BY RAFFI HAMPARIAN
When 11 Italian Americans were lynched in New Orleans in 1890 simply for being immigrants, few could have imagined that, within four decades, their kinsmen, the great Fiorella LaGuardia, would be elected mayor of New York City.
When, once again Italian Americans were targeted by Literacy Tests in 1917 and National Origins Acts in 1921 and 1924, it would have been hard to foresee that, in just over half a century, an American of Italian heritage, the pioneering Geraldine Ferraro, would serve on a national presidential ticket.
Today, by virtue of the service and sacrifice of generations of Italian Americans, this proud community constitutes a vital and vibrant part of America’s political landscape. Dozens of Members of Congress proudly trace their roots to villages and towns across Italy – including the former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, as do leaders across the Executive Branch, among them Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
This is a story of Italian perseverance and pride, but, at its core, it’s also a great American story. It’s the story of the American immigrant experience, one that speaks powerfully to me as an Armenian American and to tens of millions of my fellow countrymen across our nation.
When returning World War II veteran Sam Kalfayan returned to Fresno, California he was told, while still wearing his U.S. Army uniform, that he could not buy a house because of his ethnicity. The bitterness of this discrimination burned heavy in his heart. Yet, within a few decades, he lived to witness the election to the U.S. Congress of Chip Pashayan from Central California. Today, two Armenian Americans serve in Congress – Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier – and a third, Brad Avakian from Oregon, is seeking to become the third.
Armenian-Americans, like so many immigrants from around the world – from Asia and Africa to Latin America and the Middle East – have made contributions to every aspect of American society, and are, today, vocal and vibrant players in American civic and electoral life.
Armenian-Americans in the State of California, having elected a governor and members of Congress, are set to take their level of impact and influence to new levels. With a demographic profile that stretches far beyond Los Angeles and San Francisco – Armenian Americans constitute a voter base that is well-informed, well capitalized, and motivated to deliver their votes and volunteer hours to candidates and incumbents who respect the Armenian community and the issues central to this increasingly powerful community.
The politicization of the Armenian American community is primarily the result of great work by the Armenian National Committee of America. The ANCA has educated the community about elections – local, state and federal – to the point where the community often over-performs in turnout on election day.
Armenian-Americans, while well represented across the political spectrum and among the major parties, are highly motivated on Armenian issues. As a swing vote, they hold strong views on all the challenges facing America, but have shown a willingness to cross party lines when candidates deliver real results on issues impacting Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, and our communities here in America.
In 2012 the Armenian American voter will take center stage across a state facing the upheaval and uncertainty of legislative redistricting. With 80 State Assembly Districts, 40 State Senate Districts, and 53 Congressional Districts currently facing wholesale restructuring, Armenian American voters will become a valuable and highly courted political commodity. The community’s impact at the Congressional level will be magnified in state and local races, especially in Southern California, where Armenian Americans will be an essential voting bloc in 2013 as a long list of mayoral candidates vie to lead Los Angeles, America’s second largest city.
As Armenian Americans grow in power, respect, and influence and take their rightful place as a meaningful force in American civic life, so too does the responsibility of each and every Armenian American to support, sustain and strengthen this involvement. Nowhere will this be more crucial than in the 2012 election cycle.
Raffi Hamparian is a former Congressional aide and a longtime political activist. He currently serves on the National Board of the largest Armenian-American advocacy organization in the United States, the Armenian National Committee of America.
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Hye, dghah, you told it so well. Proud of your outstanding presentation to us… we are assuredly, due and worthy of recognition,,, our Armenian-Americans are capable, intelligent and positive segments of our USA. Abrees.
if the community decides to dump obama then im on that! f him
I agree. I did did not vote for him. In fact, I refused to vote.
We are too easily tricked into supporting the campaigns of one politician or another. We need to spend our money and our votes more judiciously. In America there are two votes. Every voter has one ballot vote and another campaign contribution voie. S when you donate a dollar to a politician, you have voted once, when you donate a hundred dollars, you have voted a hundred times. So, if Armenians are so smart at business, than why don’t we get our moneys worth? Because individually, we count for nothing, but as a voting block, we would be formidable. I say in every district, the Armenians need to have town-hall meetings, where they need to decide on what candidate to support, and present that candidate with the results. ” Lets say that there are 1000 voters in that district aout of 40,000. Individually, they won’t sway the politician, but for a block vote of 1000, they would wash your feet and drink the water. Especially if that vote comes with, lets say $ 40,000 in campaign contributions. Thats why the Unions do so well with candidates. We need to organize By-partizan election comitees, network with other similar comitees, Greek, Assyrian and especially Jewish and Mormon comitees. It’s a game and we better learn to play it. It’s like a game of chess, but for money.
Edward, seems you don’t know of the ANCA’s efforts…
Note, too, there was not a much of a choice between
an Obama and a McCain. Obama, politically promised
and morally, lied.
McCain upfront said he was not interested in the
Armenian issue of Genocides… So we chose Obama, and
his politics… without morality.
When are we going to learn. They all lie.
Armenian-Americans should make a major impact on 2012 elections which will benefit ALL of American society, not just to benefit a radicalist fanatical Dashnak agenda.
It’s definitly not your concern sir, you have no saying here
I bet your organization is paying you money to come here and put you facist comments on Armenian news
Sean, which way did you vote? For Obama, who lied to us… OR for McCain who doesn’t care about Genocides, Turks, I shall have voted for McCain…. I suggest you read President Theodore Roosevelt’s IN THE ARENA… you might learn – a lot.
I agree with you, once a Turk like you fight for freedom and justice in Turkey and abolish penal code 301, then Dashnaks don’t have to work hard, in order to fix your beloved hometown unjust codes and brainwashed societies, where until today don’t know why they have been labeled as “turks”… and I wonder why people like you run away from a civilized country like Turkey, become anti Armenian and anti Dashnak, where unlike most of us you have a hometown a place to live, where most Armenians are descendent of Armenian Genocide in US and looking forward for justice and find their lost hometown and churces in a place called turkey!!
I’m an Armenian-American and I agree with Sean.
I believe that there should be a stronger democratic civil system in Turkey and i believe all Turkish citizens, regardless of ethnic background, but this cannot be at the expense of the Republic of Turkey’s territorial integrity. You call me anti-Armenian? I am not racist against Armenian people as whole, I am just against Armenian Supremacism. There is a difference, period.
Has the Armenian community (ie, leadership) reached out to Jon Huntsman? His father has worked wonders for Armenia. Wonder if the son shares his father’s views?
One in 250 Americans is an Armenian yet Dashnags still entertain the idea that their lobby can one day dictate American Foreign Policy. Besides a few high profile Armenian American Billionaires, the majority of the 1.4 Million Armenian Americans are as impoverished and bankrupt as the USA is. Its time for hundreds of thousands of Armenian Americans to pack up and go back home and rebuild the homeland. Much better they do this whilst their meagre savings are still worth something (ie: before the final collapse of the overextended USA Empire)
A__O_S_W… your knowledge is so obviously one of envy/jealousy towards all that the ANCA, the Tashnags have accomplished – having maintained the unity of all our own like-minded Armenians to remain – worldwide – as a great force and entity of our dispersed Survivors, who had reached nations where they were to resume their lives after the Turkish Genocide of the Armenian nation. Do you not wonder that the Survivors, their own children, their grandchildren and into today, even their great grandchildren are worldwide united in their efforts for our homeland, Haiastan to succeed and to advance? Where in the world, do you see nations who too, suffering their Genocides, have maintained such a dedication to face their perpetrators and
pursue their goals as have we, via the ANCA and too, the Tashnagtztiun, in their great and honest dedication for ALL our Armenian peoples – worldwide.
Obviously, Haiastansis have been ‘electing’ all the wrong leaderships now these twenty (20) years. All these leaders, into today, have been the self-seekers such as Ter Petrossian (who
by the way has the GALL to appear before our Haiastansis and seek the leadership of Armenia.
I can only assume he has run through all the assets he stole from the citizens of Haiastan and now is seeking to regain leadership, now to refill his own and his cronies empty pockets. When
our Haiastansi stop accepting monies – for their votes -from such as leaderships as Ter Petrossian, thus stop voting for the most dishonest elements of our homeland THEN, AND ONLY THEN, will they know that there are patriots who will lead Haiastan honestly and with dedication to our citizens of Haiastan AND for our diasporan Armenians who greatly support the
advancement and honest governments in our homeland, our azad, angagh Haiastan!
Haiastansis first president was the worst that our fledgling nation shall have had. Ter Petrossian was, obviously, filling his own and his followers pockets… too, he had a great hatred for the T
P. S. Last line omission: too, he (Ter Petrossian) had a great ingrained hatred for the Tashnagtztiun! M.
Manooshag jan, sirelis, you remind me of my own hot-headed, brainwashed youth when you attempt to challenge realities of the world, especially the Armenian world. You either are oblivious to the fact that NOT everyone in the Armenian populace is part of the ANCA/Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Tashnag), or you voluntarily want to rank yourself among deniers. For the sake of developing a broad and open mind towards reality, please, free yourself of blinders… No one can underestimate ARF’s worldwide efforts, but to claim that we have “pursued [our] goals” “via the ANCA and too, the Tashnagtztiun, in their great and honest dedication for ALL our Armenian peoples – worldwide”, is not true at all. Let’s be honest about it, and give credit to ALL Armenian political parties, churches, schools, numerous organizations, countries that welcomed the survivors, and even Soviet Armenia for doing their share in standing tall against all dangers of assimilation.
Secondly, you are making the same mistake other members of your party have, by attempting to belittle Hayastansis, maybe naively thinking that whoever is Hayastansi must be a Ter-Petrossian supporter. No, dear, your assumptions are as far from reality as anyone claiming that no Armenian Genocide ever took place… But, I am sure, you’ll eventually expand your mental horizons to realize that just as not all good Armenians are Tashnag, not all Hayastansis are supporters of Ter-Petrossian.
It is funny how you guys claim that the Dashnaks serve the best interests of the people of Armenia. I find that to be false. Why is that Dashnaks spent 99% of their money on Genocide Resolutions, territorial demands and politicially patronizing 3 of their neighbors and vilifying , rather then spending that 99% of vastly economically developing the Republic of Armenia. If Levon won those elections, then he would give all the money to the people of Armenia and build Armenia’s economy and infrastructure. The thing is, fanatical groups like the ARF and Dashnaks, are indoctrinating their diasporan youth in places like Beirut, Damascus, Paris, Los Angeles (Glendale esp), New York, Fresno, Moscow, Boston (Watertown esp), New York and other places with hate and Turkohpobia, non-fanatical Armenian groups support the economic development, and the development of democratic institutions in Armenia.
Armenian-AMERICANS should not use their lobbying groups to manipulate US Congress to politically embarass their neighbors and warmonger against their 2-3 neighbors, because by doing that, that is no different then how Israel is controlling the US lobby and tries to warmonger in the Middle East and how Israel likes to vilify it’s neighbors political standing and even it’s culture of it’s neighbors. Because the ANCA is starting to behave like AIPAC. Armenian-AMERICANS should instead concentrate on building up the economy and strengthening the democratic institutions in Armenia.
Just like Turkish-Americans advocate many causes. Like for instance, I am staunchly against those senseless “Honor Killings” that happen in the rural parts of Turkey. Also, as much of a far right-winger that I am when it comes to issues pertaining to the Republic of Turkey, I support the strengthening the democratic institutions in the Republic of Turkey. Meaning I am staunch of critic of AKP’s authoritartianism and how it wants to Turkey to a Second Iran with Sharia Law, Wife Beating, Lynching and other things. If the Turkish Army napalm balms a Kurdish village in the Southeast, I would be the first person to criticise the Turkish Army even before such people like Ragip Zarakoglu, Taner Akcam, Baskin Oran, Ayse Gunaysu, Orhan Pamuk, Fatma Gocek and other various scholars of that sort. Believe me, I am sure most of you guys may despise my views about the Turkish-Armenian issue, Turkish-Cyprus issue, Turkish-PKK issue, but I actually support a democratic Turkey vs. an authoritarian Turkey.
Levon Ter Petrosian in my opinion does not want to destroy Armenia, but strengthen Armenia if you ask me.
Armenian-American must be without doubt the stupidist, most self-hating and the most otaramol diasporan community we have.
Armenian Community should be working to prevent assimilation which is destroying the Armenian race at a rate comparable to the Genocide. You see Armenian Children growing up only to be poisoned by the American, Hollywood culture which in turn leads them to spit on their culture and family. The Assimilation Genocide is much more of concern to the community than participating in the political process of an anti-Armenian country like USA where the Jewish interests trump anything, including American interests.
There is a lot of truth in what you’ve written Sargis. In fact everything that you have written is unfortunatetley true.
Vote for Ron Paul!!! He is the only one who can help us Armenians. He is for the people rights and I have no doubts he will help us with the genocide issue.