LOS ANGELES—Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region hosted a capacity crowd of its annual gala banquet held on Sunday, October 8 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. More than 1,000 supporters, activists, and generous donors of the ANCA-WR from throughout the country were joined by dozens of prominent Members of Congress, state, and local legislators and officials.
Community leaders celebrated ANCA-WR’s accomplishments and honored Congressman David Valadao, California State Senator Anthony Portantino, film director Terry George, Turkish Parliament Member Garo Paylan, and Documentarian Bared Maronian. A special recognition and presentation was also made to Chris Cornell, who wrote and performed the theme song for “The Promise.”
Held at the iconic Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, the event began at 4:30pm with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, and a VIP reception with major donors and elected officials. A three-course dinner followed at 6pm with a powerful program and presentation of awards kicked off by the national anthems performed by Ivana Krikorian.
Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, conducted the invocation for the evening.
Following the prayer, 2017 ANCA-WR Gala Committee Co-Chairs Jacklin Boyadjian, J.D. and Elizabeth Gourjian, welcomed guests and thanked all those that made the inspiring evening possible. Gourjian remarked, “The work of the ANCA is constant and immeasurable. Through extremely efficient operations, and competent, knowledgeable and dedicated activists and volunteers, great milestones have been achieved. I’m humbled and privileged to represent an organization, which provides an opportunity to advance the political passion of young and talented Armenian-American activists.” Boyadjian continued,”I would like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to serve you, and to congratulate our engaged, dedicated, and hardworking committee, whose love and passion for our Armenian community knows no bounds.”
Following Boyadjian and Gourjian, ANCA-WR Chair, Nora Hovsepian, Esq. took the stage. “As we all witnessed the horrific act of terror in Las Vegas a week ago today in which countless lives were senselessly lost, or the recent disasters in Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida which will affect those communities forever, or the loss of dozens of Armenian soldiers and civilians falling to Azeri bullets in recent months, we know that mere expressions of concern are not enough, and we must continue to soldier on,” stated Hovsepian. “For our People have lived through tragedy and survived many times before. Despite the deep scars that will forever remain in our national psyche as survivors of a mass crime, we have found strength in the Cause which propels us forward. We continue to remain focused like a laser beam on our mission, and we will not be deterred by obstacles placed in our path by anyone,” continued Hovsepian.
In her remarks, Hovsepian then moved to provide attendees with details of the organization’s accomplishments in 2017. Hovsepian noted the unprecedented success of the Divest Turkey initiative, ensuring that public funds are not used by Turkish government investment vehicles to facilitate Turkey’s ongoing denialist campaign in the U.S. once it is enacted into law. Hovsepian also highlighted the ANCA-WR’s successful efforts in gaining Genocide recognition in all 19 U.S. States in the Western Region; the diligent efforts of the ANCA-WR Education Committee and the Genocide Education Project for building upon last year’s mandates for Armenian Genocide education in the history and social studies curriculum framework and securing up to $10 million in State funding to implement them; and the diligent work of ANCA-WR activists in securing a total of $4 million of State funding for the all-important Armenian American Museum project, all with the leadership and support of legislators who championed these efforts. Hovsepian then highlighted the accomplishments of local chapters, including the ANCA-Glendale chapter’s most recent efforts in fighting genocide denialists, and using the power of grassroots activism to secure advertisement for the film Architects of Denial at The Americana at Brand. In a call to action, attendees and supporters were asked to volunteer their time, sign up as Rapid Responders, register to vote, and financially assist the ANCA-WR’s efforts by joining its monthly and annual giving programs.
The audience then viewed an inspirational and congratulatory video message from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was unable to personally attend the Gala.
ANCA-WR Board Member Nareg Kitsinian, Esq., then took the stage to announce the official launch of the new monthly giving program ANCAdvocates whereby supporters can donate $15/month or more on an ongoing basis to the ANCA-WR to help its ongoing efforts by texting 41444 with the message 4anc.
Ambassador to United States from the Republic of Armenia, His Excellency Grigor Hovhannissian, then took the stage and addressed the audience. Ambassador Hovhannissian noted, “I am here to convey a sense of solidarity and gratitude to thousands of people who annually, selflessly work hours, volunteer their time and resources to promote Armenian causes. This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of US and Armenia relations. The last 25 years we built dynamic a strong partnership and ANCA grassroots activism has played a remarkable role in bringing about a very diverse agenda that is now being transitioned from aid to trade. I appreciate ANCA’s effort in reaching that agenda with economic topics such as the tax treaty.”
Upon the conclusion of Ambassador Hovhannissian’s speech, the audience viewed a video presentation about the Armenian American Museum, and the activism in part of the ANCA-WR to make this vision a reality.
Following the video presentation, ANCA-WR Board Members Anahid Oshagan, Esq. and Berdj Karapetian presented the 2017 ANCA-WR Legislator of the Year award to California State Senator Anthony Portantino for his strong leadership and ongoing commitment to forcefully defending and advancing issues critical to Armenians worldwide. Oshagan noted that Portantino “managed to include millions in funding for teacher training and curriculum implementation. Training that will include the lessons of the Armenian Genocide…he has called on the Republic of Turkey to return confiscated church properties to their rightful congregations… the Special Committee he chairs organized the screening of the motion picture The Promise in Sacramento this past April.” Karapetian expressed gratitude to Senator Portantino, stating, “he succeeded in establishing and chairing the Senate Select Committee on California, Armenia and Artsakh Mutual Trade, Art and Cultural Exchange…he was the first elected official to call on the Americana at Brand to reverse its decision and allow public advertising for the Armenian Genocide and Human Rights Documentary Architects of Denial…and he championed the funding of $3 million to the Armenian American Museum and Cultural Center of California.”
As the applause and standing ovation subsided, Senator Portantino addressed the audience, “I’ve learned so much from each of you, certainly demand for justice for the Armenian Genocide is first among them, but there is so much more that we as your elected leaders should and must do.” Senator Portantino expressed that even recently, by watching the film Architects of Denial, he has learned more and more about the struggles and challenges of the Armenian people; “I grasp a more in-depth compression about the events of the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the pogroms in Baku and the brutality of the Azeris directed against the peaceful people in Stepanakert and Shushi.” Senator Portantino continued, “Without the presence of organizations like the ANCA, it is all too easy to forget these historic events and the many tests the Armenians and the Armenian -American community have had to endure to survive.” Senator Portantino then reflected on his trip to Artsakh, and shared with the audience the details of a poignant interaction he had with a member of the Artsakh Military; “I made a point to travel to the border of Artsakh with my good friend Councilman Zareh Sinanyan during our visit to Hayastan. Zareh took me to Aghdam to visit with the brave soldiers at the front. A front that shortly before our visit erupted in violence, as the Azeri forces violated a tenuous ceasefire and what sticks in my mind most and allows me to add voice and actions to not just representing my friends in this room but Armenians wherever they are in the world was when a Major in the Artsakh military held out his fist and handed me a handful of dirt and he stated ‘this is our land, we will stand on our land, and we will fight on our land, and we will die on our land.’”
After a live performance by Ara Dabanjian and Soseh Keshishian from Element Band, ANCA-WR Board Members Sako Berberian and Viken Pakradouni, Esq. presented the ANCA-WR Arts and Letters award to Bared Maronian. In his remarks, Pakradouni noted, “Mr. Maronian is probably best known for Orphans of the Genocide. The documentary tells the story of hundreds of thousands of Armenian orphans who lived through the horrors of war, the obstacles they overcame to survive and the rescue efforts of Near East Relief. Orphans of the Genocide has reached millions of viewers through national television broadcasting and satellite distribution. We are proud that working with the ANCA-Western Region through its ‘America We Thank You’ initiative, Mr. Maronian also produced a 30-minute documentary film tribute to Near East Relief.” Berberian continued, “We are honoring Mr. Maronian tonight for his body of work but especially because of his latest work – Women of 1915. Women of 1915 is a documentary focusing on the integral role that Armenian women played in their communities, the plight of Armenian women during the Genocide and their resilient survival after 1915. “
In accepting the award, Maronian expressed appreciation for the recognition. Maronian emphasized the significance of having the voices of the oppressed heard through film. Maronian then dedicated his award to his supporters and remarked, “It was only through your support, that I was able to make that voice heard, in this case the voices of the feeble orphans, and the voices of the resilient Armenian women and non-Armenian women, who despite horrific injustices helped to save a nation.”
Following Maronian’s moving acceptance speech, ANCA-WR Board Members Souzi Zerounian-Khanzadian and Nareg Kitsinian, Esq. presented United States Congressman David Valadao with the ANCA-WR Advocate for Justice Award. In his remarks, Kitsinian highlighted Congressman Valadao’s work with the HALO Trust in demining Artsakh, stating, “Congressman Valadao is working with ANCA to safe guard US aid to demine the Republic of Artsakh.” Zerounian-Khanzadian continued, “Congressman Valadao visited Artsakh, where alongside government officials and ANCA chairman Raffi Hamparian, he personally observed the HALO Trust demining program that he helped to fund.”
In his acceptance speech, Congressman Valadao expressed his commitment to the Armenian cause, noting, “As a member of the House of Representatives I have sought to use my position and my voice to highlight the issues facing the Armenian-American community and bring awareness to its rich history.” Congressman Valadao voiced his continued support for demining Artsakh; “Just last month with the assistance of ANCA I worked to include language in fiscal year 2018 appropriation legislation to ensure for the ongoing demining projects in Nagorno Karabakh. This funding will help to protect Armenian families who live under the very real threat of landmine accidents each and every single day.” He concluded his speech, “during my time in Congress and in my role as co-chairman in the Armenian Caucus, advancing the cause of Armenian-Americans has and continues to be one of my top priorities in Washington.”
ANCA-WR Board Member Joseph Kaskanian took to the podium to recognize the 2017 ANCA Western Region and ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship Program participants Emily Samvalian, Shant Reganyan, Raffi Hairapetian, Hakop Mesropian, Flora Adamian, Nicholas Portnoy, Hasmik Burushyan, Isabelle Grigoryan, Adrine Keosian, Shant Eulmessekian, Shushan Gabrielyan, and Hagop Housbian.
Kaskanian opened his remarks by going through the values instilled and opportunities provided to interns and youth in the community and the critical role they play in the organization’s success and continued on to state, “This year ANCA -WR interns have continued to be leaders in the community by participating in the Leo Sarkisian Internship in DC and working with the Armenian Youth Federation, Armenian Relief Society and as well as Asbarez. We look forward to seeing what else all of you will achieve for the Armenian Cause.”
Following Kaskanian’s remarks and presentation, ANCA-WR Board Members Raffi Kassabian, Esq. and Steve Artinian presented The Promise director Terry George with the ANCA-WR Arts and Letters Award. In his remarks, Kassabian stated, “Terry George’s The Promise brought the personal stories and tragedies of the Armenian Genocide to life on the screen to the entire world. Never intimidated to speak out against genocide, Terry’s vision made film viewers experience the events of 1915 – the blood that our ancestors sacrificed at the battle of Musa Dagh, the tireless efforts of the United States in saving thousands of orphans through the Near East Relief, and the survival – the survival – of our ancestors to preserve our culture and ensure that the next generation lives to carry our cause forward.” Artinian added, “ Terry’s work embodies what America and this world cannot and will not. The power of the film can educate, motivate, and activate our community and beyond.”
Upon taking the stage, the director of The Promise stated, “Film is eternal. This story that we have told is an eternal reminder to the world of both the horror committed against the Armenian people but even more so of their strength.” As the audience cheered and applauded, George continued, “This group of refugees represented in this room, represent the very best of the world. They suffered the worst calamity, they managed to survive, they spread out around the world, and they have stood firm in their belief for justice, and not only that – they have empowered the small country to developed and to find its own way against enormous odds. And that at the heart of it is the story of our film.” George then touched on the parallel between the events of 1915, and the modern day atrocities being carried out against Christians and Yezidis in the Middle East. “While we were making the film, we watched as we were shooting, people fleeing across the desert being driven towards Aleppo- a lot of them Armenian survivors from a hundred years before. We were filming people drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, and we were watching people drown in the Mediterranean sea on the news.”
In concluding his speech, Terry George recognized his friend and colleague Eric Esrailian who was present in the room and then paid tribute to his friend, colleague, and activist, the late musician Chris Cornell. George then predicted upcoming victories for Cornell’s song The Promise, adding, “In the forthcoming awards season we will triumph.”
After a live musical performance by Raffi Semerdjian, ANCA Nationaal Chair Raffi Hamparian took the stage to introduce the night’s Freedom Award recipient – “Courage in the eye of the storm, a voice for the voiceless, a beacon of faith, a beacon of hope, a beacon of light, a beacon of justice” – Garo Paylan. As cheers erupted, and the audience rose to its feet, Paylan graciously took the stage and remarked, “102 years later and our wounds are still open, and as much as I am proud of our efforts, we weren’t able to make the people who are responsible for this crime… An unpunished crime creates new crimes and unfortunately, the crime that is genocide is still going on. 102 years ago it was the Armenians who suffered the Genocide, now it is the Kurdish people. As a Democrat, it is my responsibility to stop all those crimes from recurring by bringing awareness. I, as a human rights activist for decades, could say that I am still struggling for all crimes of human rights violations. We need to care about Armenia, Artsakh, Karabakh, but first of all we need to end the crimes against humanity.” Paylan went on to address the collective struggle to achieve genocide recognition, “ But we are still struggling. I live with millions of Turks who want to recognize the Armenian Genocide. I live with millions of Kurds who want to recognize the Armenian Genocide. And we are struggling all together.”
Paylan’s acceptance speech concluded the evening’s program, and attendees slowly exited the banquet room, feeling invigorated, energized, and motivated to continue advocating for issues of significance to the Armenian -American Community, and the Armenian Community at large.
Dignitaries, elected officials, and ANCA-WR endorsed candidates in attendance included Congress Members Judy Chu, Ed Royce, Adam Schiff, David Valadao; CA State Treasurer John Chiang; California State Controller Betty Yee; Assemblymembers Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and Tony Thurmond; California State Senator Anthony Portantino; Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang; Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian and David Ryu; Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Scott Schmerelson; Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees Vice President Mike Fong and Members Mike Eng and Scott Svonkin; Burbank Vice Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy; Burbank School Board Member Dr. Armond Aghakhanian; Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian; Glendale City Clerk Ardashes Ardy Kassakhian; Glendale Community College Board Members Dr. Armina Gharpetian and Yvette Vartanian Davis; Glendale School Board Vice President Greg Krikorian; Glendale Unified School Board Members Nayiri Nahapetian and Shant Sahakian; City of Montebello Mayor Vivian Romero; Montebello City Council Member Jack Hadjinian; Montebello City Treasurer Ashod Mooradian; Pasadena Unified School District President Roy Boulghourjian; City of Pico Rivera Mayor Bob Archuleta; Crescenta Valley Town Council President Harry Leon; and City of Downey Mayor Pro Tem Sean Ashton.
Additional community leaders in attendance included Armenian Apostolic Church Western Diocese Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian’s representative Very Reverend Dajad Yardumian, Minister to the Armenian Evangelical Union Reverend Berdj Djambazian, representative of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of North America Father Manuel Parsegh Baghdassarian, Permanent Representative to the United States from the Republic of Artsakh Honorable Robert Avetisyan, Consul to the Los Angeles from the Republic of Armenia Honorable Armella Shakaryan, Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau Members Hagop Der Khatchadourian and Dr. Viken Yacoubian, Chairman of the Central Committee, A.R.F. of the Western USA Daron Der Khachadourian, Chairman of the Armenian Cultural Foundation Avedik Izmirlian, Chair of the ANCA Eastern Region Steve Mesrobian, Community benefactors and the major banquet sponsor Mr. and Mrs. Varant and Hoori Melkonian, Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles and Consulate member Honorable Akira Chiba, Chair of the ANC-Canada Western Region based in Vancouver Hagop Der Hagopian, representatives of the Armenian Ramgavar Party Kevork Krikorian and Cage Tcharkutian, representatives of the Armenian Social Democrat Hunchak Party Kapriel Moloyan and Vahe Atchabahian, member of the AGBU Western District Board Talin Yacoubian, Esq., Chair of the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund Raffi Kendirjian, Chair of the Armenian Relief Society Regional Executive Silva Poladian, Member of the Homenetmen Central Executive Viggen Davidian, Chair of the Armenian Youth Federation Central Executive Raffi Senekeremian, representative of the Homenetmen Western U.S. Regional Executive Berj Bedoyan, Chair of the Western Prelacy Board of Regents Lisa Gaboudian, Chair of the National Organization of Republican Armenians Aram Gaboudian, Incoming President of the Southern California Armenian Democrats Arthur Charchian, Esq., Executive Director of the Armenian Hellenic Council Ioannis Fidanakis, Producer of The Promise Film Dr. Eric Esrailian, Assistant Director of The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law Jessica Peake, Faculty Director of The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law Dr. Asli Bali, Executive Director of the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights Kate Nahapetian, Esq., Chair of the USC Armenian Studies Institute Leadership Council Charly Chailian, Chair of the Armenian Bar Association Saro Kerkonian, Chair of the Organization of Istanbul Armenians Edvin Minasian, Executive Director of The Genocide Education Project Roxanne Makasdjian, President of the Armenian Bone Marrow Registry Dr. Frieda Jordan, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America Aram Hamparian, Editor of Asbarez Apo Boghigian, English Editor of Asbarez Ara Khachatourian, Judge of Los Angeles Superior Court Honorable Zaven Sinanian, Judge of Los Angeles Superior Court Honorable Greg Keosian, Commissioner of the CA Commission on Judicial Performance Pattyl Aposhian Kasparian, Chair of the City of Glendale’s community development block grant commission Zanku Armenian, Glendale Parks and Rec Commissioner Elen Asatryan, Chair of the LA Police Permit Review Panel Lara Yeretsian, Trustee of the George Ignatius Foundation Michael Amerian, Esq., ANCA-endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate from Nevada Danny Tarkanian, ANCA-endorsed candidate for Congress from Utah’s 3rd congressional district Dr. Kathie Allen, President of the Glendale Teachers Association Talene Arsenian, and Director of Bureau of Street Lighting of the City of Los Angeles Ed Ebrahimian
The corporate sponsors of the 2017 ANCA-WR Gala included: Michael Aram, Closet World, Garo Mardirossian & Associates, Inc., New York Life, Golden State Bank, Southern California Edison, Southland Disposal, CSUN, Dignity Health, Construction Group, Inc., LASOLAR Group, Martinian & Associates Inc., NASA, Allen Massihi, D.P.M., Southern California Gas Company, Sempra Energy utility, Anoush Banquet Halls and Catering, GourjianLawGroup, Marriott Armenia ,Yerevan, Martin, GotPrint.com, Vertigo, Rental Avenue, Le Style My Soirée, Kitchen 12000, The Guardian of Health, Bitter & Sweet, and Avant Garden.
The Gala Committee included Co-Chairs Jacklin Boyadjian, J.D. and Elizabeth Gourjian, Anita Altounian, Anita Aslanian, Arsho Beylerian, Lina Davidian, Esq., Armine Der Grigorian, Marie Filipian, Alex Garibyan, Harry Geozian, Anita Gevorkian, Gor Gevorkyan, Edgar Hayrapetyan, Salpi Jejeian, Solair Kargodorian, Michael Kay,Vanna Kitsinian, Esq., Ani Nalbandian, J.D., Boghos Patatian, Tina Karayan Porta, Esq., Suren Seropian, Mary Simitian, Nora Tchaparian, Vahagn Thomasian, Armine Zakaryan, and ANCA-WR Board Liaisons Steve Artinian, Sako Berberian, Berdj Karapetian, and Hermineh Pakhanians.
The ANCA-WR Annual Banquet is the largest event of its kind and helps raise funds to operate the nation’s most broad-based Armenian-American grassroots and political advocacy organization. Through these funds, the ANCA-WR is able to educate the general public about the Armenian Genocide, the Republic of Armenia, Artsakh, and other vital issues of concern to the Armenian-American community.
To financially assist the ANCA-WR in its work, community members are encouraged to enroll in the ANCAdvocates program, Friends of the ANCA-WR Monthly Giving, the ANCA-WR Founders’ Circle Annual Giving, and the Support our Supporters Corporate and Business Giving programs by visiting www.ancawr.org/donate or calling 818.500.1919.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy 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 ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.