambassador Evans was recalled from his position prior to the conclusion of his term. He is now retired, and has begun to speak about his experience. "When I spoke out at UCLA, Fresno, at Berkeley, about the Armenian Genocide, I knew what I was doing. This was not a slip of the tongue. No one put me up to it, I took responsibility for my words, and of course, I did pay a price. But as a result, I’m free to be here with you tonight," said Evans, who spoke at the Khatchaturian Armenian Community Center in San Francisco. Ambassador Evans briefly described some of the circumstances leading to his statemen’s: "My efforts–and I did make efforts to address the question more openly and forthrightly within the State Department–had failed. I could not even get the issue on the agenda, much less engage in an argument about policy. At a certain point, I realized that the way things are set up in the State Department, there would never come the day when the issue would be dealt with honestly. No one above me would do anything. No one below me could do anything. There are real US interests in Turkey. They are predominant." Evans also made clear his support for the official recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the US Congress, saying, "When an official policy diverges wildly from what the broad public believes is self-evident, that policy ceases to command respect." Citing the many eye-witness and survivor accounts of the Genocide, he stressed that, "The overwhelming consensus of those sources is clearly the tragic events of 1915, despite all the complicating factors of war, rebellion, great power politics, constituted genocide. The Armenian Genocide should be recognized as such by this Congress." Evans also spoke about the current situation in Armenia and the work there that remains to be done. "I’m proud to have been involved in implementing the official assistance programs that now include, most importantly the Millenium Challenge project," said Evans. Referring to the upcoming presidential elections in Armenia, Evans expressed his hopes for free and fair elections. "To the extent that the Republic of Armenia can become an exemplary democracy in that part of the world, it will win favor not only in Washington but in other Western capitals. Now we all know that the challenges are immense. Political culture tends to persist. This is not going to be easy. But as I’ve said before, preconditions for a flourishing democracy are there in Armenia, and it’s going to happen. I’m not sure when, but I certainly hope its sooner rather than later." Evans closed his remarks quoting prominent American Revolutionary figure Patrick Henry." At the time, Patrick Henry was considered a hothead and a rabble-rouser," Evans said. "In another time, I can imagine Patrick Henry saying instead of, ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ ‘Mah Gam Azadoutioun.’ But actually, so far as I know, Patrick Henry was not a Dashnag," Evans said to laughter and applause. "But seriously, my friends, Patrick Henry said something else in that famous speech that is worth recalling: ‘The battle is not to the strong alone. It is to the vigilant, the active, and the brave.’ So in the spirit of Patrick Henry, I urge you to stick to your beliefs, and continue to fight the good fight. In our American democracy, it is your perfect right to do so." Roxanne Makasdjian, Chairperson of the Bay Area Armenian National Committee opened the evening with a discussion of the events of the last year, including the assassination of Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink in Turkey, the Evan’s dismissal, the nomination of Richard Hoagland as ambassador to Armenia, and the Armenian Genocide Resolution before Congress. "Hrant Dink’s assassination is inextricably linked to Turkish government policies," said Makasdjian. "We must be on guard against attempts by the government to use his assassination to further their denial campaign." Referring to the writers and minority groups in Turkey who are now more reluctant to speak out, Makasdjian said, "As if those effects aren’t enough, the Turkish government actually attempts to use Hrant’s outspokenness as a way to demonstrate how democratic Turkey is becoming. It makes public overtures to Armenia, not for true reconciliation, but to communicate to the European Union, the US, and other nations, ‘There’s no need to pass resolutions recognizing the Genocide, because we’re already on the road to reconciliation with the Armenia’s, and a resolution would only antagonize the situation.’ "The truth is that it is Turkey’s Genocide denial that fueled the fires that led to Dink’s murder, directly or indirectly, and for which it is unrepentant," said Makasdjian. " It’s the denial that must end. Steven Dadaian, ANCA Western Region and National Board member, congratulated the Bay Area ANC for its years of work advocating for the Armenian Cause. "Let me thank the Bay Area ANC for their unparalleled commitment and dedication to the struggle of truth to power. They’ve done that very effectively for over 3 decades now. They’ve proven again and again that a motivated and educated, relatively small community has been able to produce results." Dadaian spoke about the need for citizens to be more active in our democracy. "The gap between the problems and solutions is the democracy gap. That gap is the failure of citizens to allocate their time and their resources to important civic pursuits. Hai Tad is one of those civic pursuits." Dadaian discussed the efforts ANCA has undertaken to bring to the attention of the Armenian-American community the true motivations and voting records of government officials. He pointed out that civic organizations do not oppose bills about the Armenian Genocide or aid to Armenia and Karabagh, but individuals and groups representing corporate interests. "It’s important that you as voters, as citizens, understand the double-talk that goes on in Washington, DC. Our organization provides that window." Elizabeth Chouldjian, ANCA Communication Director in Washington, DC, introduced John Evans. She spoke about the "firestorm" that was touched off by his public statemen’s about the Armenian Genocide and his subsequent removal from office. Chouldjian also spoke out against the State Department’s nomination of a Genocide denier, Richard Hoagland, to become US ambassador to Armenia, and their obstinancy in re-nominating Hoagland a second time. Hrant Dink’s assassination also revealed the US government’s "shamelessness," said Chouldjian, describing how State Department officials mourned Dink’s loss and praised his courage and decency, but are fighting hard against a resolution commemorating Dink and calling for a repeal of the laws under which Dink was prosecuted. "As I look at the current situation in the State Department," said Chouldjian, "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?" asked Chouldjian. "Our message to the State Department is clear–come clean on the firing of Ambassador Evans, withdraw the Hoagland nomination, 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 ANC and Armenian American community will."

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