HOLLYWOOD, CA – The Board of Directors of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region and the Annual Banquet Organizing Committee held its annual ANCA-WR Banquet at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood on Sunday, October 20, 2002. The evening featured a star-studded list of honorees that included Freedom Award Recipients System of A Down, Atom Egoyan and regular CNN legal commentator and defense attorney, Mark Geragos as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.
Every year, the ANCA-WR Banquet gives community members and public officials the opportunity to witness first accomplishments of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region. Attracting hundreds of supporters and activists, the Banquet was an excellent opportunity for individuals to show their support and appreciation for the efforts of the ANCA-WR. This year’s Annual Banquet had more then 550 guests and 25 elected officials.
The Banquet, a long-standing ANCA-WR tradition, also honors the ANCA-WR Freedom Award Recipients, and is the primary fundraiser for the ANCA-WR annual budget. The ANCA-WR Freedom Award is presented to individuals and organizations that have contributed to the advancement of the Armenian Cause. The evening’s honorees included System Of A Down, Grammy-nominated Armenian-American rock musicians who, through their work, have helped raise awareness and garner support for the critical issue of Genocide reaffirmation. Serge Tankain, the lead singer for System Of A Down, thanked Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee, for his efforts in fighting for the Armenian Cause and human rights issues.
Also honored was Oscar-nominated writer and director Atom Egoyan, whose new film “Ararat” deals specifically with the Armenian Genocide and the Turkish denial. Although not present because of his Montreal film premiere, Atom Egoyan did send a video message saying, “the Freedom Award means a great deal to me and I am honored to accept it.” Past recipients of the prestigious Freedom Award have included J. Michael Hagopian for his groundbreaking film about the Armenian Genocide and Peter Balakian for his book, Black Dog of Fate, which was on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
State Senator Jack Scott was presented with the ANCA-WR Man of the Year award for his gallant efforts in assuring the passage of the California-Armenia Trade Office bill (S.B. 1657), which was recently signed into law by Governor Gray Davis. State Senator Scott, along with his wife, also traveled to Armenia this past spring with ANCA-WR Board member Berdj Karapetian and Artin Manoukian, chair of the Glendale ANC to see first hand what business opportunities are available in Armenia. Mr. Karapetian introduced the Man of the Year Award and praised Senator Scott’s Leadership in the efforts to pass S.B. 1657 during a critical time for California’s state budget. The Bill appreciated an overwhelmingly large margin of bi-partisan support in both the Senate and the State Assembly.
“Armenia is abound with economic opportunities and it is a win-win situation for both California and Armenia to establish this trade office,” commented State Senator Scott upon receiving the Man of the Year award.
The evening also included video presentations that highlighted the work of the ANCA-WR and a special piece that depicted what a tremendous impact System Of A Down has had with Genocide education in the non-Armenian community. The video clip featured several non-Armenian youth specifically referencing System Of A Down as the primary source for their awareness of the Armenian Genocide. They also mentioned that through System Of A Down’s website they were able to access the ANCA’s website and send out web-faxes and e-mails to their Congressional representatives calling upon them to support Armenian issues.
“The youth is not only the community’s voice for tomorrow but they’re already demonstrating their ability to understand and work on the complex issues involved in advocacy today,” state Souzi Zerounian-Khanzadian, Chair of the Banquet Committee. “We wanted our supporters and the elected officials invited tonight to see what a fantastic job they are doing and will continue to do with the community’s encouragement and support.”
Steven J. Dadian, Chair of the ANCA-WR Board, thanked everyone in attendance for their activism and involvement in the Armenian Cause and highlighted a number of very important milestones in Armenian American advocacy during his Banquet address.
“Each activist in this room is the living memory of many triumphs and many other setbacks, but through it all, the Armenian National Committee has led, inspired and recognized activism in its most elementary to its most sophisticated form.
“For instance, if we look at the last decade of ANC Freedom Award recipients, we will see a roster of individuals, who have worked hard and who have succeeded in brining the history of the Armenian people and most importantly the truth of the Armenian Genocide to the mainstream public consciousness – J. Michael Hagopian, Carol Edgarian, Peter Balakian, The Genocide Project – and tonight we add Atom Egoyan and System of a Down to the hall of fame of activists who have dared, who have created, and who have challenged convention and the establishment to face up to history,” commented Mr. Dadaian.
“The ANC has recognized the invaluable contribution these individuals have made and we have supported these efforts,” added Mr. Dadaian.
Before the evening’s actual program began, ANCA-WR Board member Raffi Hamparian read a special letter to the ANCA-WR from President George W. Bush congratulating the ANCA-WR on their annual banquet and the ANCA-WR’s efforts in strengthening the ties between Armenia and the United States of America. The letter expressed the President and First Lady’s regrets in being unable to join the ANCA-WR and supporters at their annual event. “As a grassroots organization, we work with elected officials from every level of government and were glad to see so many friends of the Armenian community in attendance,” stated Ardashes Kassakhian, Director of Government Relations for the ANCA-WR. “Our efforts to secure support for Armenian-American issues are bolstered by such staunch allies and friends across the Western United States.”
The elected officials in attendance included United State Representative Adam Schiff, California State Assemblymembers Judy Chu, Dario Frommer, Jackie Goldberg, Paul Koretz, Carol Liu, and Gloria Negret-McLeod, Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Gov. Roy Romer, Boardmembers David Takofsky, Caprice Young, Julie Kornstein, Pasadena City Councilmember Chris Holden, School Board member Tommy McMullin, Glendale City Councilmembers Gus Gomez, David Weaver, and Frank Quintero. Also attending the banquet was Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. Armenian American elected officials in attendance were the Mayor of Glendale, Raffi Manoukian, Duarte City Councilmember George Chapjian, Downey City Councilmember Kirk Cartozian, among others.
The Armenian National Committee of America (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.