BY ANDREW J. BEDIGIAN
Some may actively search to be involved in the political process, for others the political process comes searching for you. In March 2012, former California Senator Joe Simitian randomly contacted me from his Sacramento office and inquired if I would be willing to speak on the California Senate floor regarding Senate Joint Resolution 23.
Ashamedly, I had no idea what Senate Joint Resolution 23 was or why I was qualified to speak on the Senate floor as a 4th year student at University of California, Davis. Through email with Senator Simitian’s office, I finally gathered that SJR-23 was a resolution designed to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide in California. It all made sense now, the fact that my last name ended in “ian” made me an easy target—how could I turn down a favor asked by a fellow Armenian, who in this case was also a California Senator. Naturally, I replied “Yes, I will do it.”
I, at first, regretted my decision. Senator Simitian tasked me with the responsibility of writing a speech about why recognition of the Armenian Genocide is important for the Armenian people. But how could I, an Armenian born in California, accurately capture the hearts and minds of the millions of Armenian around the world. How could I define the struggle for recognition, the pain felt by those who lost loved ones, and the hope for the future. Indeed, I was never active in the Armenian community nor did I ever attend an Armenian school—I could easily be labeled an outsider.
To remedy this obvious defect, I needed to drown myself in Armenian history. I interviewed many elders, talked to prominent clergy members, and last but not least, searched my own family history. Through this process, my soul began to glow red, blue, and orange. I transformed from a passive listener to an activist. I became, truly, Armenian.
On a cool morning in April, my time to deliver the speech finally came. Unbeknownst to me, an organization called the ANCA-WR was holding its “Advocacy Day.” This was the first time I became exposed to the ANCA-WR. Only then did I realize that my speech was not just for Senator’s Simitian, but for this blossoming organization of Armenian activists of all ages who wished to advance the Armenian cause. My heart began to beat out of my chest. This was it, a turning point, the beginning of a revolution for the Armenian people and a turning of the tide in our people’s humble request to recognize a forgotten history.
During my speech, I could feel it. The smile of the hundreds of Armenians in that Senate Chamber while I delivered a message of hope, promise, and unity. The feeling of “one for all and all for one” was overwhelming. The rush is indescribable. I decided that I can no longer stay on the sidelines of this cause. I needed to remain active, to voice the concerns of a storied people who have not been given a fair shake. Through the ANCA-WR, I found my outlet, my home where champions of the Armenian cause engage the political process to bring recognition, courage, and happiness back to the Armenian community.
I remain hungry. And for those Armenians out there who have not found a voice, I pray you join us.
On Monday, April 18, 2016 ANCA-Western Region will be hosting their Annual Advocacy Day in Sacramento, California. Armenian-Americans from all over California will be gathering to advocate issues of concern for their communities. Transportation will be provided from Los Angeles, Fresno and San Francisco; to find out times, location and cost of travel, please email [email protected] or call (818) 500-1918.
For additional information/registration for Advocacy Day visit www.ancawr.org/ca_advocacy_day/ or https://fr-ca.facebook.com/events/460299414170933/ .