BY KATY SIMONIAN
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region will honor Dr. Eric Esrailian and Kim Kardashian with the prestigious Global Impact Award for their efforts to embrace their platforms across the media and using their influence in order to promote international awareness of the Armenian Genocide, policies for recognition and prevention, and the beauty of our Armenian heritage.
Both will be jointly recognized at this year’s ANCA-WR Annual Banquet which is set to take place on Sunday, September 25 at The Beverly Hilton.
It is fitting that the two will be receiving this honor together because they have worked so closely over the years on philanthropic efforts to help those in need and to help the Armenian people. Dr. Esrailian, Chief of the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases, is a dear friend of the Kardashian family, and together, they have travelled publicly to Armenia, supported Armenia and Artsakh during the war, provided valuable health resources through the UCLA Robert G. Kardashian Center for Esophageal Health and UCLA’s Operation Armenia, and used their vast networks and resources to raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide.
For years, the two have made an impact in numerous ways, as Armenian Americans seeking to educate the public on the plight of the Armenian people and the history of the Armenian Genocide.
As an academic leader, physician, film producer, philanthropist, human rights activist, and entrepreneur, Dr. Eric Esrailian is a man of tremendous integrity and ingenuity. He has been a powerful voice, bridging the gap between entertainment and activism, blending the media and the arts to amplify the voices of the Armenian people. As a longtime, generous supporter of the ANCA’s efforts to promote the Armenian Cause nationwide and around the world, Dr. Esrailian and his colleagues made history in 2016 when they produced and released The Promise, a historical epic set during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 in which 1.5 million Armenians perished, leaving survivors displaced throughout the Diaspora, including the United States.
The first of its kind on many levels, the film directed by Academy Award Winner Terry George, fulfilled the vision of the late Kirk Kerkorian who generously financed the project before his passing. The goal of the film was not simply to inspire empathy through the power of storytelling, but it aimed to employ the work as an educational tool for future generations to learn the truth about the Armenian Genocide and to secure recognition of the first genocide of the twentieth century as an undeniable, historical fact. Starring Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, and an international cast and crew, the film launched the ever-growing #KeepThePromise campaign, in a movement to promote policies for Genocide Prevention around the world.
In an unprecedented move that sent shockwaves throughout the industry, it was announced that all proceeds from The Promise would be donated to charities dedicated to helping genocide survivors and human rights groups working toward preventing future genocides. What was not known at the time was that the people closest to Mr. Kerkorian would actually donate funds amounting several times the budget of the film to charitable causes in the years to come in order to help Armenians and many others around the world! Motivated to build upon the platform and enthusiasm from the making of the film, Dr. Esrailian specifically directed a portion of the proceeds to launch The Promise Institute for Human Rights and The Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA. For Dr. Esrailian, both institutes are an opportunity to honor the enduring legacy of Kirk Kerkorian – at one of the top universities in the world – and the underlying themes from The Promise. “We announced that there is going to be a new [Armenian] Genocide Research Program, signaling a new era of truth and recognition for all people” he said in a recent interview on Good Day LA. “We are creating positive social impact, by informing people around the world about atrocities and our shared responsibility to recognize and prevent them,” said Esrailian, whose devotion to this endeavor has inspired future generations to engage in public service through both the arts and sciences. In addition to the ANCA, he has donated and raised tens of millions of dollars — the vast majority anonymously — from his global network to support Armenian nonprofit organizations, schools, churches, and other causes locally and around the world. Dr. Esrailian has proven that by raising our voices across the platforms of media, film, healthcare, and business, we can expand our reach and help more people throughout the world.
It would be impossible to underestimate the immeasurable impact of Kim Kardashian’s voice across the various social media and media platforms she has helped to define for nearly two decades. Kim Kardashian is indisputably one of the world’s most prominent, influential public figures, innovating a new path for her own philanthropic efforts through television, entrepreneurship, and social media in developing a platform that reaches billions of people across the globe including 329 million followers on Instagram. Through the success of her family’s show, now on Hulu, The Kardashians, and her global brands – SKIMS, SKKN, and SKKY – Kardashian has remained humble and true to her Armenian roots, honoring her heritage by using her voice for the Armenian Cause. Her devotion to supporting the Armenian American community is a testament to her love for her beloved Father, Robert Kardashian, who instilled in his children, a deep sense of respect for their Armenian identity. Kim Kardashian and her family were viewed regularly discussing their father’s Armenian heritage on their hit TV series which became a global phenomenon.
Never was her influence in media more impactful than when she travelled to Armenia on two different occasions, ensuring her trip was well-documented on episodes that aired repeatedly around the world. Millions of viewers tuned in to see Kardashian visit Armenia, including an emotional journey to the Dzidzernagapert Memorial Complex to honor the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Her trip made headlines in various newspapers, magazines and online outlets. It is important to note that many viewers, readers and her legions of fans, were learning about Armenia and its history for the first time through the lens of the Kardashian series. In addition to meeting people and visiting historic monuments, Kardashian took the time to educate the public on deeper issues, when she tweeted and shared posts about her journey and the need for U.S. Recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Her second trip to Armenia may have been even more notable, as she travelled with her children to experience the land of their ancestors, once again documenting her steps in an effort to bring Armenia into the forefront of the global collective consciousness. One of the most beautiful and emotional moments of the trip came when Kardashian and her children were baptized at Holy Etchmiadzin Armenian Apostolic Church, the center of Armenia’s faith as the first Christian Nation in the world. Dating back to 301 AD, the Cathedral was prominently featured, giving viewers a glimpse into the depth and unique beauty of the Armenian Nation.
Every year, Kardashian proved to be extremely vocal in calling upon leaders in the U.S. to recognize the Armenian Genocide. In 2021, she publicly praised President Biden for his bravery in recognizing the truth, setting an example for world leaders to emulate in their policies. Kardashian has been equally vocal in her support for the Republic of Artsakh. During the pandemic, when the 44 Day War began with unprovoked attacks against peaceful Armenian civilians, Kardashian used her powerful voice to declare a call to action for international intervention. “The international community needs to pay attention and intervene now with such political and diplomatic measures to prevent unnecessary escalation and the loss of human life,” she said. “I stand with my fellow Armenians and pray for those that are involved in recent tensions on the border of the country. I urge for a peaceful resolution for these unprovoked attacks during this already difficult pandemic,” said Kardashian, punctuating her statement by encouraging people to reach out to their elected officials in order to galvanize the U.S. government to embrace policies to empower the people of Armenia.
The atrocities taking place in the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh, have also deeply inspired Dr. Esrailian to lend his voice and influence to global efforts for humanitarian intervention. Behind the scenes, Esrailian rallied many influential figures from politics, to the arts, to academia to speak out on behalf of the Armenian people. Dr. Esrailian, who was recently elected to the Board of Trustees of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, has also produced the highly-anticipated Invisible Republic, a documentary about the 44 Day War and the haunting parallels between the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and the threat to Armenians living in the region today. This is not the first documentary produced by Esrailian. He was instrumental in the making of Intent to Destroy, a companion piece to The Promise that demonstrated the numerous efforts by genocide deniers to obstruct the truth. In the end, the truth prevailed and the film also contributed to the U.S. government’s recognition of the Genocide, and it was highly lauded with an Emmy Nomination — exposing the need for greater accountability in both journalism and public policy. Perhaps most notably, he recently produced Francesco, a documentary about the life and teachings of Pope Francis. The film explores Pope Francis’s inspiring message of peace as he tackles the problems facing humanity, and includes a meaningful segment on the Armenian Genocide — which Pope Francis recognized as an undeniable, historical fact in 2015 to mark the Centennial. His bravery and grace in declaring recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and his pilgrimage to Armenia, is poignantly chronicled in the film, which has been embraced by audiences around the world. For his global humanitarian efforts, Pope Francis himself honored Dr. Esrailian at the Vatican with the Benemerenti Medal. Although the medal has been awarded since the late 1700’s, Dr. Esrailian is the first person of Armenian descent to receive this honor. It is a touching tribute to a man who has devoted his life to giving back to his community by representing the Armenian people with kindness and dignity.
“Dr. Esrailian and Kim Kardashian truly are two of the most powerful voices in the Armenian American community in the U.S. and throughout the world. Their devotion to promoting the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, policies for prevention and highlighting the history of our people is inspiring,” said ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian, Esq. “It is a privilege to recognize the global impact of their efforts with renewed hope.”
Dr. Eric Esrailian. Kim Kardashian. Two trailblazers, linked in their pride and love for their Armenian heritage and commitment to promoting peace for the Armenian Cause. From the art of storytelling and interdisciplinary innovation to social justice and preventing future crimes against humanity, their global impact will indeed inspire future generations to keep the promise and embrace their own voices to help those in need.
Due to work travel, Kim Kardashian will not be able to attend the 2022 ANCA-WR Awards Gala Banquet and will accept the Global Impact Award via video.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan 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 in pursuit of the Armenian Cause.
Katy Simonian is a member of the 2022 ANCA-WR Gala Committee.