LOS ANGELES–More than 1000 supporters of the Armenian National Committee ‘s Western Region gathered on Sunday, September 30 to celebrate a landmark year of grassroots activism at the Universal Sheraton in Universal City, California. This year’s banquet highlighted an unprecedented year of Armenian American advocacy in the name of human rights and ending the cycle of genocide. Government officials joined members of the community in honoring United States Senator Robert Menendez (NJ), community leader Hacob Shirvanian and the Right Honourable Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“This year’s ANC-WR banquet signaled a serious step forward in our community’s efforts,” stated ANC-WR board member and Banquet Chairwoman Aida Dimejian. “We must continue to educate our communities and government representatives and secure a just resolution of the Armenian Genocide,” she added.
Senator Robert Menendez (NJ), recipient of the ANC-WR’s “Man of the Year” award, addressed the sold out audience and discussed the enormous obligation of all human rights advocates to continue the struggle to ensure truth and recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The Senator also recounted the holds he placed on the nomination of then Ambassador-designate to the Republic of Armenia on Richard Hoagland. Hoagland provided denialist responses to the Senate Foreign Relations during questioning pertaining to the Armenian Genocide at his confirmation hearings.
In his acceptance speech, Menendez said that the next nominee as Ambassador to Armenia’should be able to answer the following question: "Do you agree that there was an Armenian Genocide?" He insisted that anything but an affirmative response would subject that candidate to the same fate as Ambassador Hoagland.
Sen. Menendez also urged President Bush to change his policy and recognize the Armenian Genocide. Menendez insisted that Bush did not recognize the Genocide, the next US President will.
The evening also awarded community activist and philanthropist Hacob Shirvanian with the “Legacy Award” for his remarkable commitment and leadership in the Armenian American community.
In accepting the award presented by Mistress of Ceremonies Anahid Oshagan, Shirvanian thanked the ANC for the decades of leadership and hard work. He said he had been like “father figure” to the organization, always prepared to give his advice and guidance to the ANC’s endeavors and activities.
He thanked all supporters and family members who had gathered at the banquet, but especially thanked his wife, Mina, for a lifetime of support and encouragement.
Shirvanian was also given a US flag that flew over the US Capitol presented by US Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).
Finally, on behalf of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canadian Secretary of State Jason Kenney accepted the “Freedom Award” for the Prime Minister’s courageous and principled affirmation of recognizing the Armenian Genocide as the Canadian government’s official policy.
Kenney said he was honored to accept the award on behalf of the Prime Minister and insisted that the recognition of the Genocide would go a long way in preventing similar crimes from taking place. “I am proud to say that Canada’s New Government is committed to ensuring that today’s world is one where respect for human rights and democratic freedom prevails,” he said.
“We have made it very clear that our recognition of the Armenian genocide represents the official position of the Government of Canada,” said Kenney as he read to the audience a letter from Prime Minister Harper. “Please be assured that Canada will remain firm in our position.”
“On behalf of the Right Honorable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, I want to thank the Armenian National Committee of America for inviting us here this evening, and to wish all of you the very best,” he said. “Your efforts to promote human rights and foster public awareness about issues affecting the Armenian community abroad are helping create a world where everyone can enjoy peace and stability.”
Also speaking at the banquet was LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who said that he had been attending ANC banquets and other events by the organization for the last 10 years.
He recounted that last year, he focused his speech on the Hoagland nomination, adding that this year, the imperative was the adoption of the Armenian Genocide resolution in Congress.
Villaraigosa praised Sen. Menendez for his principled stance, as a result of which President Bush withdrew Hoagland’s nomination as ambassador.
He also urged his political colleagues in Congress to pass the resolution and finally set the record straight.
The Armenian National Committee ‘s Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots public affairs 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 ANC-WR promotes awareness of issues of concern to the Armenian American community.