BY GAREN BOSTANIAN
The ARPA Institute organized a conference on February 5 with local Armenian governmental representatives at Merdinian Evangelical School in order to discuss and understand the impact of Armenians in American Government.
The discussion began with moderator Maria Armoudian lightening the mood of the room with a few mediocre jokes on political parties. After loosening the high tension within the room, the program quickly began right on track.
A Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and International Relations, Armoudian emphasized the need for Armenians to be involved in politics, for their participation could help make the name of Armenians more recognizable and known.
Posing the question of “how can we become more politically involved and even find possible candidates,” the panel took their turns to explain their point of view on the issue at hand.
At first to speak was the elected Board Member of the Glendale Unified School District, Nayiri Nahabedian. She began by explaining that the simplest and easiest way to become politically involved is by voting. “As a matter of fact, Armenians outvote any other ethnic group in the city of Glendale,” said Nahabedian. She continued, and mentioned how “politics get you, you don’t get politics.” By this she meant that the “good” candidates are always chosen because they are favored by the public. To do this, representatives must reach out to voters through press conferences, local communications, as well as gaining media attention, concluded Nahabedian.
Following Nahabedian was the County Supervisor in San Luis Obispo County, Katcho Achadjian, who expressed consistent ideas of togetherness and unity. His first advice towards the audience and his main focus was on the concept of volunteering.
“Leading politics requires knowing individuals and having your name out. And the best way to do so is to become more involved with local groups that are popular and well known, and more important, diversifying with other ethnic groups,” said Achadjian. He explained how, through volunteering people become interconnected, and that is the key to being a successful and strong politician.
He also pointed out how the least the Armenian population could do is register to vote, for our numbers are not vast and the more people being involved increases our chances of electing our own officials. Lastly, Achadjian finished by explaining an imperative point: political parties. Understanding that political ideologies are a major factor comparing to our people’s disunity.
Achadjian believes that, “regardless of the political parties, we should help each other. I myself know that if I leave this room and come across another Armenian politician running for any position, I am going to shake his hand and give him all of my support, even if he is on the opposing side.” He finished his talk, by pointing out how we must help one another become more electable candidates, appealing to all audiences and becoming fair representatives.
City Clerk of Glendale, Ardashes Kassakhian, more commonly known as Ardy, told the audience his interesting journey towards politics. Through UCLA’s well known Armenian Students Association, Kassakhian first established his attraction towards politics. He even helped Raffi Manoukian during his campaign. He explained how he would “jump over fences, going door to door just to get people to register to vote. It was funny actually, you would go to one house and get them to register, then that family would point out another new Armenian family that had just moved in, and the cycle would just continue on like that.”
But because of all his hard work and continuous effort, Kassakhian was proud to announce that Glendale is now the only city where the ballot is written in English, Spanish, Korean, and Armenian.
“But the only way I achieved this was because of the position I hold now. If it wasn’t for being involved in politics and becoming an active representatives, this task would have been impossible. This is why we urge and call for Armenians to join politics,” stressed Kassakhian. His final point of the night was to focus more on educating the Armenian voters. “Educated voters make educated decisions.”
Last but certainly not least was the current Mayor of Glendale, Ara Najarian. He dove right into the debate by emphasizing the need to “start from the bottom, and work your way up; that’s the only way to ensure success.”
Najarian spoke from experience and told the audience that, when candidates “just parachute themselves into their seats,” it actually damages and ruins the whole process.
“One year this happened, and because of the high number of unknown Armenian candidates, we lost two seats in City Council, both of which were incumbents!” emphasized Najarian. He concluded his point be reiterating the need for progressive and orderly action, for it not only helps your name develop and gain reputation, but also, it ensures the public that the proper, most “electable” candidate has been chosen.
After a question and answer period, the event concluded. Most will agree that the evening was informative and successful.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Garen Bostanian is a senior at Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School.