HOLLYWOOD–The Board of Directors of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region and the Annual Banquet Organizing Committee held its annual ANCA-WR Banquet at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood on Sunday–October 20. The evening featured a star-studded list of honorees that included Freedom Award Recipients System of A Down and Atom Egoyan. Senator Jack Scott (Pasadena–Glendale–Burbank) was awarded the prestigious Man of the Year Award. Regular CNN legal commentator and defense attorney Mark Geragos was the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.
Every year–the ANCA-WR Banquet presents community members and public officials the opportunity to preview accomplishmen’s of the Armenian National Committee of America–Western Region. Attracting hundreds of supporters and activists–the Banquet was an excellent opportunity for individuals to show their support and appreciation for the efforts of the ANCA-WR. This year’s Annual Banquet attendees included more than 550 guests and 25 elected officials.
In a long-standing ANCA-WR tradition–the banquet also honors the ANCA-WR Freedom Award Recipients–and serves as the ANCA-WR’s primary fundraiser.
The ANCA-WR Freedom Award is presented to individuals and organizations that have contributed to the advancement of the Armenian Cause.
The evening’s honorees included Grammy-nominated Armenian-American rock musicians System Of A Down–who–through their work–have helped raise awareness and garner support for the critical issue of Genocide reaffirmation. Serj Tankian–the lead singer for System Of A Down–thanked Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee–for his efforts in fighting for the Armenian Cause and human rights issues.
Oscar-nominated writer and director Atom Egoyan–whose new film "Ararat" deals specifically with the Armenian Genocide and Turkish denial–was also honored. Although not present because of his Montreal film premiere–Egoyan did send a video message saying–"the Freedom Award means a great deal to me and I am honored to accept it."
State Senator Jack Scott received the ANCA-WR Man of the Year award for his gallant efforts in ensuring the passage of the California-Armenia Trade Office bill (S.B. 1657)–that was recently signed into law by Governor Gray Davis. State Senator Scott and his wife traveled to Armenia this past spring with ANCA-WR Board member Berdj Karapetian and chair of the Glendale ANC Artin Manoukian–to see first hand what business opportunities are available in Armenia. Mr. Karapetian introduced the Man of the Year Award and praised Senator Scott’s leadership in efforts to pass S.B. 1657 even during a critical time for California’s State budget. The Bill gained an overwhelming margin of bipartisan support in both the Senate and the State Assembly.
"Armenia is abound with economic opportunities and it is a win-win situation for both California and Armenia to establish this trade office," commented State Senator Scott on receiving the Man of the Year award.
The evening also included video presentations that highlighted the work of the ANCA-WR and a special piece that depicted what a tremendous impact System Of A Down has had with Genocide education in the non-Armenian community.
The video clip featured several non-Armenian youth specifically referencing System Of A Down as the primary source for their awareness of the Armenian Genocide. They also mentioned that–through System Of A Down’s website–they were able to access the ANCA’s website and send out web-faxes and e-mails to their Congressional representatives calling on them to support Armenian issues.
"The youth is not only the community’s voice for tomorrow but they have also already demonstrated the ability to understand and work on complex issues involved in advocacy today" stated Souzi Zerounian-Khanzadian–Chair of the Banquet Committee. "We wanted our supporters and the elected officials invited tonight to see what a fantastic job they are doing and will continue to do with the community’s encouragement and support."
Steven J. Dadaian–Chair of the ANCA-WR Board–thanked everyone in attendance for their activism and involvement in the Armenian Cause and highlighted a number of very important milestones in Armenian American advocacy during his Banquet address.
"Each activist in this room is the living memory of many triumphs and many other setbacks–but through it all–the Armenian National Committee has led–inspired–and recognized activism in its most elementary to its most sophisticated form," said Dadaian.
"For instance–if we look at the last decade of ANC Freedom Award recipients–we will see a roster of individuals–who have worked hard and who have succeeded in brining the history of the Armenian people and most importantly the truth of the Armenian Genocide to the mainstream public consciousness–J. Michael Hagopian–Carol Edgarian–Peter Balakian–The Genocide Project – and tonight we add Atom Egoyan and System of a Down to the hall of fame of activists who have dared–who have created–and who have challenged convention and the establishment to face up to history," commented Dadaian.
"The ANC has recognized the invaluable contribution these individuals have made and we have supported these efforts," added Dadaian.
Before the evening’s actual program began–ANCA-WR Board member Raffi Hamparian read a special letter to the ANCA-WR from President George W. Bush congratulating the ANCA-WR on their annual banquet and the ANCA-WR’s efforts in strengthening the ties between Armenia and the United States of America. The letter expressed the President’s and First Lady’s regrets for not being able to join the ANCA-WR and supporters at their annual event.
"As a grassroots organization–we work with elected officials from every level of government and we’re glad to see so many friends of the Armenian community in attendance," stated Ardashes Kassakhian–Director of Government Relations for the ANCA-WR. "Our efforts to secure support for Armenian-American issues are bolstered by such staunch allies and friends across the Western United States."
The elected officials in attendance included United State Representative Adam Schiff–California State Assembly members Judy Chu–Dario Frommer–Jackie Goldberg–Paul Koretz–Carol Liu–and Gloria Negret-McLeod–Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti–Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Gov. Roy Romer–Boardmembers David Takofsky–Caprice Young–Julie Kornstein–Pasadena City Councilmember Chris Holden–School Board member Tommy McMullin–Glendale City Councilmembers Gus Gomez–David Weaver–and Frank Quintero. Also attending the banquet was Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.
Armenian American elected officials in attendance were the Mayor of Glendale–Raffi Manoukian–Duarte City Councilmember George Chapjian–Downey City Councilmember Kirk Cartozian–among others.