Washington Abuzz like Never Before

The nation’s capital is abuzz with activity, excitement and sheer anticipation of the Presidential Inauguration. A visitor from Central New York called it a "happy place," while one Virginia resident said she had not seen the city like this "ever."

To walk around the city is like participating in a national celebration. The laughter and the excitement has taken long-time residents of DC aback and for the visitors it is so welcoming to come to a place where everyone is eagerly anticipating to take part in history. Whether you are a Barack Obama supporter or not this is a singularly important turning point for our country and one that is consequential and poignant at the same time.

Throngs of people flocked to Capitol Hill this afternoon to wait in lines to enter the three House of Representatives office buildings to receive their tickets to the inauguration–that piece of paper that will bring the bearer ever so close to witnessing history. With more than 2 million people expected to converge on the nation’s capital tomorrow, Washington will experience something it has never really encountered ever.

Most poignant, however, is the congregation of African-Americans, who fittingly on this day–the 80th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.–have come from all over to experience and live the Dream for which the great civil rights leader gave his life.

While in a two-hour line to get into one of the House office buildings, I, along with Armenian National Committee of America Legislative Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian chatted with exuberant people from all walks of life. The couple behind us had traveled from Hawaii to be a part of this event, while others from Massachusetts to Illinois to Montana were patiently and eagerly waiting to enter the building to claim their piece of history. For a brief moment on the steps of the Capitol it was truly the United States of America.

Our first stop was Rep. Adam Schiff’s office in the House Rayburn building. He was hosting an open house for his constituents and supporters who had crammed his office to meet with the Congressman. Our readers do not need an introduction to Schiff, who since his election in 2000 has championed Armenian-American issues in Congress and last year was the author and lead on the Armenian Genocide Resolution, H.Res 106. (Disclaimer: I am in DC to take part in the inauguration at the invitation of the Rep, Schiff, for which I’m quite grateful).

Our next stop was Rep. Brad Sherman, another staunch supporter of Armenian-American issues. In a brief conversation, Rep. Sherman’said the he often reads the Asbarez and finds it a great source of information on the Armenian community and news from Armenia.

Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, who was spotted earlier outside meeting constituents welcomed us into his office. He explained that no one anticipated the throngs of people and the long lines, but, nevertheless, seemed very moved by what he had witnessed. Walking back to the Metro, we bumped into Rep. Ron Klein of Florida, who, as a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, supported the Armenian Genocide Resolution and spoke in favor of its passage in Congress.

Overheard: In a Capitol elevator a member of Congress who said that four years ago he could not give inauguration tickets away. A sign of the times!

Cans for the Cause
In response to Obama’s call for a national day of service on Martin Luther King Day, the ANCA launched its "Cans for the Cause" program, encouraging the collection of canned and non-perishable foods to be donated to food banks around the country. Reports coming in from all over the country throughout the day indicated that there were well over 5000 food items collected in some 10 states with the effort continuing throughout the week in many locations.

Cans were also collected locally in Washington at the ANCA headquarters and at nearby Soorp Khatch Armenian Church in Maryland, and will be distributed to local food banks in coming days. Members of the Obama campaign’s New Media team visited the ANCA headquarters and interviewed Cans for the Cause lead organizer Garo Manjikian. Watch for the segment beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern at www.linklive.org on January 20th.

Manas Boujikian of Torrance, who along with his wife, Donalee, are major benefactors of the ANCA, is in town to take part in the inauguration. He told us that his grandchildren Nicholas and Gabriel Badakhazian and James and Isabel Dearman, ages 7 to 12, had photocopied the ANCA Cans for the Cause flyers stapled them to paper shopping bags and placed them on doorsteps and front doors of neighbors and relatives with the aim of collecting 500 cans. A new generation in action encouraged by the commitment of their predecessors!

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