BY WALTER KARABIAN
Of all the parades of political officials and public personalities who have complimented our community for achievements, stood with us on national days of mourning and voiced support for independence and recognition of the fledging Republic of Armenia, one name stands above them all, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.
He was more than a supporter, and much more than someone who mouthed the words “never again” at the anniversaries of the Armenian Genocide. When he raised his voice it meant so much more than other public personalities because what he said was usually more perceptive and important.
When the Civil War broke out in 1974 in Lebanon, he authored legislation to make it easier for displaced and stateless people to immigrate to the United States.
When the Shah of Iran fell in 1979 and our churches and schools were closed, he authored legislation to make it easier for our people to seek asylum in the United States. He joined other humanitarian organizations to provide relief for those who were trapped in other far away places.
When Armenia struggled for independence as the Soviet Union was collapsing, he again made it easier for those who were displaced to gain entry to the United States.
I give great credit to the Armenian community of Greater Boston for Senator Kennedy’s awareness of our history and hopes. It takes ongoing education to have Senators and Representatives understand our cause. No group did a better job than the Massachusetts Armenian community with Edward Kennedy. Along the way, our community received a major assist when Teddy married Victoria Reggie, who is of Lebanese descent and strongly identifies with the Armenian people. On several social occasions, she mentioned the similarities of our cultures and foods displaying a knowledge and closeness to us as “cousins.”
Beginning in 1962, I had numerous meetings, shared platforms with him, etc., but one event stands out in my mind because it took place at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston and because many Republicans were present. I didn’t shrink from the task as you will learn if you wish a free copy of the DVD recording of my historic and controversial introduction of Senator Kennedy. Other head table guests included Vice President George Bush, U.S. Senator Bob Dole, and many Republican dignitaries. Kennedy’s beautiful response to my introduction is a classic. Please send an email to [email protected] or write me at 900 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1440, Los Angeles, California 90017, and I will be happy to send you a DVD of this event free of charge.
Walter Karabian is a partner in the Los Angeles-based law firm of Karns and Karabian. He was the first speaker of the California Assembly.