Sacramento, CA – Armenian Americans from across California joined Democratic Party delegates for the 2009 California Democratic Party (CDP) convention hosted in Sacramento. The event drew public officials and party leaders from across the state to elect CDP leaders and discuss policy issues and challenges facing the Golden State. Among the many delegates were over a dozen Armenian Americans, including several ANC activists. The weekend-long convention began on April 24th coinciding with the annual commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. “I was proud to see so many Armenian Americans from across California participate in this year’s convention,” said Aida Dimejian, a convention delegate from Pasadena. “There were young and old Armenian American delegates attending their first convention joined by seasoned party faithful with several years of convention experience, yet we were all here to make sure our community’s voice was heard as we cast our votes in determining the course of action and future leadership of the party,” she added. Retired California Senator Art Torres, the outgoing chairman of the CDP opened the convention on Friday evening and during the welcome reception read a letter from the Armenian National Committee – Western Region (ANC-WR) explaining the significance of April 24th and remembering the Armenian Genocide in California. “The California Legislature has passed several resolutions over the years reaffirming and remembering the Armenian Genocide, but Chairman Torres’ reading of the ANC letter and asking for a moment of silence in front of hundreds of convention participants was the most heartfelt acknowledgment I have seen in the past 17 years that I have been a delegate to the CDP convention,” said Richelle Noroyan, a delegate from Santa Cruz. Armenian American delegates also actively participated in many of the convention events including several of the ethnic caucuses and committee meetings. Aram Kaloustian, a delegate from Los Angeles, attended the California Young Democrats (CYD) caucus with fellow first-time convention delegate Gagik Mkhitaryan. Mkhitaryan, a resident of Glendale and a student at Woodbury University in Burbank, took the opportunity to educate caucus members about the Armenian Genocide while Kaloustian discussed the importance of engaging more Armenian American youth with CYD leaders. “At the [California] Young Democrats’ caucus I was reminded of the many strong and vibrant leaders of our Armenian American youth organizations,” said Kaloustian. “In the coming years I know we will be seeing even more young Armenian Americans participating in local Democratic party clubs and joining us as delegates at the annual state convention,” he added. Throughout the weekend, Armenian American delegates and convention attendees met with numerous party leaders including Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman and African American Caucus Chair Dean Parker in addition to local public officials including Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, California Senator Gloria Romero, California Senator Alex Padilla, California Assembly Members Paul Krekorian, Anthony Portantino, Mike Feuer and Bob Blumenfield, as well as Pasadena City Council Member and former Mayor Chris Holden. “President Obama’s statement on the Armenian Genocide was released on the opening day of the convention and unfortunately it fell far short of what we as Armenian American Democrats expected,” noted Nishan Bostanian, a convention delegate from Los Angeles. “However, Armenian Americans were not the only ones disappointed in his failure to unequivocally reaffirm this crime against humanity. Many delegates and party leaders made their concerns known to us in our discussions with them,” he added. Bostanian noted that Chairman Torres’ address to the convention floor on April 24th was more in-line with the Democratic Party’s principles than President Obama’s statement. He was hopeful that President Obama and his advisors took note of the forthright way in which the largest state in the country addressed the issue. For Nayiri Keosseian, a recent graduate of the University of Southern California and a delegate from Glendale, the convention was a great learning experience that exemplified the grassroots nature of community empowerment. “Having studied political science at USC it was a great opportunity to see the political process in action,” remarked Keosseian. “This was an eye opening and educational weekend and I hope to see more Armenian Americans as convention delegates and participants next year,” she added. The Armenian National Committee – Western Region is the largest Armenian American grassroots community organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANC-WR works to promote understanding regarding issues of concern to the Armenian American community.
Photo Caption #2: California Armenian American delegates with Assembly Member Anthony Portantino (center).
Photo Caption #3: Convention delegates Aida Dimejian and Nishan Bostanian with Assembly Member Bob Blumenfield (center).