LOS ANGELES–On occasion, an elected official in Washington, D.C. rises so far above the fray and serves the interests of justice, liberty and freedom, that it makes all Americans proud beyond belief. United States Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who has placed a legislative hold on genocide denier Richard Hoagland’s nomination to serve as America’s next Ambassador to Armenia, is just such a remarkable elected official.
The Armenian National Committee-Western Region will be honoring Senator Robert Menendez with its highest honor, the prestigious ANC-WR Man of the Year Award this fall. The honor will be bestowed upon Senator
Menendez at the organization’s annual banquet on September 30, 2007 in Los Angeles, California.
"We are proud to be honoring Senator Menendez," commented ANC-WR Executive Director Andrew Kzirian. "The Senator from New Jersey acted with distinction and guts when he placed a hold on Richard Hoagland’s nomination. Preventing a denier of genocide from serving as Ambassador to Armenia is sound public policy. Because sending a genocide denier to Yerevan would have represented a setback to U.S.-Armenia relations, and a retreat from our nation’s historic commitment to genocide prevention worldwide," Kzirian emphasized.
In a statement released when he placed the hold on Richard Hoagland last year, Senator Menendez said that, "the State Department and the Bush administration are just flat-out wrong in their refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide. It is well past time for American diplomacy to drop the euphemisms, the wink-wink, nod-nod brand of foreign policy that overlooks heinous atrocities committed around the world. If there is any sincerity behind the Bush administration’s rhetoric about ‘liberty on the march’ – if ‘never again’ is to be more than a bumper sticker slogan – then American diplomacy should consist of nothing less than unvarnished honesty with our friends and enemies alike. And we must call genocide by its name."
An internet poll of Armenian Americans taken last year found that 97% opposed the Hoagland nomination. Ninety-four percent of the respondents said that they "strongly agreed" with the Senate’s opposition to his nomination. An additional 3% noted that they "somewhat agreed" with this opposition. One percent reported that they "somewhat disagreed" with opposing Hoagland, and 2% indicated that they "strongly disagreed" with the opposition to his confirmation.
For well over a decade, Robert Menendez has been a good friend of the ArmeniansAmerican community in the State of New Jersey. From ensuring that the United States honestly addresses the issue of the Armenian Genocide to advocating the right of self-determination for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, Senator Menendez has championed truth, justice, and the principles of freedom so cherished by the Armenian American community. As a mark of his longstanding respect on Armenian issues, in 2005 then-Congressman Menendez joined hundreds of Armenian Americans at a reception in New Jersey honoring His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia.
During the 109th Congress [2005-2006], Senator Menendez received nationwide attention after making history by placing a hold on the appointment of Ambassador designate to the Republic of Armenia, Richard Hoagland. The Armenian American community has overwhelmingly expressed its concern regarding Hoagland’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in which he used language denying the Armenian Genocide qualified as such. Throughout 2006, the Armenian National Committee of America led a nationwide campaign to call attention to this matter and demand that the State Department remove the Hoagland nomination, offer a complete explanation surrounding the controversial firing of former Ambassador John Marshall Evans, and clarify the Turkish Government’s influence in the removal of Ambassador Evans.
When the new 110th Congress began in January 2007, the Bush Administration once again nominated Hoagland to serve as US Ambassador to Armenia without addressing any of the concerns outlined by the ANCA and the Armenian American community. Once again, Senator Menendez placed a hold on the nomination.
When asked about his motivation for doing so, Senator Menendez stated, "I believe that the United States, Armenia, and all who are committed to human rights should support an ambassador to Armenia who recognizes the genocide that took place there more than 90 years ago."
In February of 2007, the Armenian National Committee of New Jersey honored Senator Menendez at a ceremony hosted in Rockleigh, New Jersey. More than two hundred Armenian National Committee of New Jersey supporters and friends were present for the occasion during which the Senator was granted the ANCA-Eastern Region Man of the Year award. The program was attended by many Armenian American leaders from the New York metropolitan area, various Church leaders, and Vahan Hovhannisyan, Deputy Speaker of the Republic of Armenia’s Parliament.
Robert Menendez grew up the son of immigran’s in Union City, New Jersey. He has served as a school board member, a mayor and a state legislator. In 1992, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He became the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congressional history and the third-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives when his colleagues elected him the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in 2002. He was appointed to the United States Senate by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and sworn in to the Senate on January 18, 2006. In November of that year, he was elected by the people of New Jersey to serve a full six-year term as United States Senator. He currently serves on the Senate Committees on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Energy and Natural Resources; Budget; and Foreign Relations. Senator Menendez is also the Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection.
Every year close to 1,000 Armenian American community members and leaders join prominent Members of Congress, statewide officials and state legislators for the ANC-WR Annual Banquet. The 2007 banquet is set to be sold out event, with ANC advocates and friends from California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Washington, and from elsewhere across the Western United States coming together for the evening’s event. The banquet will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail hour and silent auction, with the formal program beginning at 7:00 p.m. For more information about the ANC-WR Annual Banquet please contact Felicia Garver at the ANC-WR office at (818) 500-1918.