Unprecedented State-Level Commission to Expand Economic and Cultural Ties between Armenia and the Commonwealth. RICHMOND–Va.–The Armenian National Committee of Virginia hailed Governor James Gilmore’s recent announcement of the "Governor’s Armenian Advisory Commission," an unprecedented–official state-level body which will advise him on programs to expand cooperation between the Commonwealth of Virginia and Armenia.
"We commend Governor Gilmore for his foresight and commitment to forging closer ties between the Commonwealth and Armenia," said ANC of Virginia spokesperson Lorig Armenian.
"Virginians of Armenian heritage – from Richmond–Norfolk–Roanoke–Northern Virginia–and throughout the state – look forward to helping the Governor’s efforts to build a better future for the citizens of both Virginia and Armenia."
The twenty-five member commission is tasked with advising the governor on ways to promote the development of economic–professional–cultural–governmental and educational links between Armenia and Virginia.
In a statement issued last Friday–Gov. Gilmore noted–"The citizens of Armenian descent living in Virginia have enriched the Commonwealth through their leadership in business–academia–government–the arts–and many other areas. I look forward to their input as we work together to strengthen our ties to Armenia."
Gov. Gilmore–who also serves as Chairman of the Republican National Committee–has been a long-time supporter of Armenian American issues.
During his term as Governor–he has issued annual proclamations commemorating the Armenian Genocide. Previously–as Attorney General–he served as honorary chairman of the annual Armenian Martyrs’ Day program held in the state capital. Last year–Gov. Gilmore supported community-wide efforts to pass legislation commemorating the Armenian Genocide.
Most recently–he worked in support of a successful grassroots effort by the Richmond Armenian Martyrs Day Committee and the ANC-VA to include the Armenian Genocide in the Virginia Standard of Learning (SOL) for the Commonwealth’s public schools. As a result of these efforts–the Virginia Board of Education included the Armenian Genocide in the SOL Teachers’ Guide.
"We are deeply honored that under the Republican administration of Governor Jim Gilmore we have been given the opportunity for developing recommendations to foster an environment where Virginians and Armenia’s can share in the vast riches of each culture," said Melanie Kerneklian–member of Richmond’s Armenian Martyr’s Day Committee and the local ANC.
"Rarely in the annals of state history has there been a Governor so willing to reach out to Armenia’s. This example of his leadership will stand out as a model for other states to follow."
Dr. Cheri Yecki–Deputy Secretary of Education of the Commonwealth of Virginia–formally announced the formation of the Commission at a Richmond Armenian community breakfast for Del. Jay Katzen–a long time supporter of Armenian American issues and a candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Yecki–who served as the Governor’s liaison to the Armenian Martyrs Day Education Committee–played a key role in ensuring the inclusion of the Armenian Genocide in the SOL Teachers’ Guide. She stressed the Governor’s commitment to strengthening ties between Armenia and the Commonwealth–which is home to some 20,000 Americans of Armenian descent.
In his remarks–Del. Katzen welcomed news of the Commission and pledged his support for its activities. A member of the House of Delegates–Katzen worked with then Delegate–now US Representative–Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in spearheading efforts to pass Armenian Genocide legislation last year in the Virginia General Assembly.
Despite extensive opposition by the Turkish Government and the defense and tobacco industries–the ANC-VA and the Martyrs Day Committee educated the Virginia legislature about the need to condemn the ongoing Turkish denial of the Genocide and commemorate April 24th as a day of remembrance of that crime.
Katzen–who wrote his Masters’ thesis at Yale University on the Armenian Genocide–has been at the forefront of efforts to secure recognition of the Armenian Genocide and to include the teaching of this chapter in history to the Commonwealth’s school children.