BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
GLENDALE—Armenia’s Consulate General in Los Angeles marked the 25th anniversary of its establishment during a gala at the Glendale Hilton where more than 600 community members gathered to welcome Anna Hakobyan, the spouse of Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, to Los Angeles.
The event brought together leaders and representatives of community organizations, religious denominations, state and local officials, as well as supporters of the consulate to mark the silver jubilee of Republic of Armenia’s diplomatic representation in Los Angeles.
The evening’s program was kicked off by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Armenui (Amy) Ashvanian, who before introducing the guest of honor and speakers discussed the critical role women played in the Velvet Revolution and went on to explain that in Armenia from March 8—international women’s day—to April 7 women are celebrated and feted, with the month-long period concluding with Mother’s Day, which coincided with Consulate’s gala. She singled out Hakobyan, who as a mother of four children, was front and center at her husband’s side during the month-long popular movement saying that the prime minister’s spouse embodied the spirit and courage of the Armenian woman.
Ambassador Baibourtian, who was the first Consul General when the consulate began operations, returned to Los Angeles last year to helm the representation. He remarked that since the Velvet Revolution the consulate’s work and mission had accelerated, challenging those gathered to redouble their commitment to the homeland. He also read a message from Prime Minister Pashinyan, conveyed well wishes on the Consulate’s 25th anniversary and greeted and thanked the L.A. community for standing side-by-side with the consulate and always being an integral part of Armenia’s development.
Also attending the gala were the Secretary General of Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Vahagn Melikian and Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States Varuzhan Nersesyan. In their remarks they joined Baibourtian inelevating the role that the Los Angeles community plays in Armenia’s every-day reality and the critical imperative for the Republic of Armenia to have its own representation in Los Angeles. Ambassador Nersesyan conveyed greetings from Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan.
In her remarks, Hakobyan pointed out that the consulate general in Los Angeles was established in the immediate aftermath of Artsakh’s liberation, at a time when Armenia was facing dire socio-economic conditions.
“This underscored the importance that Armenia has always attached to its relations with California – a state that has provided you all, my dear compatriots, with a safe haven and with limitless opportunities to live in and create. This was also a testament to the importance that Armenia has always attached to each of you individually, and to the large, thriving Armenian community of California,” said Hakobyan.
She called the consulate “a small yet strong bridge” that connects the homeland to the Armenian community the Western United States, adding that the people of Armenia greatly appreciated and valued the community’s immediate action and solidarity during the April 2016 War, as well as last year’s popular movement that brought her husband to power.
“I would like to take this chance to express my deepest gratitude for the spiritual support that our beloved Californian-Armenian community provided to us before, during, and after the days of the revolution. This support was crucial, as it confirmed our belief that we were not alone in our struggle for the future of our children and for the creation of a New Armenia. A New Armenia, in which there is no place for injustice, abuses of the law and authority, or other abhorrent phenomena that are stains on the honor of our nation,” said Hakobyan.
“I am happy to say that the revolution is already bearing fruit. I was truly moved, Mr. Baibourtian, that specifically you welcomed me here today. You chose to stand with justice and expressed solidarity with your people, paying a heavy price for your decision. But sooner or later, justice always prevails. And now, you are here, at the helm of one of our most important diplomatic missions. Justice has been restored, in similar ways, in many other instances,” said Hakobyan referencing an episode where the previous regime stripped Baibourtian’s diplomatic rank because he chose to side with the people.
“The fact that the slogan of our revolution was “Take a Step” was not accidental. I would like to take this chance to call upon all of you to “take your step” for your homeland, perhaps by contributing to our two foundations. Your contribution will be a worthy investment that supports compassionate and noble projects, whose results, I assure you, will be visible very shortly,” added Hakobyan.
During her remarks, Hakobyan also spoke about the two foundations she is spearheading: the “My Step” Foundation—named after Pashinyan’s political alliance—and the City of Smile Charitable Foundation. She explained that the “My Step” effort aims to in concert with the government to address socio-economic and educational needs of Armenians, while the City of Smile Foundation has a mission to help those inflicted with pediatric cancer.
Armenia’s Consul General to Los Angeles Dr. Armen Baibourtian used the 25th anniversary as an opportunity to honor the “Founding Friends of the Consulate General” and the boards of directors of the House of Armenia, where the consulate is housed.
Hakobyan was on hand to bestow the honors to the “Founding Friends of the Consulate General,” when Elizabeth Agbabian, Flora Dunaians, Hermine Janoyan, Savey Tufenkian, Rafi Ourfalian, Greg Kahwajian, Khachatur Khudikyan and Parsegh Kartalian were invited to the stage. Baibourtian announced that Vahan and Anoush Chamlian, who are also “Founding Friends,” were unable to attend the event.
Also honored were Sinan Sinanian, Vahe Yacoubian, Charly Ghailian, Gerald Turpanjian and Joseph Kanimian, members of the Boards of Directors and Trustees of House of Armenia, who purchased and made available for use the current location of the Consulate General of Armenia.
Federal, state and local official were present at the event with Senator Kamala Harris and Rep. Adam Schiff being represented by staff. Attending the event were California State Senators Anthony Portantino and Maria Elena Durazo; California State Assemblymembers Adrin Nazarian and Laura Friedman; Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Krekorian and Monica Rodriguez; Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian and Glendale City Councilmembers Zareh Sinanyan, Paula Devine, Vartan Gharpetian and Vrej Aghajanian; Glendale Unified School District Board members Shant Sahakian and Armina Gharpetian; Glendale Community College Board of Trustees member Dr. Armine Hacopian; Glendale City Clerk Ardashes Kassakhian. L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger was represented by staff. Also attending the event was Christina J. Hernandez, the Regional Director, U.S. Department of State, Office of Foreign Missions, Los Angeles.