GLENDALE—The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region hosted its “Thank You, Congress!” townhall featuring Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) thanking the House and the Senate for the overwhelming bipartisan support behind passing H.Res.296 and S.Res.150 recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
The event, hosted at Glendale Central Library, gave members of the Armenian-American community the opportunity to express their gratitude to Rep. Schiff, the principal co-author of H.Res.296, and Rep. Chu, a co-sponsor of H.Res.296 and the ANCA-WR’s “2019 Legislator of the Year,” for their role in locking in the House’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
The event also honored the work of Rep. Adam Schiff over his 19 years in office, during which he has fought tirelessly for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, U.S. assistance to Armenia, and recognition of Artsakh’s right to self-determination.
The decades-long struggle undertaken by the ANCA and its network of grassroots activists to ensure recognition of the Armenian Genocide was also highlighted through a retrospective video presentation.
Raffi Kassabian, Esq. Vice Chair of the ANCA-WR Board of Directors, opened the townhall by thanking the members of Congress for this historic step towards justice for the Armenian Genocide. “This historic resolution, thanks to the leadership of Congress, has overcome the largest and longest foreign veto and gag-rule over U.S. Congress in all of American history,” remarked Kassabian. “We now have an official and unequivocal policy in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate recognizing the Armenian Genocide, rejecting Turkey’s campaign of denial, and encouraging Armenian Genocide education throughout the entire United States.”
Rep. Schiff offered strong remarks on the importance of genocide recognition both as a way of honoring and preserving the memories of those lost to this great crime against humanity, as well as to ensure that never again should an atrocity such as genocide be committed under a veil of impunity. Rep. Schiff recalled the historic efforts towards genocide recognition, and the unprecedented opposition mounted by the Turkish government and its paid lobbyists to obstruct official recognition and commemoration by both Congress and successive administrations. In light of this historic opposition, Schiff remarked, “I was absolutely thrilled when the vote ended up being 405 members, which was a phenomenal result.”
Rep. Chu similarly remarked on the importance of recognition to the Armenian American community after 104 years of denial. Rep. Chu praised her local Armenian constituency for their solidarity and determination to ensure justice for their forebears. Chu recounted her first interaction with the Armenian community 25 years ago, while as a Monterey Park City Council member she was invited to the Armenian Genocide commemoration in Montebello, where, upon hearing the stories of descendants of genocide survivors, she learned how necessary it was for the community to have official recognition of this great crime.
Following the presentations by the members of congress, a Q&A took place moderated by Asbarez English Editor Ara Khachatourian featuring questions written in by audience members. The Q&A included a discussion of the next steps following genocide recognition, including the efforts to sanction Turkey, replicating the successful divestment legislation in the state of California across the country, and encouraging Genocide education in public schools nationwide.
In concluding the event, the ANCA Western Region Board of Directors presented Reps. Schiff and Chu with gifts to demonstrate the Armenian American’s community gratitude and memorialize this monumental achievement.
During the event, Rep. Adam Schiff’s speech was disrupted by a handful of anti-impeachment protesters who sought to use the platform of the community’s celebration of Armenian Genocide recognition for partisan political purposes. The ANCA-WR condemned the protest in a statement, and, since Saturday, both the state Democratic and Republican parties and elected officials from both major parties have issued statements admonishing the protesters and stressing the history of bipartisanship on this issue, and expressing their congratulations to the Armenian-American community on this momentous victory. “This somber event, which should have been a day that brought together Republicans and Democrats in an effort to recognize and condemn the Armenian Genocide, was instead interrupted by inappropriate protests,” read the California Republican Party statement.
“The historic 405-11 vote in the House of Representatives and the 100-0 unanimous consent in the Senate is a result of a bipartisan effort which demonstrates to the world that the Armenian Cause was never and can never be a partisan issue, and that it will always be above partisan politics,” remarked Raffi Kassabian.
The ANCA-WR “Thank You Congress!” Town Hall was attended by dignitaries and community leaders who have been stalwart supporters and champions of the ANCA’s decades-long efforts to ensure recognition of the Armenian Genocide. These include Western Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian; Vicar General of the Western Prelacy Bishop Torkom Donoyan; Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles Dr. Armen Baibourtian; California State Senator Anthony Portantino; Armenian Cultural Foundation President Avedik Izmirlian; ANCA National Board Member Levon Kirakosian; Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian; Glendale City Councilmembers Paula Devine and Vartan Gharpetian; Glendale City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian; Armenian American Museum Committee Executive Chairman Berdj Karapetian; Burbank Board of Education President Dr. Armond Aghakhanian; Glendale Board of Education Vice-Chair Dr. Armine Gharpetian; Glendale Board of Education member Nayiri Nahapedian; Honorary Consul of the Republic of Cyprus Andreas Kyprianides; Chair of the Armenian Bar Association Gerard Kassabian; Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Human Relations Committee Angelica Solis-Monterey; and representatives of the Consulate General of Japan, the Armenian Rights Council, the Assyrian American Association of Southern California, the American Jewish Committee and the Israeli American Civic Action Network. The event was covered extensively by local and national media outlets, which had also sent representatives.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan Armenian 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 in pursuit of the Armenian Cause.