SIMI VALLEY, Calif.–More than a thousand Armenian National Committee-Western Region (ANC-WR) supporters, including public officials and community activists, gathered on Sunday at the organization’s annual banquet at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to celebrate the community’s achievemen’s to date and commit to a new year of even greater activism and political advocacy for the Armenian Cause.
Public officials joined members of the community in honoring Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidate Senator Joseph Biden, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, President Ronald Reagan and longtime ANC supporter Mrs. Ashkhen Pilavjian. Honorary chairs of the event included Congressmen Adam Schiff, George Radanovich, Ed Royce, Congresswoman Jackie Speier and several others.
"This year’s banquet provided an opportunity for the Armenian American community’s supporters and human rights activists to reflect on the past year," said ANC-WR Executive Director Andrew Kzirian. "The Ronald Reagan Presidential library offered a unique perspective on our community’s challenges and achievemen’s as President Reagan was the last sitting President to properly characterize the Armenian Genocide.”
The recipient of the ANC-WR’s “Man of the Year” Award, Mayor Villaraigosa addressed the sold out venue and discussed the importance of grassroots activism, reiterating his support for the Armenian American community.
“What happened in 1915 was not simply the unfortunate collateral damage of a civil war, but the systematic and inhuman genocide of a people. And friends, I hope that next year this charade that has lasted almost a century will enter its final act so that we can all move forward on the issues critical to ensuring peace and prosperity for the next 100 years,” Mayor Villaraigosa said.
In 2007, Villaraigosa received a series of denialist publications from the Turkish Consul General of Los Angeles and a letter which sought to pressure the Mayor to not support Armenian Genocide recognition efforts. In response, Mayor Villaraigosa donated the books to the ANC-WR for educational purposes along with a letter to the Turkish Consul General reiterating his support for Armenian Genocide recognition.
“Like so many of you, I have written letter after letter supporting Congressman Adam Schiff’s Armenian Genocide Recognition bill,” he said. “After a letter urging a vote on HR 106, last year the Turkish Consulate kindly sent me two books to teach me ‘the truth’ about what happened in 1915. “Now, I know I’m not the first politician to say this, but I had no problem saying, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ for those books to nowhere.”
Biden was also honored with the prestigious Freedom Award for his steadfast support of the Armenian American community dating back to his first days in public office. As Chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden has cosponsored numerous Armenian Genocide resolutions and most recently presided over the confirmation hearing of Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch. Accepting the award on his behalf was Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) who expressed that the Senator was humbled by the award and would continue to be a advocate for issues relating to Armenian Americans.
Also honored was long time community activist and supporter Ashkhen Pilavjian who accepted the “Legacy Award” for her remarkable commitment and dedication to the Armenian American community. Over the years, Pilavjian has vigorously supported several Armenian organizations including the Western Prelacy, Armenian Cultural Foundation, Armenian National Committee, Homenetmen, Armenian Relief Society as well as many Armenian Schools. Pilvajian’s diligent efforts are truly admirable and she has been instrumental in support of the community’s growth.
On behalf of the Reagan Family, Executive Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Duke Blackwood accepted the “Woodrow Wilson Award” for President Reagan’s courageous and principled affirmation of recognizing the Armenian Genocide following his election to the presidency in 1980. President Reagan was the last U.S. President to properly characterize the Armenian Genocide.
The Armenian National Committee–Western Region is the largest and most influential 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 ANC-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.
Expanded coverage of this event will be featured in future editions.