Over 600 attend–including dozens of federal–state–and local legislators
LOS ANGELES–The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region (ANCA-WR) hosted its Annual Banquet on Sunday–September 18–2005 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles with over 600 in attendance. The event raised over $200,000 and played host to dozens of federal–state–and local legislators–and hundreds of Armenian American activists.
Alex Sardar–who served as the ANCA-WR’s Executive Director from 2000 to 2002 and who currently represents Counterpart International in Armenia–was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. At the opening of the program–the Glendale Police Department Honor Guard–which was comprised of Armenian American officers–was on hand to present the flags of the US and the Republic of Armenia. Banquet benefactors Khachik and Elo Mouradian were joined by Frank and Houri Melkonian–Ashken Pilavjian–John and Asdghik Bedrosian–and Sarkis and Noune Sepetjian in cosponsoring the event.
"The Annual Banquet is a wonderful opportunity for the Western Region to reach out–as it always has in a bipartisan effort–to its legislative supporters and community activists to thank them for their support and urge continued support on issues of concern to all Armenia’s," said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian.
During the banquet–the ANCA-WR presented California State Senator Jackie Kanchelian-Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) with its Woman of the Year Award. Senator Speier was honored at the banquet for her long-lasting and continued support of issues that are of concern to the Armenian American community.
Since her time as an Assemblywoman–Senator Speier has authored numerous measures of interest to Armenian Americans with an unprecedented overall record of over 300 pieces of legislation that have been signed into law. Among her most recent accomplishmen’s–Senator Speier authored the 2005 Armenian Genocide resolution in the state of California–and along with fellow Armenian American legislator Senator Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno)–authored SB 424–which was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to permanently designate April 24 as California Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.
Senator Speier–who is running for Lieutenant Governor in 2006–was given the award by friend and colleague–State Senator Chuck Poochigian–who has announced his candidacy for Attorney General in 2006. If victorious–the two will become the two highest ranking Armenian American state legislators in California.
In her acceptance speech–Senator Speier reaffirmed her commitment to the Armenian American community–and described the difficulties she faced as a young Armenian American growing up in the United States in the 1950’s. She also praised the ANCA-WR for the continued pressure it has put forth on Congress and the US government to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide.
"The Armenian National Committee of America has gone beyond the call of duty in pushing Congress to recognize the Armenian Genocide–and I applaud them," said Senator Speier.
Also honored during the evening’s festivities was the ANCA’s Elizabeth S. Chouldjian–Communications Director for the ANCA National Headquarters in Washington–DC–who was honored with the Vahan Cardashian Award for her years of hard work in advancing the Armenian Cause. Vahan Cardashian–after whom the award was named–was the tireless engine behind the effort for American support for the fledgling Republic of Armenia in 1918 and the US Mandate to safeguard the promises in the Treaty of Sevres. After the fall of the Armenian Republic–Cardashian remained steadfast in his efforts to ensure that the United States would not succumb to signing the defeatist Treaty of Lausanne–which due to Cardashian’s efforts–the US never did. Cardashian was the trailblazer for Armenian Americans during the early twentieth century. He founded the American Committee for an Independent Armenia (ACIA)–the predecessor to the ANCA.
Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA)–who was to be honored as "Human Rights Champion" during the evening’s event–was called away to Washington–DC just hours before the event–and was unable to attend.
Congressmen Radanovich and Schiff Push Armenian Genocide Legislation
Congressman George Radanovich (R-CA) (by video) joined Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) in praising the ANCA-WR’s work in helping the two Armenian Genocide resolutions pass through the House International Relations’ Committee on September 15–2005. The two Congressmen also gave accounts of the intense days and weeks leading up to the vote in the House International Relations’ Committee.
"There is no organization that has a greater impact than the ANCA on Congress in regards to issues of concern to the Armenian community. They work the halls of Congress–they are indefatigable–they turn out grassroots–and they have a tremendous impact," said Congressman Adam Schiff during his address to the crowd.
Both Congressman Radanovich and Schiff have introduced resolutions calling on the United States government to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide. HRES 316 [House Resolution]–which was introduced by Representatives George Radanovich–Adam Schiff–and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and has over 140 cosponsors–calls upon the President to ensure US foreign policy reflects appropriate understanding of the Armenian Genocide.
"I appreciate the bipartisan support for this resolution–which properly acknowledges the Armenian Genocide–reaffirms the proud and groundbreaking chapter in US history to halt the Genocide–and renews our commitment to preventing other occurrences of man’s inhumanity to man," said Congressman George Radanovich.
HCON 195 [House Concurrent Resolution]–introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff and cosponsored by over 80 Representatives–calls on Turkey to abandon its on-going campaign of Armenian Genocide denial and to work with Armenia to come to terms with its tragic history.
The House International Relations Committee overwhelmingly passed both resolutions with bipartisan support. HRES 316 passed 40-7–and HCON 195 passed 35-11. Equally important–both Chairman of the committee–Henry J. Hyde (R-IL)–and top ranking Democratic member–Tom Lantos (D-CA)–voted in favor of both resolutions. Neither had been supportive of similar Armenian Genocide legislation in the past.
Mayor Villaraigosa’s Steadfast Support of the Armenian American Community
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa–who was also on hand during the program–expressed his appreciation for the support the ANCA and the members of the Armenian American community have given him during his tenure as a legislator. The ANCA-WR has worked with the newly elected Mayor for over ten years–throughout Villaraigosa’s time in the State Assembly and the Los Angeles City Council–as well as supporting him in both his bids for Mayor.
"I am so proud of the support I received from the ANCA in this election period–the election for Mayor four years ago–and the election for state assembly 10 years ago. I am very thankful and count–as a part of that victory–the support I enjoyed among the Armenian American people," said Mayor Villaraigosa.
He also took the opportunity to announce key Armenian American appointmen’s to his administration including Ara Bedrosian to the Los Angeles Police Permits Review Commission–Maria Armoudian to the Los Angeles Commission of Environmental Affairs–Raffi Ghazarian to the Los Angeles Children–Youth–and Their Families Commission–and Ed Ebrahimian as General Manager of the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting. Ebrahimian is the Mayor’s first appointment of a Department Head–and he is the first Armenian American to head a department in the City of Los Angeles. The Mayor stressed the importance of unifying the people of Los Angeles–and creating an "administration that would reflect every community in Los Angeles."
ANCA: True to Our Roots
During the banquet–attendees viewed a film presentation by young Armenian American filmmaker Ara Soudjian of Treaty of Sevres Filmworks about the ANCA and its strong grassroots activism titled True to Our Roots. The film highlighted efforts undertaken by the ANCA in focusing the community’s concerns and issues on policymakers and how they help educate decision makers.
Soudjian–who has consistently been active in the Armenian American community with the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF)–began his film career working for the ANC-TV program. Soudjian also helped the ANCA to produce educational TV spots for the Villaraigosa campaign that aired on various Armenian TV channels in this past election period working with ANCA liaisons to the campaign.
He has also worked on the "Rock the Vote" campaign–the motion picture–13 Going on 30–and created the ANCA film about the organiztion’s Capital Gateway Program–which premiered at last year’s ANCA Banquet. The Capital Gateway Program film gave an inside look at the unique program which invites college graduates to Washington–DC–with the support of the ANCA staff–to work on Capitol Hill in efforts to increase Armenian involvement in the American political process.
Excerpts from Speeches:
"We were able to pass the Genocide Resolution through the International Relations Committee by a vote of 40 to 7. I am very proud of that vote and it is symbolic of the work the ANC does in lobbying in Washington and working with me to gain awareness of the genocide that happened in 1915."
"The level of activity–support and activism of the Armenian community around the country has been tremendous. The work of the Armenian community’s allies in Congress has been tremendous. But it is not enough. It will not be enough to do what we have done to get these bills passed on the floor of the House. It will not be enough. We must do more. We have been trying for ten years to get a resolution passed in the House. We cannot assume that the same level of effort that has not succeeded in ten years will now be successful. It will not. We will have to do more. And this is the time. It’s been 90 years. If not now–when?
"Now–we come out of this with tremendous momentum. But the next nine weeks while we are still in session are going to be critical. If you have contacts with the Speaker–this is the time to use them. If you have contacts with the State Department–which opposes these resolutions–this is the time to use them. We have to mobilize like we’ve never mobilized before.
"The leadership of the House does not want to hear either one of these resolutions. Now–that does not mean that they are going to fail. I’ve seen in the last five years–resolutions that were opposed by the leadership–nonetheless be taken up and passed. But it never happens without a fight. And if we are serious about this–if we are not content to merely have issues pass out of committee–then we are going to have to fight. And there is no reason we should be satisfied with bills coming out of committee. So let us all dedicate ourselves to the struggle ahead–because we can do this. We can do this while there are still survivors left to see and to witness. Let’s go do it."
"As public officials–we are given awards–but there’s nothing greater than receiving the praise or acclaim from your family. Tonight–I feel like I am receiving that kind of acclaim from my family.
"My Armenian heritage has also been a gift?I–for the most part–experienced my Armenian American roots not through connections with community groups–but through my woman of the year–every year–my mom.
"We are told by some to forget the Armenian Genocide–but we will not forget. Nor will we permit our children or grandchildren to forget. To forget is to permit it to happen again and again.
"I want to thank the ANCA for reminding America that genocide is not only a historic reality but it is reality in this year 2005. Why do we remember our loved ones who died from 1915-1923? Because humanity aches as innocent people are killed tonight–and remember because humanity prays tonight for deliverance from the racial and ethnic hatred that activates guns–mows down children–and renders chaos."
"The ANCA has been at the forefront of the fight to remember–the fight to collectively–not just as a community but as a nation–recognize the Armenian Genocide and to hold those who are responsible accountable."
Some other elected officials who attended the ANCA-WR Annual Banquet were Congresswoman Diane Watson–California State Board of Equalization Chairman John Chiang–California State Assemblymembers Judy Chu–Dario Frommer–Lloyd Levine–Gloria Negrete McLeod–and Keith Stuart Richman–Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona–Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Member Michael Antonovich–City of Downey Councilman Kirk Cartozian–City of Brea Councilman Marty Simonoff–Glendale Mayor Rafi Manoukian–Montebello Mayor William Molinari–Glendale City Councilmen Ara Najarian and Frank Quintero–Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine–Montebello City Councilmembers Robert Bagwell and Norma Lopez-Reid–Glendale City Clerk Ardashes Kassakhian–Burbank Unified School District Board of Education President Paul Krekorian–Glendale Unified School District Board of Education Member Greg Krikorian–Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education Vice-President Jon Lauritzen–Glendale Community College Board of Trustees President Anita Gabrielian–Glendale Community College Board of Trustees Members Armine Hacopian–Victor King–and Vahe Peroomian.
Other honored guests in attendance were Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church–who presented the evening’s invocation–Consul General of Armenia in Los Angeles Gagik Kirakossian–US District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian–California Superior Court Judge Armand Arabian (retire)–Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Maral Injejikian–Greg Keosian and Zaven Sinanian–Glendale City Police Chief Randy Adams–Montebello City Police Chief Garry Couso-Vasquez–Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Governor Roy Roemer–Los Angeles City College President Steve Maradian–Los Angeles Unified School District Curriculum–Instruction and Assessment Branch Director Robert Collins–and former Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian.
Elizabeth Chouldjian Receives Vahan Cardashian Award
Excerpts from Elizabeth S. Chouldjian’s speech in receiving the Vahan Cardashian Award for her steadfast commitment to advancing Armenian issues. Chouljian is the Communications Director for the ANCA National Headquarters in Washington–DC. "I can’t tell you how humbled I am by the words of my colleagues–by the words of our chairman. I can’t tell you how humbled I am by the presence of so many Armenian American community leaders–our elected officials–who have been a shining light for us–all the different organizational leaders who are here–who spent every waking moment prioritizing our community and strengthening our community. And when I think of all of that–and I think of all that our community does as a team–I respectfully say that I can’t accept this award. The Vahan Cardashian award is given to those who believe in that concept of ϳ–[obligation to the nation].
When we were young–and I know that every single person in this room understands this and feels this–and so I know that you are going to relate to me when I come to you with this concept. When we were taught to eat our vegetables–when we were taught to get good grades in school–when we were taught to excel and be the best people we could be; the next line out of the mouths of our parents was "and always remember your obligation to the nation; always remember your commitment to community." Long before President Kennedy said–"ask not what your country can do for you," the Khrimian Hayreegs of the world–the Vahan Cardashians of the world–the Karekin Njhdehs of the world were all teaching us that concept. And when I look around me tonight and when I think about the tens of thousands of ANC activists around the country–I can’t help but think exactly that–of the collective efforts–the collective works–seeing in the incredible videos that Ara Soudjian put together this evening–seeing in my everyday work and our teams’ every day work here in the Western Region office and in the DC office. Congressman Schiff this evening spoke eloquently about our victory on Thursday night: an overwhelming majority of people in the House International Relations Committee voting for us–voting for justice on the Armenian Genocide. Voting against million dollar lobby teams–the defense contractors–the tobacco lobby. Voting against hidden interests that we can’t even possibly know at this point and will surface–God knows–ten years later when we are dealing with this issue. What was the one thing that was able to defeat them all at the end of the day? It was obligation to the nation. It was the grassroots. It was the fourth grader who sent me an email on Thursday morning before the vote saying–"I already contacted my Congressman on this topic–what else can I do today? At 10:30 I’m going to try and miss class in order to see this." It’s the Armenian grandmother who calls on a monthly basis to our office–speaking in the most lovely Armenian–when she reads letters that come to her home from our chairman Ken Hachikian–asking for support for our Armenian issues–and she quietly tells me: ––ϳ ٳ ٻ : ٳ ӻ ѳٳ: [I’m sorry dear–I don’t have the funds to make a big donation. Please accept this small donation for your undertakings to help our nation.]
Obligation to the nation.
And it’s the students that we see–the bright young people that we saw on the video over there–who are our interns in Washington DC–who are our interns here in the Western Region–who learn the tools of Hai Tahd–who then return to their communities to become the leaders of tomorrow.
Obligation to the nation.
It’s all of us. When Vahan Cardashian talked about community activism–when he led the road to community activism and talked to all the governors to become a part of the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia. He was paving the road to political action and turning our obligation to the nation into a political reality.
And so I humbly say that the Vahan Cardashian Award and everything associated with it can’t belong to one person. It’s not one individual in this fight. It’s everyone; it’s every single person in this room; it’s the tens of thousands of activists around the country–around the world who prioritize the Armenian community–who prioritize the Armenian Cause–who prioritize recognition of the Armenian Genocide recognition above all else and make it a reality today.
And so this beautiful award–ladies and gentlemen–will be standing–I hope–on the mantle at the ANC Western Region office–and will be standing there as a symbol to grassroots leadership–to grassroots activism–and to victory through the grassroots network of the ANC. And so–Ladies and gentlemen–you are the winners of the Vahan Cardashian Award."