Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region Board chair Nora Hovsepian delivered a powerful message on Sunday, September 25 at the 2022 ANCA-WR Awards Banquet.
Below is the full text of Hovsepian’s speech.
Distinguished Guests, Reverend Clergy, Honorees, Dear Friends and Compatriots,
As the two-year anniversary of the 44-day War Against Artsakh looms upon us this week, the worldwide Armenian Nation is once again in mourning over the senseless loss of life at the hands of the same Azeri aggressor who launched a full-scale invasion on September 13, but this time, into the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. In this short period of time, after more than 5000 soldiers had been killed during the 2020 war, now, hundreds of innocent lives have again been lost, thousands of families have again been displaced from their homes, and towns and villages continue to be targeted as the enemy terrorizes their inhabitants. And to put us in a state of perpetual fear and anxiety, the autocratic regime of Azerbaijan continues to threaten the Armenian Homeland with wartime rhetoric and provocative troop movements.
To honor the memory of those we have lost in defense of our Homeland, to show solidarity with those who defend our borders, and to send a message of strength and love to our compatriots living there, please rise for a moment of silence and reflection.
I must confess that as we were planning this event and the Grassroots Conference we had yesterday, our ANCA Western Region Board was apprehensive. We had not had a Gala or Grassroots Conference since 2019 due to the COVID pandemic, and we didn’t know what to expect. But we forged ahead, hoping for the best. And while COVID has for the most part thankfully subsided, on September 13 we were faced with another dilemma: should we proceed, or should we cancel? It seemed counterintuitive to have a Gala while Armenia was being invaded, and we feared that our esteemed panelists and honorees from Armenia and Artsakh would have to cancel their plans to travel to Los Angeles. So we asked them: “Are you able to still come? Should we cancel these events?” And I am so proud and gratified to say that our panelists and honorees all unequivocally and unanimously gave us no option but to proceed, reaffirming that now, it is more important than ever, not to adopt a victim mentality, not to let the Azeris or anyone else stop us, and not to forego any opportunity to bring our Cause to the forefront. On the contrary, they said, now is precisely the time to show strength, resolve, unity and solidarity. And we are thankful to each of our Grassroots panelists, from near and far, and each of our honorees, for emboldening us with their presence and participation.
So while a few people on social media (but never with the courage to say it in person) have criticized us for holding these events at this difficult time, even calling this Gala a “prom” or a “party”, we know, and more importantly, YOU all know as shown by your presence here tonight at this sold out event, that this was the right thing to do. And for that, we are deeply grateful to every donor and supporter who encouraged us to proceed.
On behalf of the ANCA Western Region Board, I especially want to thank each of our volunteers, our Staff, our Gala Co-Chairs Lina Davidian and Christine Magarian, our committee members, and especially our donors, for without your generous support, we would not have been able to accomplish any of the milestones you saw highlighted in our Year in Review video or any of the important work we continue every single day. Our gracious event sponsors, Mr. & Mrs. Varant and Hoori Melkonian, have never shied away from truly “putting their money where their mouth is,” providing wisdom and guidance, boosting our confidence and helping facilitate our initiatives. Our generous Grassroots Conference event sponsors, Mr. & Mrs. Sarkis and Nune Sepetjian, quietly and humbly support and encourage us every year because they see the results of their efforts, and we are so grateful. The children of one of our founding members, our beloved Manas Boujikian who we lost in the past two years, have carried on his legacy by reaching out to continue his mission, and we are so grateful to have them here. Alice Petrossian, who so ably serves as our amazing Education Committee Chair, continues the dedication and generous example set by her parents, Hacob and Mina Shirvanian, passing it on to her children and grandchildren. The Ignatius Foundation shows us each year how important it is to continue the legacy of getting into politics by funding the Walter & Laurel Karabian Fellowship Program. We are so grateful for every donation, large and small, because together, they add up to fund our initiatives, allow us to hire professional staff, and help us amplify our message. And this year, of all years, I am so proud and so humbled to announce that with all of your generous donations listed in the program, plus an additional very generous joint donation from our Global Impact Award honorees, Dr. Eric Esrailian and Kim Kardashian, which I must say is the largest single sum we have ever received, we have shattered every fundraising record we ever set, for a total of nearly $1.1 million!
And so where do we go from here? We cannot afford to be complacent, defeatist, pessimistic, or divided. Our sole salvation will be in our unified front against all enemies based on a plan of national strategy where each component of our Nation, from Armenia to Artsakh to the Diaspora, plays an integral role. Here in the largest organized community of the worldwide Armenian Diaspora, we represent Armenia and Artsakh’s greatest weapon against Azerbaijan and Turkey. It is our community’s decades of activism, after all, which has kept the Armenian Cause on the U.S. foreign policy agenda and which has led, finally, with the persistent efforts of our dear friend and ally Congressman Adam Schiff, and many of his colleagues in Congress, to full and unequivocal U.S. government recognition of the Armenian Genocide. And make no mistake: when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, the number three highest official in the land, decides to go to Armenia, especially during war time, and publicly states that she is “leading a Congressional delegation to highlight the strong commitment of the United States to security, economic prosperity, and democratic governance in Armenia,” we know that our collective voice has not fallen on deaf ears. We are so grateful to our Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a proud daughter of an Armenian family, for facilitating and organizing the Speaker’s trip and for ensuring that Armenia’s security becomes a priority for the United States.
While Speaker Pelosi for the first time ever sets aside the typical both side-ism which has characterized the U.S. response to attacks on Armenia and instead articulates recent events as a choice between democracy and autocracy, these affirmations of support for Armenia’s security and sovereignty must all be translated into tangible aid to Armenia, coupled with sanctions and enforcement of Section 907 to hold the Azeri and Turkish aggressors accountable.
To do this, we must come together, pool our resources in a smart and strategic manner, and use the evidence of war crimes amassed by experts such as Dr. Arman Tatoyan, who we are grateful to have with us here today and who gave us a sobering glimpse at yesterday’s Grassroots Conference into his findings of crimes against humanity by Azeri troops in border towns of Armenia; or Artsakh’s Deputy Culture Minister, Lernik Hovhannisyan, also here with us today, who showed us at yesterday’s Grassroots Conference how the Azeris are systematically attempting to wipe out any Armenian presence in Artsakh by committing blatant acts of cultural genocide; or Simon Maghakyan also here from Colorado, who showed us yesterday how the Azeris are repeating the destruction of our ancient monuments in Nakhichevan by leveling our churches to the ground and desecrating the graves of our ancestors in Artsakh; or Dr. Mashinka Firunts Hakopian who provided guidance on tools we can use to educate the public and amplify our message.
But even more importantly, yesterday we learned from the legal experts led by Dr. Yeghishe Kirakosyan and assisted by Levon Gevorgyan and Karnig Kerkonian, all of whom are with us tonight representing the courageous 23-member legal team of Armenia, that all of this evidence can and must be used within the legal framework of international justice to prove that Azerbaijan is a racist regime which engages in state-sponsored policies of Armenophobia, teaching hate to its children, promoting its genocidal intent, and acting upon it with impunity. It is for this reason, as Artsakh’s Foreign Minister Davit Babayan told us yesterday, that under no circumstances, can Azerbaijan ever be allowed to rule over Artsakh or Armenians.
As Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
It is on the shoulders of our generation to save our Homeland from the existential threat it now faces and to help it survive and thrive.
We must sound the alarm in all circles of public opinion – from the White House to the halls of Congress and State capitols, from local, national and international media, to influencers, educators, and policy makers – it is our job to impress upon them that the pan-Turkic genocidal intent against Armenians continues to this day and must be stopped.
On a grand scale, we must unite to face this existential threat against the Armenian Nation. We must realize that while we live here in the Diaspora where we are not directly suffering the threat of war, every threat to our Homeland is a threat to our national existence. We must create a unified and invincible force to fight against this threat. We must come together to formulate a pan-national agenda with voices both from the Homeland and the Diaspora together to strategize and discuss the most effective ways to counter this threat. We must pool our resources, our professional skills, our people power, to go on the offensive in every sector of society – media, government, education – to influence public opinion and public policy in our favor, to highlight that Azerbaijan and Turkey are the aggressors, that all our People want to do, all they want to do, like all people, is to live in peace on their land, and that we are deserving of the world’s attention and assistance.
So join us in the trenches not just today– every day until victory is achieved.