LOS ANGELES, CA – Over 700 Armenian American grassroots activists, community leaders and federal, state and local legislators joined the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) at its Annual Banquet on November 12th at the Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles to recognize a year of remarkable achievement in advancing the Armenian Cause.
“Our program this evening demonstrates the ANC’s accomplishments and victories in service of our Cause, achievements which would not have been possible without the moral and financial support of each and every one of you,” said Banquet Chairwoman Aida Dimejian, in her welcoming remarks. “Together, we will continue our fight — in the House, the Senate and in state capitols across the U.S. — confident in your support, encouraged by your awareness, and inspired by your spirit, because you are Hai Tahd, you are the ANC, and you are our future.”
Renowned French Armenian actor Simon Abkarian served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies. Abkarian is starring in the next James Bond film “Casino Royale”, which will be in theaters beginning November 17. The program began with the presentation of the flags of the United States and the Republic of Armenia by the Homenetmen Regional Marching Band and the Los Angeles Chapter Scouts, followed by the national anthems of United States and Republic of Armenia sung by Mariette Soudjian. Banquet Benefactors Mrs. Kathy Saroukhanian and husband Mr. Vacheh Marganian were joined by Banquet Patrons Mr. and Mrs. Varant and Houri Melkonian in co-sponsoring the event.
ANCA-WR Chairman Steven J. Dadaian thanked all those who contributed in making 2006 a banner year for the ANCA and especially those who worked tirelessly to organize the annual banquet. In his remarks, Dadaian emphasized the importance of the community working together to force Turkey to once and forever remove the genocidal sword it has wielded during most of the past century. “Genocide without justice turns the idea of fairness on its head, leaving the cost of the crime to the victim, and the victimizer free to enjoy the fruits of his offense,” he said. “We must turn to the great task of securing justice – in the name of those who perished, those who survived, and for those who will follow. Working together with the ANCA, we can achieve this great purpose – the noble work of our generation. To restore to our nation what was so brutally taken, to prevent a second genocidal onslaught, and to build a brighter future for our people.”
Dadaian also recognized those who have passed and whose legacy and spirit have been preserved forever by their family and friends with the establishment of memorial endowments, which will support ongoing summer internship programs in Washington D.C. and in California. “Let’s take this moment to remember Haroutune Kasparian, Aram Karamardian, and Kourken Khanjian and honor their spirits by continuing to support Hai Tahd.”
Special guests and community leaders joined the celebration in support of the ANCA-WR, including Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America Western Region, His Eminence, Republic of Armenia’s recently appointed Consul General Armen Liloyan, ARF Bureau Member Vicken Hovsepian, ARF Western Region Central Committee Chairman Avedik Izmirlian, Homenetmen of America Armenian Athletic and Scouting Association – Western Region Chairman Steve Artinian, Armenian Relief Society Western Region U.S. Chairwoman Sonia Peltekian, and Armenian Youth Federation Western Region U.S. Chairman Saro Shirinian.
Among public officials who attended the ANCA-WR Banquet were Congressman Adam Schiff, California State Controller-elect John Chiang, Assemblymember-elect Paul Krekorian, Assemblymember-elect Anthony Portantino, Assemblymember-elect Mike Feuer, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Glendale City Councilmember Rafi Manoukian, Montebello City Mayor Bob Bagwell, LA City Council President Eric Garcetti, LA Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board member Jon Lauritzen, LAUSD Board member Julie Korenstein, LAUSD Social Studies and History Director Herman Clay, LAUSD Supertintendent’s Chief of Staff Vivian Ekchian, Glendale Unified School District Board member Greg Krikorian, Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams, Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian, Glendale Community College President Dr. Audre Levy, Glendale Community College Board of Trustees President Dr. Armine Hacopian, Glendale Community College Board of Trustees member Dr. Vahe Peroomian, Glendale City Attorney Scott Howard, Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz, Glendale Police Officer and Department Spokesperson John Balian, Glendale City Clerk Ardashes Kassakhian, Montebello Police Chief Garry Couso-Vasquez, and Montebello City Councilmember Norma A. Lopez-Reid.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Calls for a Fight Against the Hoagland Nomination
Commends ANCA for Their Accomplishments
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa headlined the ANCA banquet, praising the organization for its principled stand on issues and all their accomplishments while calling for continued pressure on the White House to withdraw Richard Hoagland’s nomination as the next ambassador to Armenia because of his genocide denial.
Excerpts from the Mayor’s speech:
“We need to remember the events of the Armenian Genocide by fighting the nomination of Richard Hoagland until he acknowledges the Armenian Genocide as fact.
The ANC continues to reawaken our conscience and remind us of the cruelty that man is capable of inflicting upon his fellow man through their efforts to keep the memory of the Armenian Genocide alive. I’d like us all to acknowledge the leadership of the ANC. They were at the forefront of the campaign to stop the nomination of Richard Hoagland and I am confident the ANC will continue to lead the way.
I applaud all of you for taking a principled stance you took and standing up for what you believe in. I commit to standing with you today, tomorrow, forever, and for as long as it takes, until that day when the world acknowledges the Armenian genocide. When we all say that genocide, whether it is in Darfur or in the Balkans or in Armenia or anywhere in the world, is unacceptable. And we will work together.”
ANCA Salutes Ambassador John Marshall Evans as a True Patriot
Elizabeth Chouldjian, the ANCA’s communications director in Washington, D.C., presented the Freedom Award in absentia to former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans for his courageous stand in recognizing the Armenian Genocide in 2005. Evans was subsequently prematurely recalled this year as ambassador due to pressure from the Turkish government. Richard Hoagland was nominated by President Bush to replace Evans, but his nomination has thusfar been blocked through the efforts of the ANCA and the grassroots activism of the Armenian American community.
Excerpts from Chouldjian’s Remarks:
“As I look at the current situation in the State Department, I am reminded of a quote by the first U.S. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson said, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle stand like a rock.” Is this the State Department of Jefferson? Is this the legacy of Henry Morgenthau? Are these the fundamental truths – the moral values – that this great nation is built upon?
Our message to the State Department is clear – withdraw the Hoagland nomination, come clean on the firing of Evans, and end the shameless pandering to the Turkish Government. And if the State Department doesn’t have the guts to stand by one of its own, to honor the man, who tried to bring dignity and morality to American foreign policy, then the Armenian National Committee of America will.
ANCA-WR Freedom Award recipient John Marshall Evans cannot be with us this evening to accept his award – he is technically affiliated with the State Department until November 30th – shackled to their bankrupt policies for a few more weeks. But that won’t stop us from standing up today in salute of a true American patriot. This is for you, Mr. Ambassador.
LAUSD’s Bob Collins’s Honored as 2006 Man of the Year
Collins Praised for Genocide Education Efforts in LAUSD Curriculum
This year marked a special milestone as the Armenian Genocide was incorporated into two major high school history textbooks, which are widely used in schools throughout the country. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) recently worked with publishers to ensure the Armenian Genocide topic was adequately represented in the textbooks as they prepared to make a major multi-million dollar purchase of the books that will be used by all LAUSD schools for years to come. The ANCA-WR worked with Mr. Collins in this major initiative and saluted his persistence and principled approach to this critical issue by honoring him as the ANCA-WR 2006 Man of the Year.
As he accepted the Man of the Year Award, Bob Collins recognized his colleagues, LAUSD Board members Jon Lauritzen and Julie Korenstein and Vivian Ekchian, Chief of Staff to the LAUSD Superintendent, for their commitment to education.
Collins discussed the importance of understanding the pain and suffering of genocide victims and about understanding the traditions and customs of different cultures. “It is only in that way that we can break down the barriers of prejudice and intolerance and ensure that each and every young person truly appreciates their classmates, their families, and the community in which they are apart of.” He also expressed concern about the Armenian language and culture in the Los Angeles Unified School Districts and public schools in general, calling for both the language and the culture to be taught to all students.
“You have my eternal promise to continue to work to ensure that history is history. It is to be faced, it is to be accepted, it is to be understood, and it is to be taught as the fabric of what we do in Los Angeles.”
VAHAN CARDASHIAN HONOREES
Each year the ANCA-WR honors special members of the community who have spent their lives working for the Armenian Cause. Vahan Cardashian, after whom the award was named, was the pioneer for American Armenian political action during the early twentieth century and founded the American Committee for an Independent Armenia (ACIA), the predecessor to the ANCA. This year’s honorees were Serge Samoniantz of Montebello, California and Khajag Sarkissian of San Francisco, California.
ANC San Gabriel Valley member Jack Hadjinian presented the 2006 Vahan Cardashian Award to Serge Samoniantz. “Please join me in welcoming to the podium a man who has traveled in the footsteps of Vahan Cardashian – America’s first Hai-Tahd activist.”
Serge Samoniantz was first called on by the ANC to help organize Armenian American grassroots efforts in 1984. Since then, Samoniantz has traveled across the Western Region of the U.S. to organize town hall meetings to educate community members on the Armenian Genocide resolution pending in the Congress, traveled to Switzerland, along with other Armenian activists from around the world, to encourage the United Nation’s to approve a report citing the Armenian Genocide as the first instance of genocide in the 20th Century, and has served as the ANCA Western Region’s Executive Director both in 1981 and 1984.
Khajag Sarkissian was one of the founders of the San Francisco Bay Area ANC and has been a continuous and consistent member since the 1960’s. He has served as the Chairman of the chapter and also as a member of the Western Region’s Board of Directors.
ANC San Francisco-Bay Area Chairwoman Roxanne Makasdjian presented the 2006 ANCA-WR Vahan Cardashian to Khajag Sarkissian. “For those of you who know him, you know that for Khajag, the Armenian Cause is not a hobby or a past-time. It makes up the core of his life and his lifestyle,” said Makasdjian, who has worked closely with Sarkissian for decades.
ANCA: Securing Our Roots. Building for the Future.
Over the years a key feature of the ANCA-WR banquet has been a video presentation that captures the spirit of the ANCA and its unparalleled grassroots network. Banquet attendees viewed a dynamic video presentation produced by Ara Soudjian and Zanku Armenian. The film highlighted the ANCA-WR’s major efforts and accomplishments of the past year defending the rights of the Armenian American community, Armenia, Artsakh and continuing to fight for justice and recognition of the Armenian genocide. It chronicled the ANCA-WR’s work in increasing the Armenian American community’s political strength and the respect it is achieving in government and media circles.
System of a Down’s New Movie “Screamers” Highlighted
The program included a trailer presentation of the recently released documentary ‘SCREAMERS’, by Carla Garapedian. ‘SCREAMERS’ covers the efforts of the Grammy-award winning band System of a Down in their campaign to end the cycle of genocide. ‘SCREAMERS’ premiered at the American Film Institute Film Festival in Los Angeles on November 2nd. Film Director Carla Garapedian, System of a Down Band Members Serj Tankian, John Dolmayan and Shavo Odadjian, producers Pete McAlevey and Tim Swain, sponsor Raffy Manoukian of the Raffy Manoukian Charity joined hundreds of genocide recognition and prevention organizations, including the ANCA and Save Darfur, and activists in the premier of the film. ‘SCREAMERS’ will be released in Los Angeles theatres on December 8 and on January 19, 2007 in New York, Chicago, Boston and Washington D.C.