Glendale, CA – California State Senator Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco, San Mateo) visited the offices of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) on Tuesday, September 28 to discuss issues of concern to Armenian-Americans in California with community leaders. Members of the ANCA-WR Board of Directors and the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) greeted the Senator and were briefed on the issues that the Senator has been working on in the State Capitol.
Senator Speier will be amongst the many public officials in attendance at this year’s Annual Banquet which will be held at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, California on October 24, 2004. ANCA-WR Chairman Raffi Hamparian welcomed Senator Speier to the ANCA-WR headquarters and thanked her for steadfast support of legislation and issues that affect Armenian-Americans in the state. The Senator is the state’s highest ranking Democratic elected official of Armenian descent and the only Armenian-American woman currently serving in the State Legislature.
ANCA-WR Board Member Steven Dadaian briefed the Senator on economic developments in the Republic of Armenia and highlighted the necessity for the State of California to remain committed to its promise of establishing the California Regional Trade Office in Armenia. Angela Savoian, Chairwoman of the ARS Western United States, also briefed the Senator on the history of the ARS and described the essential social services that the organization continues to provide to immigrants. During the meeting, Senator Speier reiterated the importance of her Armenian ancestry in shaping her commitment to being a public servant and fighting for justice.
Senator Speier’s career-long commitment to public service was nearly cut short in 1978 when she traveled as legal counsel to California Congressman Leo J. Ryan to Jonestown, Guyana as part of a U.S. fact-finding mission that was to investigate rumors that people, including many Bay Area families, were being held hostage by cult leader Rev. Jim Jones. On November 18, 1978, at the end of a two-day investigation, gunmen from the Peoples Temple cult ambushed, shot and killed Congressman Ryan and four others in his traveling group. Speier, then 28 years old, was struck by five bullets and was “left for dead” on a jungle airstrip for 22 hours. The day she was shot, 911 cult members committed mass suicide or were murdered at the Peoples Temple compound. Senator Speier has stated that “the Jonestown tragedy is a daily reminder that no one is guaranteed 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 incident.
Two years after the Jonestown shootings, 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. Senator Speier served in the State Assembly from 1986 to 1996 before being elected to the State Senate where she is completing her second term.
Senator Speier has announced her intent to run for Lieutenant Governor of the State of California. If elected, Senator Jackie Speier would become only the second Armenian-American to serve in statewide office since Governor George Deukmejian (1983 – 1991).
“Senator Speier’s dedication to public service and to the people of California is truly admirable and an excellent example for other young aspiring Armenian-Americans to follow,” commented Ardashes Kassakhian, ANCA-WR Executive Director. “We’re looking forward to having her attend our Annual Banquet on October 24th and joining us in honoring other Armenian-American public officials who have paved the way for future leaders,” added Kassakhian referring to the ANCA-WR Annual Banquet which will honor Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) with the ANCA-WR Legacy Award and State Senator Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno) with the Person of the Year Award. The annual event draws over 750 community leaders and activists, public officials, academicians and ANC supporters.
Individuals or organizations interested in attending the ANCA-WR Annual Banquet may call the ANCA-WR Offices at (818) 500-1918 to reserve their table or individual tickets.