‘At this Critical Juncture in Our National History, the Time, Sacrifice and Commitment of Every Single Armenian Is Essential,’ Says ANCA-WR Chairwoman Nora Hovsepian.
During the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region’s annual Gala Banquet on Sunday, October 7, the organization’s chairwoman, Nora Hovsepian, delivered the following remarks.
BY NORA HOVSEPIAN
Welcome to the 2018 ANCA Western Region Gala Banquet. We are so proud to have the support and attendance of close to 1000 of our most ardent soldiers in our fight to advance the Armenian Cause! On behalf of our Board of Directors, I want to thank Steve Artinian and Lina Davidian for their leadership of our amazing Banquet Committee which organized this truly successful event!
From this year’s inspiring honorees, to our youth, our interns, volunteers, local chapters, sister organizations, coalition partners, our friends in elected office, and to our wonderfully generous donors, every person here is an activist in his or her own right, and we are all here for one common purpose:
This is a Cause that belongs to every single Armenian worldwide, regardless of citizenship or domicile. In our complex reality where two-thirds of the Nation lives outside the Homeland, priorities may sometimes differ. But our common denominator remains our national agenda, where we all work to facilitate progress and prosperity for Armenia; to secure peace and self-determination for Artsakh; to seek justice for the Armenian Genocide; and to mobilize Diasporan communities to advance our Cause through civic engagement.
With the peaceful Velvet Revolution in Armenia, our People, all of us, are resolutely moving toward true democracy, growth and globalization, ushering in a new era of collective hope and optimism where every Armenian feels encouraged to have a stake in our national destiny.
Throughout many periods of political instability and economic uncertainty over the years, the ANCA has always remained steadfast in serving the Armenian Cause regardless of who may be in power here in the Diaspora or there in Armenia, always striving to be the bridge between the US and Armenia to advance Armenian interests in every possible way.
I am proud to report that as a direct result of our advocacy, the US has provided over $2.5 billion in foreign aid to Armenia and over $45 million in aid to Artsakh. Today, our agenda focuses on a broad array of thoughtful initiatives to promote investment, tourism and education in Armenia.
Just last month, to assist in transitioning from aid to trade, the ANCA-WR organized and led a highly successful legislative delegation and trade study group to Yerevan. Many of our delegation members are here tonight, and I would like to recognize and thank each of them for joining us, and supporting our mission: Senator Anthony Portantino, Senator Henry Stern, Assemblymember Evan Low who traveled here from Silicon Valley to join us tonight, Mayor Zareh Sinanyan, and Glendale City Clerk Ardashes Kassakhian. Thank you all.
Our work is multi-faceted, and as anyone fighting in the political arena will tell you, nothing in politics comes easy. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t. But one thing remains certain: we never give up.
Our Divest Turkey initiative, for example, made its way into the California State legislature a few years ago. But for every step forward, there were often two steps back as we faced opposition from numerous sources. The bill was scrutinized and challenged in multiple committees in both Houses. Ahead of each vote, our staff and volunteers walked the halls of the Capitol in Sacramento, educating the legislators about the moral imperative of divesting from Turkey to stop the flow of millions in US pension funds, which were then turned around to fund Turkey’s Genocide denialist campaign. And finally, toward the end of this year’s legislative session, we succeeded in securing the necessary votes to pass this bill. This was no small feat.
We are grateful to Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian for leading the effort, to Lt. Governor (and soon to be Governor) Gavin Newsom for publicly endorsing our initiative, to Speaker Anthony Rendon, former Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and his successor, Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, to Senators Anthony Portantino and Scott Wilk, to Congressman Adam Schiff who gathered signatures of his California colleagues in support of the bill, and to each of the legislators who voted for the bill, delivering unanimous votes of 69-0 in the Assembly, and 36-0 in the Senate!
And yet, despite the overwhelmingly solid legislative decision and the thousands of Armenian constituents who sent ANCA Action Alerts, Governor Jerry Brown threw a hurdle in our path, and at the eleventh hour before his deadline, he vetoed the bill last week.
As I said, nothing in politics comes easy, but we will continue to move forward with the support of a new Administration, and we will ultimately enact our Divest Turkey bill into law.
But to continue our work, whether it is for divestment, or internship programs, or HyeVotes, or anything else we do, we do need your ongoing support.
We are fortunate to have such a hard-working dedicated staff to guide us, but we need to hire more. We are gratified that we have active local chapters, but we need to strengthen and expand our volunteer base. We are not on a battlefield, but we are in a public relations war where everything we do is challenged by the Turkish and Azeri lobbies which have unlimited resources at their disposal.
We fully recognize that there are many causes which are worthy of your support, but the ANCA’s work is uniquely on behalf of us all. So to each of our wonderful donors, large or small, please accept our sincere thanks for your generosity.
As many of you will recall, at last year’s Banquet, we launched a new Text to Donate program asking our grassroots supporters to commit to automatic payments of $15/month. I am happy to report that in the past year, this program has generated over $35,000 toward our resources, and we hope to expand it further with each passing year. So please tell your friends and families to sign up by texting 4ANC to 41444 to join the program!
Of course our work would not be possible without the support of our major donors who each year encourage us with their inspiring generosity. I want to especially thank the Sepetjian Family for demonstrating their faith in our mission by making a magnanimous donation of $100,000 for Hye Tad; the Melkonian family for always being there with their noble commitment to our Cause and all we do; Mayor Zareh Sinanyan for his recognition of our efforts with such a generous donation; the Chraghchian family for its consistent confidence in our work, and to all of our wonderful sponsors. I especially want to acknowledge the years of love and support shown by our beloved Hacob and Mina Shirvanian who we lost this year and whose void will be impossible to fill. But we are truly grateful to their family, and especially to Alice Petrossian who not only continues her parents’ legacy of financial and moral support, but who also volunteers her time, vision and expertise to serve as our ANCA-WR Education Committee Chair! Thank you Alice.
And to those who do not have the ability to provide financial support, and even those who do, our doors are always open for you to join one of our local chapters or regional committees, whether it is the ANCA-Professional Network, the illustrious Education Committee, the Media Task Force, our Community Relations Committee, our Internship Programs, or any number of other projects or initiatives. We need you! Sign up as Rapid Responders. Vote for our endorsed candidates. Do all that is possible to promote the Armenian Cause.
Because at this critical juncture in our national history, when we are on the threshold of a new era, the time, sacrifice, and commitment of every single Armenian is essential to move our Nation forward. So please, do what you can, when you can, and join our movement now! Those who have, know that it is one of the most gratifying, inspiring, and satisfying things you can do. And as I always say, we will see you all in the trenches!