GLENDALE–Los Angeles-based attorney and former State Assembly Majority Leader Walter Karabian and former Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian highlighted the role of the Armenian community in the American political process–during a panel Wednesday evening at the Verdugo Hill Country Club–entitled Community Forum 2000 and organized by the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region.
The panel–moderated by Torrance City Councilmember Jack Messerlian and attended by more than 125 invited community leaders and activists–aimed at addressing pressing issues regarding the future role of the Armenian-American community in mainstream politics.
In his opening remarks–ANCA-WR chairman Berdj Karapetian vocalized the need for dialogue on these issues and outlined the importance of a consensus on the community’s involvement in the American political process.
Both former elected officials reflected on their experience and drew on the growing influence of the Armenian-American community.
Zarian and Karabian acknowledged the community’s maturation and growth positive signs for the community to become a powerful political player on the state–local and federal level.
In his commen’s–Zarian outlined the importance of the Armenian Genocide issue as a unifying factor for the Armenian-American community–adding that the unresolved issue of the Genocide must always remain a point of contention in the community’s efforts to garner political leverage.
Zarian also advocated for community support for Armenian candidates–saying that it would be a great accomplishment to have a member of Congress who is Armenian and best understands the community’s needs.
Focusing on the same issue–Karabian also emphasized the importance of pushing for Genocide recognition on the federal level–but elaborated by saying when dealing on the state or local level–especially in California–almost all officials who seek the assistance of the community in their electoral efforts–are already familiar with the Genocide issue and inherently support that as a starting point.
He explained by saying that the community has reached such a maturation level that it is in a position to ask for and receive political assistance for myriad other issues of concern to the community–such as aid to Armenia–the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict–as well as more pressing social matters from which the community can benefit.
Karabian went on to outline that the community’s diversity and its ability to view matters from varying perspectives is healthy and Armenian involvement in both sides of the spectrum should be encouraged and demanded.
The former Majority Leader also stressed that the candidates must be evaluated based on their demonstrated commitment to the issues–rather than their ethnic backgrounds–citing examples of times when Armenian-American officials did not address certain matters–such as the Hampig Sassounian case–while they served in office.
Both panelists insisted that the Armenian community should be guided by issues–rather than political party affiliations.
Zarian said that the issues which identify the Armenian-American community must be put forth and the candidate with the best record on those issues should be selected by the community and supported by the entire community–reiterating his view that the community should emerge with one voice in the electoral process.
On the other hand–Karabian explained that in order for the community to acquire the proper political leverage–it should be able to place the candidates in a situation that they are outdoing one another in attempting to deliver on the important issues facing the community.
Karabian also deemed healthy the aspect that candidates receive support and assistance from the community. The more Armenia’s get involved the larger the chances of support for Armenian issues–he outlined.
Messerlian also addressed several other issues with the panelists–including the issue of campaign finance–the importance of money in politics and the role of the Armenian-American community in garnering those funds.
However–at the conclusion of the event–the most important points made by the panelists were the importance of participation and a mature–issues-driven approach to matters of interest to the community.
In closing–Karapetian stressed the need for involvement and urged the community leaders gathered at the forum to urge their circles to get involved in the process.