BY ALEX SARDAR Asbarez Staff Writer
ENCINO–More than 750 friends and supporters of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region gathered at Holy Martyrs Ferrahian School’s Avedissian Hall for the organization’s annual banquet Friday–Dec. 12.
Former California Assembly Majority Leader Walter Karabian and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown–Jr. were honored as the ANCA’s Man of the Year and Freedom Award recipient–respectively.
The gala event–which began with the arrival of the guests an hour prior to the program–included a special reception for a select number of attendees in the evening’s VIP room–Ferrahian’s Dickranian Hall.
A silent auction was also featured in the arrivals area of the banquet hall–where items including Armenian cultural artifacts were auctioned off to benefit the ANCA-WR’s work.
Master of ceremonies Raffi Hamparian opened the evening’s program introducing Senator Barbara Boxer–who delivered a short yet powerful address to the audience. In her speech–Boxer spoke of recent victories of the Armenian-American community in Congress–emphasizing the most recently approved aid package to Armenia and Karabakh.
In addition–the Senator spoke about the Armenian community’s grass roots activism at the University of California at Los Angeles–where the History faculty–in a resounding gesture–rejected a $1 million endowment offer from the government of Turkey.
Boxer condemned Armenian Genocide denial tactics–and said–"The Armenian Genocide–just as the Jewish Holocaust–must be documented and treated as a historical fact."
Following Boxer’s speech–the formal portion of the program began with invocations delivered by Western Prelate Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian.
Former California State Assemblymember Mike Roos introduced the public and elected officials present at the event–and he further welcomed the audience–praising the Armenian community’s continued involvement in civic life.
Karabian–then–introduced the ANCA-WR’s 1997 Freedom Award Winner Mayor Brown–who in his brief tenure as Mayor has helped the Armenian community of San Francisco garner significant victories. At the same time Brown–as long-time speaker of the California State Assembly–was responsible in bringing the Armenian Cause to the forefront of State politics.
The presentation of Brown’s award was done by Bay Area ANC Chairperson Khajag Sarkissian–who characterized Brown as a close and loyal friends of the Armenian people.
In his acceptance speech Brown thanked the ANCA-WR and its local chapters–particularly the San Francisco contingency for their support.
Brown turned his attention to the recent sale of the Mt. Davidson Cross to the Armenian-American community. He praised the community for their diligence in civic work–and exemplified their struggle.
The San Francisco Mayor recounted with pride the events leading to the final sale of the property.
In conclusion–Brown again expressed pride in receiving the award and pledged to continue his support for Armenian-American issues.
Following the dinner intermission a video presentation highlighted the ANCA’s decades-long work in pursuing issues of concern to the Armenian-American community. Among other things–the video featured scenes from Congressional debates on past Genocide resolutions–as well as footage of UCLA students discussing their struggle against Turkey’s multi-million dollar offer to the institution.
ANCA-WR Chairperson Armand Keosian–then–made his remarks on behalf of the organization–highlighting recent political strides made in Congress. Keosian put special emphasis on the Congressional approval of direct aid to Nagorno-Karabakh–an issue which was spearheaded by the ANCA–and dismissed in the beginning by many as a lost cause.
Keosian also directed the attention of the audience to the UCLA History Department’s refusal to succumb to Turkish propaganda efforts by buying out US academic departmen’s.
The community leader praised Professor Richard Hovannisian for his relentless struggle in ensuring academic integrity at UCLA.
Following–Keosian invited Michael Mahdessian–Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau of Humanitarian Response of the United States Agency for International Development–to introduce Karabian as the organization’s Man of the Year award recipient.
In his introduction–Mahdessian referred to Karabian’s efforts in bringing the Armenian Cause to the attention of American political players–as well as his key role in advancing issues of concern to the Armenian people. Mahdessian introduced Karabian as a principled fighter for justice. Then–renowned philanthropists Richard and Tina Carolan joined Mahdessian on stage in welcoming Karabian to receive his award.
Karabian accepted the award thanking the Carolans for their undying support of Armenian-American issues.
In his acceptance speech–Karabian thanked his family members–introducing them to the audience. He thanked and praised the ANCA-WR for carrying the torch of the Armenian people on behalf of all Armenia’s–and urged all present community members to become an active contributor to the Armenian Cause.
He noted that he was proud to receive the honor–and in the process to be able to help the ANCA-WR in the form of the evening’s fundraiser.
Karabian went on recounting his working relations with Brown–also praising his colleague. In a very humorous and compact address–Karabian delighted the audience with anecdotes and jokes–all the while stressing the importance of the ANCA’s efforts. He also recounted historical anecdotes which offered a perspective of the person–behind Karabian the community activist.
In conclusion visiting Minister of Culture and Youth of Nagorno-Karabakh–Armen Sarkisian presented Karabian with an honor on behalf of the Karabakh republic.
Karabian–in turn–informed the minister–in Armenian–that he has always felt a little like a Karabakh Armenian in his heart.
Also among the invited dignataries at the banquest were Los Angeles Sherrif’s Department Chief Lee Baca–Glendale City Councilmember Sheldon Baker–Board of Equalization representative John Chiang–Los Angeles County Assessor Kenneth Hahn–LAUSD Board member David Tokofsky–Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian–Los Angeles City Councilmember Laura Chick–State Assemblymember Scott Wildman–Lebanese Consul General Gibran Soufan–Torrance City Councilmember Jack Messerlian–La Crescenta Town Council member Vasken Yardemian–Los Angeles City Councilmember Cindy Mischikowski and National Democratic Committe Chairman Charles Manatt.
"The ANCA-WR is delighted by the excellent turnout for Friday’s event which vividly illustrates the Armenian-American community’s support for ANC activities and recognition of the countless contributions made by our honorees–Mayor Brown and Walter Karabaian," said Vicken Sonentz Papazian–Executive Director of the ANCA-WR.
"Given the fact that critical issues with the potential to significantly impact the future of Armenia and Karabakh are currently the topic of intense discussion and debate in the international arena–the ANC welcomes even greater community interest and involvement in our nation’s affairs. Every year we host this banquet–we acknowledge the outstanding achievemen’s of people like Walter Karabian and Mayor Willie Brown with the hope that their example will motivate more Armenia’s to follow in their footsteps and contribute to the betterment of our community and the advancement of the Armenian Cause," asserted Sonentz-Papazian.