LOS ANGELES, CA — The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) today announced that California State Senator Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) would receive the organization’s prestigious Woman of the Year award at the 2005 ANCA-WR Annual Banquet to be held on Sunday, September 18th at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles.
Sen. Speier is appreciated throughout the Armenian American community for her steadfast support of legislation and issues that affect Armenian Americans in the state. Since her time as an Assemblywoman, Sen. Speier has authored numerous measures of interest to Armenian Americans among the unprecedented record of over 300 pieces of legislation that she has been able to have signed into law. Among her most recent accomplishments, Sen. Speier authored the 2005 Armenian Genocide resolution in California and along with fellow Armenian American legislator Sen. 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. Sen. Speier is the state’s highest ranking Democratic elected official of Armenian descent and the only Armenian American woman currently serving in the state legislature.
“Senator Speier is known throughout the State Capitol as an effective legislator, and she has used her skills to bring issues of concern to Armenian Americans forward,” said Steven Dadaian, Chairman of the ANCA-WR. “The Armenian National Committee is honored to have Senator accept the Woman of the Year award at our annual banquet this year.”
Sen. Speier’s career-long commitment to public service was nearly cut short in 1978 when she traveled to Jonestown, Guyana as an aide to California Congressman Leo J. Ryan’s fact-finding mission that was to investigate allegations of individuals being held hostage by cult leader Reverend Jim Jones. On November 18, 1978, at the end of a two-day investigation, gunmen from the Rev. Jones’ People’s Temple cult ambushed, shot and killed Congressman Ryan and four others in his traveling group. Sen. Speier, then 28 years old, was struck by five bullets and lay on a jungle airstrip for 22 hours awaiting help. The day she was shot, over 900 cult members committed mass suicide or were murdered at the People’s Temple compound.
Sen. Speier has stated that “the Jonestown tragedy is a daily reminder that no one is guaranteed a tomorrow . . . this has absolutely molded my philosophy and my zest for work and for life.” To this day, she carries two bullets in her body from the tragic incident in Guyana.
Two years after the Jonestown shootings, Sen. Speier became the youngest member ever to serve on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors when she won her first election by defeating a 20-year incumbent. Sen. Speier served in the California State Assembly from 1986 to 1996 before being elected to the State Senate, where she is completing her second term and was recently named Assistant President Pro-Tem. Last year, Sen. Speier visited the ANCA-WR office to discuss her intention to run for Lieutenant Governor of the State of California in 2006. She has since been campaigning for the position throughout the state, garnering the support of key constituencies. If elected, Sen. Jackie Speier would become only the second Armenian American to serve in statewide office since Governor George Deukmejian (19831991).
The ANCA-WR Annual Banquet regularly draws over 700 individuals, including a long list of dignitaries, such as prominent Members of Congress and state legislators, as well as a vast number of Armenian American community leaders and political activists. The annual event is the largest of its kind and helps raise funds to operate the nation’s largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots and political advocacy organization. More honorees are to be announced in the coming weeks before the annual banquet.
For more information on this year’s ANCA-WR Annual Banquet, or to reserve a table, call the ANCA-WR office at (818) 5001918.
The ANCA is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian-American community on a broad range of issues.
Photo caption: From left to right – ANCA-WR Chairman Steven J. Dadaian, Sen. Jackie Speier, and ANCA-WR board member Raffi Hamparian.