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 7 in Beverly Hills.
The community celebrated ANCA-WR’s accomplishments and bestowed the “Advocate for Justice” award upon British House of Lords Member Baroness Caroline Cox, the “Excellence in Media” award upon the “Architects of Denial” film team consisting of David McKenzie, Laura McKenzie, Elizabeth Stanton, Dean Cain, and Montel Williams, the “People’s Champion” award upon activist and musician Serj Tankian, and gave recognition to last year’s ANCA-WR interns. A special tribute was also made to the late lifelong activists and benefactors Hacob and Mina Shirvanian.
With over 50 elected officials in attendance, remarks made by California State Senator and current ANCA-WR endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate Kevin de Leon and ANCA-WR endorsed candidate for California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, and a special token of gratitude being given to outgoing Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Grigor Hovhannissian, participants enjoyed a memorable evening at the community’s largest and most prestigious event of the year.
Held at the iconic Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, the event began at 4:30pm with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, and a VIP reception with major donors and elected officials. A three-course dinner followed at 6pm with a powerful program and presentation of awards kicked off by the national anthems performed by Anna Boyrazyan.
Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, conducted the invocation for the evening.
Following the prayer, 2018 ANCA-WR Gala Committee Chair and Board Member Steve Artinian welcomed guests and thanked all those that made the inspiring evening possible, especially Gala Committee Vice-Chair Lina Davidian. Artinian also extended his sincere gratitude to all the committee members and donors for supporting the work of the ANCA-WR towards the advancement of the Armenian Cause and helping it move forward.
Following Artinian’s remarks, ANCA endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate and California’s Senate President pro Tempore Emeritus Kevin de Leon addressed the gala attendees and committed his support for the Armenian community that he’s represented over the last several years. “You are the largest Armenian American political organization in the United States of America,” proclaimed de Leon.” He then went on to commend all the volunteers of the ANCA who consistently advocate for various issues important to the Armenian American community.
During the evening, the audience viewed an inspirational and congratulatory video message from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was traveling and unable to personally attend the Gala.
ANCA-WR Chair, Nora Hovsepian, Esq. then took the stage to deliver the organization’s message. “This is a Cause that belongs to every single Armenian worldwide, regardless of citizenship or domicile. In our complex reality where two-thirds of the Nation lives outside the Homeland, priorities may sometimes differ. But our common denominator remains our national agenda, where we all work to facilitate progress and prosperity for Armenia; to secure peace and self-determination for Artsakh; to seek justice for the Armenian Genocide; and to mobilize Diasporan communities to advance our Cause through civic engagement,” stated Hovsepian. “With the peaceful Velvet Revolution in Armenia, our People, all of us, are resolutely moving toward true democracy, growth and globalization, ushering in a new era of collective hope and optimism where every Armenian feels encouraged to have a stake in our national destiny.”
In her remarks, Hovsepian provided the attendees with details of the organization’s accomplishments in 2018. Hovsepian highlighted the success of the recent ANCA-WR organized and led legislative delegation and trade study group to Yerevan as part of ANCA’s effort to help Armenia in transitioning from aid to trade. She noted the developments of the Divest Turkey initiative and how despite the unanimous votes in both legislative chambers and the thousands of Armenian constituents who sent ANCA Action Alerts, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill, temporarily delaying further efforts to enact it. She also went on to announce that as a direct result of ANCA’s advocacy, the US has provided over $2.5 billion in foreign aid to Armenia and over $45 million in aid to Artsakh. Hovsepian then highlighted the success of the Text to Donate program and encouraged grassroots supporters to commit to automatic payments of $15/month, which has already generated over $35,000 towards ANCA resources in the last year. Concluding her remarks, she thanked all of the ANCA’s generous donors who continue to inspire the work of the ANCA year-round with their support and encouragement, specially highlighting the exemplary support of the Sepetjian, Melkonian and Chraghchian families.
Hovsepian then invited Armenian Cultural Foundation Chair Avedik Izmirlian to join in presenting the outgoing Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Grigor Hovhannisian with a token of gratitude for his service to the Armenian American community over several years first as Consul General to Los Angeles and then as Ambassador.
After a brief dinner break, ANCA endorsed candidate for Lt. Governor, former ambassador and Greek-American Eleni Kounalakis took to the stage. In her remarks, she pledged her support to the ANCA and promised to work with community leaders to help ensure the success of the organization’s initiatives. “I will work tirelessly to ensure that Armenian culture is recognized, understood, and studied and that the darkest chapters of Armenian history are never ever forgotten,” stated Kounalakis.
The first of the award presentations started with a video showcasing the humanitarian work of British House of Lords Member Baroness Caroline Cox. The video displayed scenes from the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre in Stepanakert as well as snapshots from her 86 visits to the Republic of Artsakh over a period of 30 years.
ANCA National Board Chair Raffi Hamparian and National Board Member Levon Kirakosian, Esq. presented the “Advocate For Justice” Award to Baroness Caroline Cox. Accepting the award, Baroness Caroline Cox identified three things that have inspired her work: the courage of the valiant Armenian people, for holding frontlines of faith and freedom over the centuries, most recently in the war in Artsakh, the spirit of the Armenian people, and thirdly to an example of a different kind of beauty arising like a phoenix from the ashes of destruction: the inspirational Rehabilitation Center in Stepanakert.
“When the ceasefire was signed in 1994, we asked the Karabakh authorities their priority for aid, moving from the emergency medical supplies needed in war. Their response: please, help for people with disabilities. Disability was massively stigmatized in the former USSR with no provision of help. Your people wanted better. The only building they could provide was a bombed-out old school – there were no buildings in Stepanakert which were not bombed out…” said Baroness Cox, further expressing her appreciation for the award and thanking the ANCA for giving her the opportunity to give wings to Vardan Tatevosyan, Director of the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center, so that he can fly.
ANCA-WR Board Members Sako Berberian, Nareg Kitsinian, Esq. and Viken Pakradouni, Esq. then took the stage to present the “Excellence in Media” Award to the “Architects of Denial,” film team that included David McKenzie, Laura McKenzie, Elizabeth Stanton, Dean Cain, and Montel Williams. A video presenting their work including their efforts to bring awareness to Armenia through their travel shows and advancement towards genocide education was also shown.
Thanking his family for working on the “Architects of Denial” project with him, David McKenzie stated that he felt that the Armenian Genocide was a subject that needed to be told again and again especially to non-Armenians to avoid the repetition of such horrible atrocities. During his remarks, he also revealed that he is half-Armenian and again emphasized how thankful he was to all those who worked on the film, risking their safety in Turkey and Azerbaijan. Laura McKenzie and daughter Elizabeth Stanton, in their remarks discussed how having an Armenian in the family influenced them to host their travel shows in Armenia to help its economy and encourage additional tourism to Armenia.
In turn, Dean Cain expressed his continuous solidarity with the Armenian community. “For us it was a story to tell but for you it was a story to live and filmmaking is so important because it can reach so many people,” stated Cain. Montel Williams meanwhile admitted that learning about the Armenian Genocide was an extremely eye-opening experience for him. “A genocide denied is genocide continued,” said Williams after which he quoted Hitler’s words of 1939, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” He then concluded his remarks by urging everyone in attendance to get non-Armenians to watch “Architects of Denial” on demand so they can have the same eye-opening experience that he did.
Following a video presentation of the last year’s ANCA-WR interns, ANCA-WR Board Member Joseph Kaskanian took to the podium to recognize the 2018 ANCA Western Region and ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship Program participants, Erik Adamyan, Lilit Danelyan, Zohrab Tomboulian, Robert Mouradian, Sarkis Kamberian, Aundrea Issakhanian, Taleen Nazarian, Nicole Arslanian, Lilit Bazikyan, Christopher Khatchadour, and Lucine Mikhanjian. In his remarks, Kaskanian also acknowledged the tragic death of activist and former intern Movses Ter Oganesyan, whose life was cut short in the week before and dedicated a moment of silence. Kaskanian also gave an overview of the internship program and stressed that it helps cultivate future community leaders who actively work towards the advancement of the Armenian Cause.
After a video presentation showcasing the accomplishments of musician and activist Serj Tankian, ANCA-WR Board Members Anahid Oshagan, Esq. and Raffi Kassabian, Esq. presented the singer of the Grammy Award winning rock band System of a Down with the ANCA-WR’s “People’s Champion” Award for his consistent support of Armenia and Artsakh, his advocacy for justice for the Armenian Genocide, and his overall activism towards Armenian-American issues.
Tankian in his remarks, stressed that Armenians all around the world must align themselves with the goals of the current Republic of Armenia and spoke about the beauty of the Velvet Revolution and the fact that it all took place without a single bullet being fired. He also spoke about his ongoing work and history of collaboration with the ANCA. “The incredible amalgamation of mostly volunteers that are at the heart of this organization have put their hard work and souls into making this one of the most powerful organizations representing Armenians around the world,” concluded Tankian.
The gala then paid a special tribute to lifelong activists Hacob and Mina Shirvanian who both passed away in the past year. After a touching video of their work and history in the community that depicted photos of the Shirvanians through the years, ANCA-WR Board Members Hermineh Pakhanians and Berdj Karapetian invited the daughter and son of Hacob and Mina Shirvanian, Alice Petrossian and Armen Shirvanian, to accept a special token of appreciation. Alice, current chair of the ANCA-WR Education Committee, thanked the organization on behalf of their large family and stated how immensely proud they are as a family for all of the work the ANCA has done over the last several decades.
The evening concluded with a video of Charles Aznavour singing “La Boheme” in honor of the legendary French Armenian singer who passed away at the age of 94 a few days prior to the gala.
Dignitaries, elected officials, and ANCA-WR endorsed candidates in attendance included Congressmembers Adam Schiff and Judy Chu; California State Controller Betty Yee; Member of the California Board of Equalization District 2, Fiona Ma, CPA; CA State Senators Kevin de` Leon, Anthony Portantino, Henry Stern and Scott Wilk; CA State Assemblymembers Dante Acosta, Laura Friedman, Jesse Gabriel, Chris Holden, Tom Lackey, Evan Low, and Luz Rivas; Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell; member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Kathryn Barger; Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Krekorian, Nury Martinez and David Ryu; Los Angeles Unified School District Board Members Scott Schmerelson, Kelly Gonez, and Dr. George McKenna III; Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees President Mike Fong, Vice President Andra Hoffman and Member Scott Svonkin; City of Pico Rivera Councilmember Bob Archuleta; Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board Member Gilbert Wong; Glendale City Mayor Zareh Sinanyan and Glendale City Councilmember Vartan Gharpetian; Glendale City Clerk Ardashes Ardy Kassakhian; Glendale Community College Board of Trustees President Ann Ransford, Glendale Community College Board of Trustees Vice President Dr. Vahe Peroomian and Members Dr. Armine Hacopian and Yvette Vartanian Davis; Glendale Community College District Superintendent/President David Viar; Glendale Unified School District Board Members Dr. Armina Gharpetian and Shant Sahakian; Crescenta Valley Town Council President Harry Leon; La Cañada Unified School District Board of Education President Kaitzer Puglia; Burbank School Board Member Dr. Armond Aghakhanian; Burbank City Councilmembers Jess Talamantes and Bob Frutos; Burbank City Clerk Zizette Mullins; Montebello City Mayor Pro Tem Jack Hadjinian; Montebello City Treasurer Ashod Mooradian; City of Pasadena Vice Mayor John Kennedy; City of South Pasadena Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Marina Khubeserian; City of Sierra Madre Mayor Pro Tem John Harabedian; Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Councilmembers Rita Andonian and Sevada Hemelians.
Additional community leaders in attendance included Armenian Apostolic Church Western Prelacy’s Prelate Archbishop Mousegh Mardirossian, Armenian Apostolic Church Western Diocese Father Dajad Yardumian representing Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Minister to the Armenian Evangelical Union Reverend Berdj Djambazian, Ambassador to the United States of America from the Republic of Armenia His Excellency Grigor Hovhannissian, Consul General to Los Angeles from the Republic of Armenia Honorable Armen Baibourtian, Permanent Representative to the United States from the Republic of Artsakh Honorable Robert Avetisyan, Consul General of Greece in Los Angeles the Honorable Evgenia Beniatoglou, Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles the Honorable Akira Chiba, Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau Member Dr. Viken Yacoubian, Chairperson of the A.R.F. Western USA Central Committee Dr. Carmen Ohanian, Chairman of the Armenian Cultural Foundation Avedik Izmirlian, Armenian National Committee of America Chairperson Raffi Hamparian, Chair of the ANC-Canada Western Region based in Vancouver Hagop Hagopian, Chair of the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund Raffi Kendirjian, member of the Homenetmen Central Executive Viggen Davidian, representative of the Homenetmen Western U.S. Regional Executive Sarkis Garabetian, Representative of the Armenian Relief Society Anita Altounian, Chairperson of Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural Organization Western U.S.A. Seta Simonian, Chair of the Western Prelacy Executive Council of the Armenian Apostolic Church Garo Eshgian, Chair of the Western Prelacy Board of Regents Lisa Gaboudian, Chair of the Armenian Youth Federation Western U.S. Central Executive Dickran Khodanian, Chair of the USC Armenian Studies Institute Leadership Council Charles Ghailian, Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian, English Editor of Asbarez Ara Khachatourian, Chair of the Armenian Bar Association Gerard Kassabian, Esq., Chair of the Organization of Istanbul Armenians Edvin Minassian, Esq., Chair of the National Organization of Republican Armenians Aram Gaboudian, President of the Southern California Armenian Democrats Arthur Charchian, Esq., Former Ambassador and Current ANCA-WR Endorsed Candidate for Lt. Governor – Her Excellency Eleni Kounalakis, Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court Honorable Zaven Sinanian, Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court Honorable Michael Amerian, Los Angeles County Commission for Women President Alice Petrossian, City of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor of International Affairs former ambassador Nina Hachigian, City of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor of Budget and Innovation Miguel Sangalang, City of Los Angeles Federal Manager George Kivork, City of Los Angeles Director of Communications Suzi Emmerling, District Director Scott Abrams Representing Brad Sherman from CA’s 30th Congressional District, District Director Yvette Shahinian Representing Linda Sanchez from CA’s 38th Congressional District, Glendale City Manager Yasmin Beers, Glendale City Attorney Michael Garcia, Glendale City Chief of Police Carl Povilaitis Glendale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Winfred Roberson Jr., Burbank Police Department Captains Denis Cremins and Eric Deroian, ANCA Endorsed Candidate for CA State Assembly District 76 Elizabeth Warren, ANCA Endorsed Candidate for Irvine City Council Kev Abazajian, Glendale Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Commissioner Elen Asatryan, Chair of the LA Police Permit Review Panel Lara Yeretsian, President of the Glendale Teachers Association Talene Arsenian, Executive Director of the Armenian Hellenic Council Ioannis Fidanakis, President of the Assyrian American Association of Southern California Ramond Taksh,and Director of the Kurdish Human Rights Advocacy Group Dr. Amir Sharifi.
The corporate sponsors of the 2018 ANCA-WR Gala included: NASA Services Inc., California State University, Northridge, Marriot Hotel Armenia, Dignity Health, Golden State Bank, and Brand Surgical Institute.
The Gala Committee included Chair Steve Artinian, Vice-Chair Lina Davidian, Esq., Vera Aynilian, Arsho Beylarian, Jackin Boyadjian, J.D., M.P.P., Maria Cozette, Armine Der Grigorian, Ani Festekjian, Marie Filipian, Harry Geozian, Anita Gevorkian, Arick Gevorkian, Gor Gevorkyan, Edgar Hayrapetyan, Salpi Jejeian, Alin Kazanjian, Silva Kechichian, Vanna Kitsinian, Esq., Emily Samvalian, Suren Seropian, Vahagn Thomasian, Harry Vorperian, Armine Zakaryan.l
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, the ANCA-WR Founders’ Circle Annual Giving, and the Support our Supporters Corporate and Business Giving programs by visiting www.ancawr.org/donate or calling 818.500.1919. Supporters are urged to join them Text to Donate program by texting 4ANC to 41444.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenia 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.