LOS ANGELES—More than 1,000 activists, community leaders, public officials, supporters, and generous donors attended the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region’s Annual Gala on October 20, 2019 in Beverly Hills.
The community celebrated ANCA-WR’s accomplishments and bestowed the “Legislator of the Year” Award upon Congresswoman Judy Chu, the “Woman of the Year” award upon LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the “Khrimian Hayrig” award upon Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the “Excellence in Media” award upon news anchor Araksya Karapetyan, and gave recognition to last year’s ANCA-WR interns. A special tribute was made in memoriam to Hacop Baghdassarian to honor his lifelong commitment and unwavering dedication to the advancement of the Armenian Cause.
With over 50 elected officials in attendance, opening and closing remarks were made by City of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, as participants enjoyed a memorable evening at the community’s largest and most prestigious event of the year. In addition to U.S. officials, representatives from three other countries were also present to join the festivities and congratulate the ANCA-WR: High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs Zareh Sinanyan from the Republic of Armenia; Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Artsakh Armine Aleksanyan; and Consul General of Japan to Southern California and Arizona, the Honorable Akira Muto.
Held at the iconic Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, the evening began at 4:30pm with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a silent auction. A three-course dinner followed at 6:00pm with a powerful program and presentation of awards kicked off by the national anthems performed by Anahit Nersesyan.
Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, conducted the invocation for the evening, commending the work of the ANCA-WR and congratulating all the honorees.
Following the prayer, 2019 ANCA-WR Gala Banquet Committee Chair Marie Filipian welcomed guests and thanked committee members for making the sold-out event a big success.
Following Filipian’s remarks, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed the gala attendees commending the critical work of ANCA and expressing his support for the Armenian community that he has represented for years. first as a member of the LA City Council and then as Mayor. “In this room I see possibility, I see potential, and I feel power,” noted Garcetti. “We know that the bonds between Los Angeles and Armenia are unbreakable, but friends, we have to speak truth to power always. Whether it’s when we fill the streets to say that we remember the 1.5 million lost or whether it’s right now when we see Turkish tanks going over another border yet again to cause the suffering for another people. We have to speak truth amid aggression with the power that we have in this room.”
ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian, Esq. then took the stage to deliver the organization’s message focused on community-wide cooperation and unity, calling on Armenians of all political and religious persuasions to unite as one, to strive to be not just “good” Armenians, but “effective” Armenians to bring the collective strength of the vast Armenian-American Diaspora to rally U.S. support for Armenia, Artsakh and justice for the Armenian Genocide, and to be civically engaged as American citizens to accomplish the goals of the Armenian Cause. Noting that 2019 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ANCA’s precursor organization, the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia, and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the ANCA-Western Region, Hovsepian paid tribute to the first secretary of the ACIA in California and the founding chairman of the ANCA-WR, Hagop Manjikian, who had sadly passed away just days before the event.
In her remarks, Hovsepian expressed the organization’s deep gratitude to banquet sponsors Gevik & Peter Baghdassarian and their families and to all of the ANCA’s generous donors who continue to inspire the work of the ANCA year-round with their support and encouragement. Providing attendees with details of the organization’s accomplishments in 2019, Hovsepian highlighted the success of the ANCA-WR’s recent legislative trip to Yerevan as part of its effort to bolster relations between U.S. states and the Republic of Armenia, noted the latest milestone in the Divest Turkey initiative, with Governor Gavin Newsom signing AB1320 Turkey Divestment Bill into law, and announced the latest initiative of ANCA-WR in creating the Impact Media Institute tasked with monitoring and engaging with media outlets in defense of human rights and justice.
Before the brief dinner break, Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States Varuzhan Nersesyan – who traveled from Washington, DC for this occasion – took the stage to congratulate the ANCA-WR and to greet the attendees. In his remarks he particularly noted that, “Sometimes it may seem that Washington, DC is a 5-hour flight away from Los Angeles, but what you do here, what you initiate here resonates in Washington, DC and we see and witness it on a daily basis. You spare no efforts to make an impact on all the Armenian-related issues.” Ambassador Nersesyan went on to say that, “During this past year you have continued to work tenaciously on an agenda from advocating for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide to Genocide Education, from generating support for the Republic of Armenia to the recognition to the Republic of Artsakh, from developing grassroots programs for the Armenian-American community in western half of U.S. to institutionalizing partnerships with ethnic communities, such as Assyrian and Greek communities, to building new coalitions between Armenian, Jewish, Korean, and Hindu communities. ANCA-WR’s Divest Turkey initiative is yet another benchmark where it was made clear that Turkey’s policy of denialism has its consequences.”
ANCA National Board Member Levon Kirakosian, Esq., ANCA-WR Board Member Raffi Sarkissian, and Southern California Armenian Democrats (SCAD) Chair Araz Parseghian presented the “Legislator of the Year” Award to Congresswoman Judy Chu in honor of her steadfast dedication and commitment to advancing the Armenian Cause. Rep. Chu had just recently returned from a Congressional Delegation Trip to Armenia and Artsakh.
“For over a decade, Congresswoman Judy Chu has been championing the Armenian Cause in the halls of Congress, proving time and again her commitment to the issues and concerns of her Armenian-American constituents,” noted Kirakosian, continuing, “Congresswoman Judy Chu has worked closely with the ANCA to sponsor the Chu amendment endorsing the bipartisan Royce-Engel Peace Proposal for Artsakh… that legislation was overwhelmingly adopted in July 2019 by the U.S. House of Representatives.”
In her acceptance speech, Rep. Chu said, “It is such an honor to get this from an organization I respect so much; the Armenian National Committee. And it’s especially wonderful to receive this, ten days after I’ve come back from Armenia. In each visit, I told them how proud I was to represent a district with the oldest and one of the largest Armenian population in America. That is why I was determined to visit Artsakh.” Congresswoman Chu went on to continue, “Being in Artsakh, made me even more gratified to have introduced the amendment into the National Defense authorization act to reinforce the ceasefire in Artsakh while ensuring that any violators that any violators would be held accountable… and we visited the HALO Trust and watched them demonstrate their mine clearing work. I came home and discovered that because of my visit I have been officially blacklisted by the country of Azerbaijan, so I guess that besides the honor you give me tonight, I have another badge of honor. And by the way, considering how Congress feels about Turkey right now, I think now is the perfect time for Congress to vote “yes” on the Armenian Genocide Resolution.”
ANCA-WR Board Members Lina Davidian, Esq. and Hermineh Pakhanians then took the stage for the Special Tribute in Memoriam to Hacop Baghdassarian to honor his lifelong philanthropic efforts in furtherance of the Armenian Cause. His sons Gevik and Peter Baghdassarian accepted the Tribute on behalf of the family and offered remarks celebrating the life of the great benefactor and community leader Hacop Baghdassarian, highlighting that their father instilled in them a sense of duty to serve the Armenian Nation and that they are committed to continuing the legacy he left behind.
“If you were to look up the call to action or call for help, from major Armenian organizations in Armenia and the Diaspora, you would most likely see Hacop Baghdassarian listed as one of the first responders,” remarked Hermineh Pakhanians. “Hacop Baghdassarian was a very humble man… even after his passing, through endowment funds established by his family, Hacop Baghdassarian continues to support many students in completing their higher education. We will never forget him, his legacy will be carried forward not only by his sons and grandsons but also by all those whose lives he touched.”
In his remarks, Gevik Baghdassarian noted, “I want to thank ANCA-Western Region board from the Baghdassarian Family for bestowing this amazing honor, you know how much this would mean to my father. He was a man who taught by action and not by words. One of the best lessons he taught me was the meaning of the word “Azgayin”… and we are here today supporting ANCA-WR because they’re “Azgayin” and they do the hard work that we need everyone to do and get done.”
The “Woman of the Year” award was presented to LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger by ANCA-WR Board Members Sako Berberian and Anahid Oshagan, Esq. as well as National Organization of Republican Armenians (NORA) Chair Harry Leon for her unwavering support for the Armenian Cause. Supervisor Barger had earlier joined the ANCA-WR Legislative Trip to Armenia together with other state-level officials from California, Arizona, and Colorado, and she represents the largest Armenian-American constituency in the country.
Anahid Oshagan remarked during her introduction of the award, “Elected to office in 2016, Supervisor Barger hit the ground running as an advocate, voice, and a dear friend, to the Armenian community. She proudly serves the county’s largest district…. giving Supervisor Barger the distinction of representing the largest concentration of Armenian-American constituents in the United States.” Oshagan continued, “The Supervisor’s contributions to our community are countless… Supervisor Barger proclaimed, not just the day, but the entire month of April, as “Armenian History Month.” To acquire even a greater understanding of our community, the Supervisor visited Armenia as part of this year’s ANCA-WR Legislative Delegation. Lastly, Supervisor Barger generously donated one million dollars towards the realization of the Armenian-American Museum in Glendale, CA.”
In her acceptance speech, Supervisor Barger said, “All I can say is that I’m deeply humbled to receive this honor from this incredible organization and the people who represent the ANCA-WR. I’m so grateful for your guidance, your mentorship, but more importantly your friendship. Visiting Armenia this summer truly did give me a perspective to strengthen my representation of the Armenian people… There is no question that I am going back, I will forever be grateful to the ANCA-WR for the unforgettable experience, it truly has changed my life and it’s something I will carry with me forever.”
ANCA-WR Board Vice-Chair Raffi Kassabian, Esq. and Board Member Lena Bozoyan presented the “Khrimian Hayrig” Award to Archbishop Hovnan Derderian in honor of his exemplary service and devotion to the Armenian Cause.
“Tonight we honor a man whose dedication and commitment to the cause keeps Khrimian Hayrig’s vision very much alive,” said ANCA-WR Vice-Chair Raffi Kassabian. “As the leader of the Western Diocese, Archbishop Derderian, has used the power of spirituality, holy tradition, and the faith of the Armenian Church to unite segments of the Diasopran community to pursue the advancement of the Armenian Cause in a structured and collaborative environment.”
In his acceptance speech, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian particular noted that “Dreamers are the architects of the future. Tonight, we’re celebrating ANCA in the life of our community. Today, as I receive the Khrimian Hayrig, I bow my head in admiration and reverence before Khrimian Hayrig, pledging to continue his eternal legacy to the best of my human abilities.”
The “Excellence in Media” award was presented to Araksya Karapetyan for her ongoing contribution toward advancing awareness of the Armenian Cause. Presenting the award were ANCA-WR Board Members Ayk Dikijian, Esq., Gev Iskajyan, and Joseph Kaskanian.
“There is no weapon in the arsenal of Hye Tad like the ability to tell our story to the masses,” remarked Dikijian. in introducing the award. “And to make this objective a reality it takes Armenian Diasporans with the courage to dream and dedication to reach the heights of their professional fields; to utilize their platform and tell the story of our Cause to the millions. A shining example of this is personified in our very special and talented honoree tonight, our community’s diamond Araksya Karapetyan.”
In her acceptance speech, Karapetyan noted, “What brings me this energy, what gives me this passion, what fuels my drive, and what is all about the purpose and the meaning that I am looking for is the fact that I am able to be a part of this community and to give back… As Armenian-Americans we have a duty and a responsibility to never forget who we are and to never forget where we come from and to always try to give back in whatever capacity we can. We have shown the world what is possible when we as Armenians come together. We can make and bring about instrumental change.”
Following a video presentation of the last year’s ANCA-WR interns, ANCA-WR Executive Director Armen Sahakyan took to the podium to recognize the 2019 ANCA Western Region and ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship Program participants, Hakop Hajibekyan, Gregory Mikhanjian, Sarnell Antabian, and Areg Jangozian. Joining on the stage were ANCA-WR Government Affairs Director Arsen Shirvanyan, ANCA-WR Government Relations Coordinator Serob Abrahamian, ANCA-WR Community Development Coordinator Simon Maghakyan, and ANCA-WR Projects Coordinator Lori Sinanian.
“Youth is the backbone, it is the future, and each generation has a responsibility to equip with the necessary tools and skills the following one to carry the torch of truth and justice forward,” Sahakyan noted in his remarks.
The Lieutenant Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis offered the closing remarks, during which she congratulated all the evening’s honorees and expressed appreciation for being invited as part of the ANCA-WR’s 2019 Legislative Trip to Armenia, adding that her commitment as a California leader and as a Greek-American to Armenian issues is strong and unwavering.
The evening concluded with a rousing a cappella rendition of Armenian folk music by Anahit Nersesyan in honor of Gomidas Vartabed’s 150th birthday.
The Gala Committee included Marie Filipian (Chair), Lina Davidian, Esq. (Board Liaison), Anita Altounian, Steve Artinian, Clara Fermanian, Harry Geozian, Anita Gevorkian, Elizabeth Gourjian, Edgar Hayrapetyan, Silva Kechichian, Vanna Kitsinian, Esq., Carolyn Peroomian, Suren Seropian, Astine Suleimanyan, Nora Tchaparian, Vahagn Thomassian, Krestina Torossian, Sarin Vartanian, Harry Geozian, Lusine Yarian, and Armine Zakaryan.
The ANCA-WR Annual Banquet is the largest event of its kind and helps raise funds to operate the nation’s most broad-based Armenian-American grassroots and political advocacy organization. Through these funds, the ANCA-WR is able to educate the general public about the Armenian Genocide, the Republic of Armenia, Artsakh, and other vital issues of concern to the Armenian-American community.
To financially assist the ANCA-WR in its work, community members are encouraged to enroll in the ANCAdvocates program, Friends of the ANCA-WR Monthly Giving program, the ANCA-WR Founders’ Circle Annual Giving, and the Support our Supporters Corporate and Business Giving programs by visiting ancawr.org/donate or calling 818.500.1919. Supporters are also urged to join the $15/month Text to Donate program by texting 4ANC to 41444.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.