NEW YORK—The Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region will be honoring United States Senator Robert Menendez with its highest honor, the prestigious Freedom Award, at the Third Annual ANCA Eastern Region Banquet hosted by the Armenian Cultural Association of America on Saturday, October 3, 2009 at Espace in New York City.
“We are proud to be honoring Senator Menendez,” commented ACAA Board Member George Aghjayan. “The Senator from New Jersey acted with distinction when he placed a hold on Richard Hoagland’s nomination and has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to the Armenian American community.”
For more than 16 years, Robert Menendez has been an ardent advocate of Armenian American concerns in the State of New Jersey and nationally. From ensuring that the United States honestly addresses the issue of the Armenian Genocide to speaking out on the right of self-determination for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, Senator Menendez has championed truth, justice, and the principles of freedom so cherished by the Armenian American community.
During the 109th Congress [2005-2006], Senator Menendez received nationwide attention after making history by placing a hold on the appointment of Ambassador designate to the Republic of Armenia, Richard Hoagland. The Armenian American community had overwhelmingly expressed its concern regarding Hoagland’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in which he used language denying the Armenian Genocide. Throughout 2006, the Armenian National Committee of America led a nationwide campaign to call attention to this matter and demand that the State Department remove the Hoagland nomination, offer a complete explanation surrounding the controversial firing of former Ambassador to Armenia John Marshall Evans, and clarify the Turkish Government’s influence in the removal of Ambassador Evans.
When the 110th Congress convened in January 2007, President Bush once again nominated Hoagland to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia without addressing any of the concerns outlined by the ANCA and the Armenian American community. The very next day, Senator Menendez placed a second hold on the nomination. On August 3, 2007, the Hoagland nomination was withdrawn by President Bush.
When asked about his motivation for placing a hold, Senator Menendez stated, “I believe that the United States, Armenia, and all who are committed to human rights should support an ambassador to Armenia who recognizes the genocide that took place there more than 90 years ago.”
In a statement released when he placed the hold on Richard Hoagland in 2006, Senator Menendez said that, “the State Department and the Bush administration are just flat-out wrong in their refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide. It is well past time for American diplomacy to drop the euphemisms, the wink-wink, nod-nod brand of foreign policy that overlooks heinous atrocities committed around the world. If there is any sincerity behind the Bush administration’s rhetoric about ‘liberty on the march’ – if ‘never again’ is to be more than a bumper sticker slogan – then American diplomacy should consist of nothing less than unvarnished honesty with our friends and enemies alike. And we must call genocide by its name.”
In June 2008, Senator Menendez led the effort in questioning the Administration’s nominee, Marie Yovanovitch, to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia during a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations confirmation hearing. Senator Menendez forcefully questioned the Administration’s policy on the Armenian Genocide and submitted numerous questions concerning the Armenian Genocide, Turkey and Azerbaijan’s blockades of Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, and foreign aid to Armenia. Several months later, in September 2008, Sen. Menendez led the effort in questioning the Administration’s nominee, James Jeffrey, to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey during his confirmation hearing.
Most recently, in January 2009, Sen. Menendez questioned President Obama’s nominee, Senator Hillary Clinton, to serve as Secretary of State during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing. During the nationally televised hearing, Sen. Menendez stated “I hope that the support that you gave while you were a Senator to the question of the Armenian Genocide, that the President-Elect has himself supported, recognition of that. You know, if we are to say never again, part of that is ultimately the recognition of what has happened so that we can move forward. And I hope that you will be an advocate of having us get off of where we have been and move forward to a recognition of that part of history that is universally recognized so that we can move forward in that respect.”
Robert Menendez grew up the son of Cuban immigrants in Union City, New Jersey. He has served as a school board member, a mayor, and a state legislator. In 1992, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. Sen. Menendez has cosponsored every Armenian Genocide resolution introduced in Congress since his arrival in 1993. He served on the House International Relations Committee where he twice voted for passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution in 2000 and 2005. He became the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congressional history and the third-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives when his colleagues elected him the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in 2002. While serving as a Representative, Senator Menendez repeatedly offered remarks on the floor of the House in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.
Senator Menendez was appointed to the United States Senate by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and sworn in on January 18, 2006. In November of that year, he was elected by the people of New Jersey to serve a full six-year term as United States Senator. He currently serves on the Senate Committees on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Energy and Natural Resources; Budget; Finance; and Foreign Relations. Senator Menendez is also the Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection of the Committee on Foreign Relations.
As a mark of his longstanding bond with the Armenian American community, in 2005 then-Representative Menendez joined hundreds of Armenian Americans at a reception in New Jersey honoring His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. In April 2008, Senator Menendez met with His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America. For his outstanding commitment to the community, Senator Menendez was honored in 2007 by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dro Gomideh of New Jersey and the ANC Western Region, and most recently in 2009, by the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern).
Every year, close to 400 Armenian American community members and leaders join prominent Members of Congress, statewide officials, and state legislators for the ANCA Eastern Region Annual Banquet. The 2009 Banquet will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception and silent auction, with the formal program beginning at 8 p.m. For more information about the Banquet, please contact Nairee Hagopian at (312) 615-7698 or visit www.acaainc.org/banquet to purchase tickets.
Established in 1969, the Armenian Cultural Association of America (ACAA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that assists and supports impoverished people of Armenian origin; welfare institutions that aid those of Armenian origin; and educatio
nal and charitable organizations that encourage and develop the Armenian cultural heritage. The ACAA also aids students, authors, artists and researchers who are pursuing intellectual efforts in Armenian culture and education, and publishes educational, scientific and literary books that raise the educational, cultural and intellectual standards of the community. The ACAA sponsors projects both in the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora. It also serves as a repository of historic Armenian national documents and archives.