Bay Area, Oregon and Washington ANC Chapters Host Town Hall Meetings

GLENDALE–Local Armenian National Committee chapters in the San Francisco Bay Area, Oregon and Washington State held Town Hall meetings last weekend to discuss various grassroots issues on the ANC agenda.

Having prioritized community outreach as a major objective in advancing the Armenian Cause, the Armenian National Committee ‘s Western Region (ANC-WR) strives to meet with grassroots activists throughout the year. In the form of town hall meetings, the ANC-WR participates in intimate forums offering perspective and analysis on current developmen’s related to Hai Tahd. The most recent town hall meeting in the western United States took place in San Francisco on July 18, 2008 at Saroyan Hall located in The Khatchadourian Armenian Center.

"As Speaker Tip O’Neill wisely stated – all politics is local," remarked ANC-WR Executive Director Antranig Kzirian. "Working with local activists represents the backbone of the Armenian Cause ‘s and we must continue to reach out to Armenian Americans from all over the country in raising awareness about genocide recognition, protecting Nagorno-Karabakh and ensuring the survival of Armenia," he added.

During the briefing, activists learned the latest news regarding legislation in Congress from H. Res. 106 / S. Res. 106 (the Armenian Genocide Resolutions), appropriations and foreign assistance in the Caucasus region, the recent controversy at the Institute for Turkish Studies at Georgetown, insight on how electoral politics could play out for the community, ending the Turkish blockade of Armenia and the status of Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch as the potentially the next U.S. Ambassador to Armenia. Additionally, representatives from the Sonoma State Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove Project offered information on their work in commemorating victims of all genocides through a sculpture that is set to be completed later this year.

"Antranig provided a very instructive and interesting update on the issues pending before Congress that directly affect our community," said Bay Area ANC Chairperson Roxanne Makasdjian. "His presentation and discussion with the attendees made us even more motivated to participate in the grass-roots activism that helps shape a more just and productive US policy towards Armenia," she added.

Working with the Bay Area’s sizable Armenian American community, the local ANC has coordinated numerous meetings with key Congressional leaders from Northern California. Through an office in San Francisco, the Bay Area ANC maintains close working relationships with Members of Congress such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Anna Eshoo, George Miller, newly elected Armenian American Jackie Speier and various others.

"With the excitement of the Presidential election energizing the community, Armenian Americans must seize the moment to learn about the many issues affecting their lives as Armenia’s living in the United States," remarked Kzirian. "As we head into a new Congress and a new Presidential administration, there has never been a better opportunity for activists to learn more about Hai Tahd and contribute to the Armenian Cause," he added.

Hosted by the Armenian Community of Oregon and following Sunday services at the Armenian Apostolic Church of Oregon, the ANC of Oregon held an issues briefing on July 20 to update the community on the latest developmen’s on Armenian American issues. From H.Res.106 and the Senate hearings for the newly nominated US Ambassador to Armenia to the upcoming US Presidential Elections and close Oregon congressional races, the community learned more about how their local activism played and continues to have a vital, grassroots impact on the local and national scene.

"Having regular briefings like this help bring the community together and is a great chance for local activists to learn more about the background of our most visible issues, but also to learn about how the ANC is working to serve the community in other ways," said Rafael Saakyan, Chairman of the ANC of Oregon.

Local activist Varoujan Gazarian appreciated learning more about the background and history of the issues. “For those members of the community who have a basic knowledge of the issues this was a great opportunity to learn and understand better the role that the community can play in the larger political landscape,” said Gazarian.

ANC-Western Region Community Relations Director Haig Hovsepian discussed the issues and answered questionc on the tmpics covered as well as programs the ANC has for the community, including the ANC-Western Region Internship-Externship Program and opportunities for students in Washington, DC. Thanks to the efforts of Saakyan, the trilingual (English, Armenian, and Russian) briefing provided an opportunity for everyone in attendance to take part in the discussion.

"Hearing about the recent scandal at the Institute of Turkish Studies and how criticism of the Turkish government’s attempts to kill academic freedom even in the United States really demonstrated to everyone here how these issues really hit close to home," noted Saakyan.

In the past year the ANC OR has led activists in meetings with their elected representatives in Oregon and traveled to DC to take their concerns to the halls of Congress.

In Redmond, Wash. ANC activists from the Seattle-Tacoma area came together on July 19, for a picnic and community issues briefing hosted by the ANC of Washington. Held on the grounds of the Armenian Church of Washington, activists learned about the developmen’s regarding legislation in Congress from H.Res.106, the Armenian Genocide resolution to appropriations and foreign assistance in the Caucasus region. Those gathered also discussed the recent nomination hearings and subsequent Senate inquiry regarding the nomination of Marie Yavonavitch to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Armenia.

"This was a great opportunity for folks in Washington to hear about some of the recent developmen’s on the issues for which we work so hard," said Armen Abrahamian, Chairman of the ANC WA.

Joining Abrahamian to present the issues briefing was Haig Hovsepian, ANC-Western Region Community Relations Director. Those gathered for the day’s event included longtime ANC activists as well as ANC of Oregon Chairman Rafael Saakyan.

Working with Seattle’s 5,000 strong community and activists throughout the state, the ANC WA has been leading an ongoing series of meetings with WA Congressional offices to ensure that Armenian Americans throughout the state have the opportunity to engage their elected representatives. Keenly interested in the US Presidential elections, the community is also following the WA Congressional races closely.

"The Seattle Armenian community is vibrant and growing. We look forward to working closely with the ANC-Western Region, to step up our ANC outreach here in Washington and seeing the Western Region out here more often in the coming year," noted Abrahamian.

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