From policy to politics, the four-day ANCA conference informs and inspires
WASHINGTON—Armenian American community leaders and grassroots activists from across the United States converged in the nation’s capital for a long weekend of inter-active advocacy training, networking, and Congressional visits as part of the Armenian National Committee of America’s (ANCA) Armenian Cause 2.0 conference.
“We are tremendously encouraged by the enthusiasm of Armenian Cause 2.0, and look forward – in cooperation with our regional offices and local chapters – to harvesting the ideas and energy of this truly unique conference to more effectively advance the views and values of our community,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We were especially gratified to see the conferees – who represented a remarkable level of diversity in terms of age, background, affiliation, and geography – all brought together by a shared commitment to working together toward our community’s shared aims and aspirations.”
More than 200 veteran activists and political novices joined together for the four-day conference from communities across the country – ranging from traditionally well represented states such as California, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey to new ANCA outreach states including South Carolina, Nebraska, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. The event, held between June 24th and 27th, was organized by the ANCA and the ANCA Endowment Fund, and was based at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, located right on the National Mall.
Participants kicked off the program with a welcoming reception held at the W Hotel’s picturesque rooftop venue, P.O.V., generously hosted by the Aramian Family, with the festivities continuing at the ANCA’s national headquarters. The formal program began on Saturday, June 25th, with a panel discussion and question and answer session featuring former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans and ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian on the state of Armenian American advocacy and the opportunities and challenges the community faces in helping to shape U.S. policy toward Armenia and the region. The conferees then turned their attention to ongoing efforts to secure justice for the Armenian Genocide during a much-anticipated discussion featuring transitional justice historian, Dr. Jermaine McCalpin, and legal experts Associate Dean Susan Karamanian of George Washington University, International Criminal Court prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian, and ANCA Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian. The spotlight then shifted to the first of a series of break-out sessions dealing with effective techniques for advocating Armenian American community concerns to Congress, featuring the participation of a host of current and previous Congressional staffers including Elise Kenderian Aronson, Charles Yessaian, Jr., Yelena Alaverdian, and ANCA team leaders, National Board member Raffi Hamparian, Legislative Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian, and Kate Nahapetian.
Subsequent break-out sessions held on Sunday focused on reversing Turkey’s confiscation of Armenian Churches, presented by The Armenian Weekly Editor and Clark University Ph.D. student Khatchig Mouradian; efforts to expand Armenian American participation in the 2012 elections, presented by former Congressional candidate David Krikorian and Washington, DC-based political consultant Dan Stepanian-Bennett; and a special focus on using social media to expand the reach of Armenian American advocacy, presented by internet investor and social media guru Haig Kayserian. POLITICO national politics editor Charles Mahtesian, who outlined the 2012 Presidential and Congressional election landscape, provided the weekend’s keynote address at the Sunday luncheon.
Conferees were invited to participate in an extended question and answer session with ANCA Western Region and Eastern Region leaders including George Aghjayan, Nora Hovsepian, Berdj Karapetian and Steve Mesrobian on Sunday evening. The round-table discussion, scheduled for an hour, continued for more than twice its allotted time, as conferees engaged in a robust discourse about how to more effectively advance the Armenian Cause.
The educational and training portions of the weekend were augmented by a series of social and networking opportunities including a guided tour of the Woodrow Wilson House, followed by a tea on the terrace of this historic landmark; an evening Embassy reception hosted by Armenian Ambassador Tatoul Markarian; and, a special Sunday evening moonlight cruise on the Potomac River. On Monday, participants were treated to a tour of the Library of Congress Armenian Collection by the noted scholar Dr. Levon Avdoyan, and went on to Capitol Hill to meet with their Members of Congress. A group of the conferees also had an opportunity, on Monday afternoon, for an off-the-record discussion with Assistant Secretary of State Phil Gordon.
Additional information on the conference and the presentations will be provided in the upcoming days. To view pictures from the conference, visit the ANCA Facebook page – facebook.com/ancagrassroots.
The ANCA is offering to provide Armenian American groups and gatherings with a live SKYPE video report on any of the topics covered at Armenian Cause 2.0.