PASADENA–Billed as the Armenian American community’s largest gathering of political activists–public officials–academics–and ANCA-WR supporters–the Armenian National Committee of America–Western Region 2004 Annual Banquet attracted more than 600 people–including an unprecedented gathering of elected officials.
The event was held at the Ritz Carlton–Huntington Hotel in Pasadena–California on Sunday–October 24. The distinguished guest list included Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn–Los Angeles City Coucilmembers Dennis Zine–Wendy Greuel–and Antonio Villaraigosa–Congressman Adam Schiff–County Supervisor Mike Antonovich–State Senators Jack Scott and Jackie Speier–and Assemblymembers Ron Calderon–Dario Frommer–and Carol Liu–as well as a number of other local public officials including the Mayors of Glendale–Pasadena–and Montebello and the President of the Studio City Town Council. Consul General of the Republic of Armenia Gagik Kirakossian–Federal Judge Dikran Tevrizian–Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Zaven Sinanian and Greg Keosian were also present.
The evening’s Master of Ceremonies–Councilmember Frank Zerunyan of the City of Rolling Hills Estates–kicked off the program with a special "Tribute to Our Troops," which included a special color guard comprised of Armenian-Americans members of the United States Army and Marine Corps. Three of the participants in the Color Guard were veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and included Specialist John Muerguerian–United States Army Reserve–308 Civil Affairs Brigade–who served 14 months in Baghdad–Iraq; Sergeant Shant Minas–United States Army Reserve 1997-2003–376 AG Batalion–who served in Korea–Colorado–Washington; Sergeant Baleny Minas–United States Marine Corps Reserve–775 Helicopter Marine Light Attack Squadron–who served in Fallujah for 6 months; and Raffi Bahadourian of the United States Marine Corps–who served in Iraq for 6 months. The presentation of the colors was preceded by a moment of silence for those brave men and women who serve their country when called on.
Attendees were given an inside look at the ANCA Capital Gateway Program with a video presentation that gave an inside look at this unique program which invites college graduates to move to Washington–DC–and live in a dormitory for up to three months while ANCA staff helps them find jobs on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in Washington. The "2004 ANCA-WR Legacy Award," which acknowledges Armenian-Americans who have made an indelible mark in their respective field while mentoring the next generation of Armenian-American leaders–was presented to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) by last year’s recipient–Judge Dikran Tevrizian. Congresswoman Eshoo was touched by the honor and praised the ANCA Capital Gateway Program in her remarks.
The "2004 ANCA-WR Freedom Award" was presented to Near East Foundation. The Near East Foundation was started over 85 years ago by intellectuals–philanthropists–activists–and politicians in the United States who wanted to respond to the humanitarian crisis which was occurring in the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian genocide. The group raised an unprecedented amount of money in excess of 30 million dollars to help the orphans of the Armenian genocide and set the tone for subsequent international relief efforts. Their work helped save an entire generation of Armenia’s and gave them hope. The Near East Foundation continues to help people in the Middle East and North Africa today and raise awareness about the Armenian genocide by educating people about the roots and foundation of their organization (www.neareast.org). For all these efforts–they were presented the "2004 ANCA-WR Freedom Award."
The final honoree of the evening was California State Senator Charles Poochigian–who was presented the "2004 ANCA-WR Man of the Year Award." Senator Poochigian–who represents the city of Fresno in the California State Senate–has been a strong voice for Armenian Americans in the State legislature for nearly a decade. In the current legislative session–Senator Poochigian authored a number of bills that affect California’s Armenian residents–including a bill that exempted any Genocide Era Insurance Claims settlemen’s from California State taxation. Senator Poochigian had been instrumental in initiating laws that allowed for cases to be brought against Insurance companies who still held insurance policies of individuals who had died during the genocide era.
The evening concluded with remarks from both ANCA-WR Chair Raffi Hamparian and ANCA Chair Ken Hachikian.
The ANCA-WR Annual Banquet is the organization’s main fundraiser to help educate Armenian-Americans about the voting process–as well as help fund outreach efforts to public officials in a various offices. Through these funds–the ANCA is able to educate the general public about the Armenian genocide–the Republic of Armenia–Karabagh–and other vital issues of concern to the Armenian American community.