SACRAMENTO-Armenian National Committee activists from throughout the State of California gathered in Sacramento on Inauguration Day–January 6–2003–to honor the five Armenian Americans currently serving in the State Legislature. The reception was held at the historic Sterling Hotel in the state capital and was well attended by a wide cross-section of individuals. The special event also honored California’s Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante–Attorney General Bill Lockyer–and several distinguished members of the California State Assembly and Senate.
After the 2002 November Elections–the number of Armenian-Americans serving in the California State Legislature reached a total of five-three Assemblymembers and two Senators. Freshmen Assemblymen Greg Aghazarian (R-Turlock) and Steve Samuelian (R-Fresno) joined second term Assemblymember Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). In the State Senate–Charles Poochigian (R-Fresno) was reelected to a second term and serves alongside Senator Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco).
The ANCA-WR and its local ANC chapters organized the reception to recognize these special public officials and to highlight the historic accomplishment that their presence in the Legislature represents for the Armenian-American community in California. The number of Armenian-American representatives in the California State Legislature is the highest in the history of the State and marks a milestone for the community.
During the reception–the elected officials addressed the importance of having representation in the legislature. They also commented on the meaningful role the ANCA-WR–its local ANC chapters–and the organization’s thousands of grassroots supporters–play in advancing the Armenian Cause.
Newly appointed ANCA-WR Chairman Raffi Hamparian–introduced the Armenian-American elected officials as they arrived at the event. Among others attending the event were California Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante–Attorney General Bill Lockyer–Assemblymember Dario Frommer (D-Glendale)–former Fresno State Senator Jim Costa–former United States Congressman Rick Lehman and the Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Armenia–Keith Simmons.
Staff members from the Governor Gray Davis’s office were also on hand to congratulate the Armenian-American representatives who were elected or re-elected to office in November of 2002.
Newly elected Assemblymember Steve Samuelian commented on the importance of continuing to fight for those issues that are of concern to the Armenian-American community with his colleagues in the Legislature. Assemblymember Samuelian mentioned the important role that the ANC played in his election to public office. Specifically–he remarked that "The ANC was with my campaign from day one and contributed a great deal to its success."
Assemblymember Greg Aghazarian spoke of the critical need to remind the non-Armenian community in California about the lessons of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. He added that he is "looking forward to being a strong voice for the Armenian Cause and working with the ANC."
Assemblymember Joe Simitian–who was re-elected to his second term in office–reflected on why it is important to have Armenian-Americans represented in the legislature. He told those gathered about the struggles that he and others faced–during the last legislative session–when Genocide deniers attempted to block legislation dealing with the Armenian Genocide.
Assemblymember Dario Frommer also addressed the audience mentioning his long-standing relationship with Armenian-Americans and he commended the ANC for the work it has and continues to do to establish a California Trade Office in Armenia. He mentioned that the Trade Office–when it is established later in 2003–will not only benefit Armenia–but also create jobs for Californians during this time of economic recovery.
"We could not have done it [passing legislation establishing a California Trade Office in Armenia] without the ANC’s help," emphasized Frommer.
Senator Poochigian–who will begin his second term in the State Senate stressed the importance of ensuring that issues of concern to Armenian-Americans are vocalized–whether they concern trade between Armenia and California–life insurance claims of genocide survivors–or Genocide education.
During the three hour reception–various elected officials stopped by to congratulate their colleagues and meet with members of various local ANC chapters.
In his remarks–Lieutenant Governor Bustamante–who was the first Latino speaker in the State Assembly–recalled the Turkish Government’s effort in 1997 to establish a Chair of Modern Turkish History at UCLA. "I want you to know that we [California State Officials] made sure that a chair was not established to deny the Genocide," the Lt. Governor reminded attendees.
Chairman Raffi Hamparian presented–to every public official attending–a copy of Samantha Power’s acclaimed book "A Problem From Hell" which documen’s United States Government’s response to 20th century Genocides. The book includes a chapter on the Armenian Genocide.