BEVERLY HILLS–Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region hosted, to maximum capacity, its sold out annual gala banquet held on Sunday, November 2, 2014 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. More than 1,000 supporters, activists, and generous donors of the ANCA-WR from throughout the country were joined by dozens of prominent Members of Congress, state, and local legislators and officials.
The event began at 5 p.m. with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, and a VIP reception with major donors and elected officials. A three-course dinner followed at 7:00 p.m. with a powerful program and presentation of awards kicked off by the presentation of flags and national anthems performed by the Homenetmen Western USA Regional Color Guard and members of the Lark Musical Society’s Tziatsan Children’s Choir Nayiri Artounians, Nanor Deirbadrossian, Stephanie Keledjian, and Hermine Keshishyan.
Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian conducted the invocation for the evening.
“We gather today to hold hands with the ANCA and ensure that now more than ever our voice is heard loud and clear. Be it on Capitol Hill, a town hall meeting, at our schools, within publications, blogs, and social media. We are here today to support the ANCA as it continually speaks up, stands up, and makes our collective voices heard 365 days a year,” said Beylerian.
Beylerian’s remarks were followed by a powerful year in review video presentation highlighting the unprecedented year of accomplishments by the ANCA WR wrapped in the theme of counting the ANCA grassroots stars who were at the forefront of these efforts.
At the end of the video presentation, ANCA WR Chair Nora Hovsepian stood in the spotlight to deliver the Chair’s address. Hovsepian opened her remarks by thanking all the guests, the Banquet Chair Arsho Beylerian, and her stellar team of banquet committee volunteers for their dedicated leadership, vision, and skill, and went on to express gratitude to Mr. Michael Sarian, the 2014 ANCA WR Gala Banquet sponsor, for joining an exemplary list of major donors and past banquet sponsors like the Melkonians, Shirvanians, Ghailians, Pilavjians, Nadjarians, Karapetians, Boujikians, Kradjians, and so many others whose unwavering commitment have kept the ANCA WR offices staffed and the organization’s lights on.
Instead of going through a list of the organization’s extraordinary list of accomplishments for the year, Hovsepian asked guests to review the annual report and took the opportunity to speak frankly and openly about the harsh realities facing the community and the organization, calling on them to join the ANCA WR monthly and annual giving programs as she stated, “With the Genocide Centennial looming around the corner and the security of Armenia and Artsakh being threatened on a daily basis, our needs are greater than ever. While we stretch every single dollar that comes in, you may be surprised to learn that all we have accomplished has been achieved with a bare bones annual budget of less than a half million dollars, just a handful of paid staff, and an army of board members, committee activists, interns, and volunteers who leave their families and their paying jobs to come to the ANCA to passionately do the work of Hye Tahd on behalf of all of us. So if we are going to successfully meet the increasingly daunting challenges posed by the Turkish and Azeri lobbies, which literally outspend us by a ratio of at least 10 to 1 across the board, then we are going to need to double, triple, or even quadruple that tiny budget of ours.”
Hovsepian concluded her remarks calling on all Armenians to stand up, speak loud, and participate consistently and persistently and noted, “You’ve taken the step of supporting our Cause by being here today, but we need you every day. From Yerevan, Stepanakert, Western Armenia, and Javakhk all the way to our local neighborhoods: this is a call to action for our army of activists of all ages, young and old, from all walks of life. You are the second army of the Armenian Nation.”
Following Hovsepian, ANCA WR Board Members Pattyl Aposhian-Kasparian and Haik Petrosian, and ANCA WR Advisory Board Member Michael Mahdesian presented the 2014 ANCA WR Legislator of the Year Award to CA Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon for his principal role and outspoken position on the Armenian Genocide and the recognition of Artsakh’s Independence, as well as his dedication and commitment to advancing the fundamental principles of justice in the halls of the CA State Capitol.
In his acceptance speech Senator de Leon stated, “I’m honored to receive the Legislator of the Year award from the largest and most active Armenian-American political advocacy group. As I lead the Senate in the next four years, I will stand in solidarity with the Armenian community as we prepare to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Genocide. The great state of California will not let your demands for justice go unanswered. The passing of AB 1915 and AJR 32 with my colleagues Nazarian, Achadjian and Gatto set a precedent—not only for the State of California but for the nation. California stands in solidarity with the people of Artsakh and their determination for independence.
“I look forward to working with you all in my new position as Senate President pro Tem and continuing to represent Little Armenia up in Sacramento,” he added.
Prior to dinner, ANCA WR Advisory Board Member Harut Sassounian introduced to the crowd the 2014 ANCA WR Gala Banquet Sponsor and President of Prime Health Care Services Mr. Michael Sarian, who in his remarks stated, “Hye Tahd is dear to my heart and dear to every Armenian’s heart. Our cause is just, but the injustice against us is still going on. The latest examples are Mosul, Kessab, Aleppo and Der Zor. Der Zor is the most horrible name in our history, where thousands of innocent Armenians were marched to their deaths. The monument and the church to honor them has been destroyed. We will survive these atrocities as we survived the past ones. Not only we will survive, we will thrive. It is in our Armenian DNA to survive and thrive.”
“I will do my best to support ANCA’s advocacy for our cause and bring our demands to the political leaders’ attention, starting with President Obama whom I met recently and pushed our cause. Bring our demands to our congressional leaders starting with Senator Reid on the Senate side, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, House Majority leader. My good friend Senator Jim Brulte arranged for us to meet and push our cause for his support. I have no doubt that our flag will proudly wave on Mt. Ararat again. My dream and the dream of all Armenians will become a reality,” he concluded.
ANCA WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan and Government Affairs Directors Tereza Yerimyan opened the second portion of the program by recognizing the 2014 ANCA Western Region and ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship Program participants, Denise Altounian, Nelli, Astvatsatrian, Hakop Azatyan, Ripsime Biyazyan, Sareen Habeshian, Zareh Hairapetian, Gerard Khatchadourian Rudy Keshishian, Alina Sarkissian, Arevik Shahnazari, and Lori Sinanian, who have gone above and beyond the call of duty for Hye Tahd.
Asatryan opened her remarks by acknowledging the pivotal role of the youth in taking the Armenian community to new heights of distinction and continued on and state, “But what the youth do, depends actually on what they think, and what they think depends on what they read, hear, see and the kinds of exposure and opportunities that are available to them.
Acknowledging this very fact and that resources do matter, the ANCA Western Region, through its year round internship program has been heavily investing in the biggest assets of our community, our youth – providing latters of opportunities, teaching them the life skills they need to succeed, providing them a wide network of contacts, and mentors that will push them, nurture them, and guide them.” She went on to note the countless ways the group of youth have contributed to the organization’s success in the last year, including their involvement in the Genocide Education bill and Artsakh’s resolution, the organization’s Hye Votes and America We Thank You initiatives, and the college campus resolutions, which have brought genocide education and awareness to the frontline.
She concluded by thanking the participants for their dedication and commitment to the advancing the Armenian Cause and asked the crowd to join her in welcoming to the stage “our biggest assets, the nerve center of the nation, the heart of our society, and the lifeline of our community, the 2014 ANCA Western Region Internship Program participants.”
Following a heartwarming moment with the youth on stage, all eyes were on the 40 foot screen for a video tribute to the Near East Foundation, the successor to the Near Relief (NER), the United States’ oldest Congressionally-sanctioned non-governmental organization, which for the first time in American history, expressed the collective generosity and humanitarianism of the American people. The video highlighted the accomplishments of the NER from 1915 – 1930, with the backing of US President Woodrow Wilson (and thereafter Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge), and under the leadership of James L. Barton and Cleveland Dodge, whereby the organization mobilized the American nation, and the world, into a well-organized and well-funded relief effort which successfully saved 132,000 Armenian orphans and 1 million refugees following the Armenian Genocide, while raising over $117 million dollars and building over 400 orphanages, food and clothing distribution centers, hospitals and vocational trainings schools throughout the Near East to house and care for the survivors.
ANCA WR Board Members Arpie Jivalagian and Pierre Yenokian, ANCA WR Advisory Board Member Karo Khanjian, and Co-Chairs of the ANCA WR’s America We Thank You initiative Vanna Kitsinian and Hermineh Pakhanians then presented the 2014 ANCA WR Humanitarian Award to the Near East Foundation in honor of the efforts of the Near East Relief and the humanitarian spirit of Henry Morgenthau, Cleveland H. Dodge, and Jackie Coogan.
“The legacy of the NER is not merely a part of Armenian history, but also a significant part of American history. In light of this and our upcoming centennial, the ANCA WR has launched the ‘America We thank You: An Armenian Tribute to Near East Relief.’ This initiative is our way of continuing to honor the lives of those who were lost, of those unsung heroes who risked their lives to help our people who were displaced and ultimately, as a way to give thanks to the American people for their ultimate act of humanity,” stated Jivalagian in her introductory remarks. “In addition to the work and efforts of the Near East Relief, there were many individuals who were instrumental in helping raise awareness, funds, and overall recognition to the atrocities taking place in the Near East. Although it is impossible to name each and every person, I would like to recognize 3 individuals in particular: Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Cleveland Dodge and Jackie Coogan..,” added Jivalagian.
As the Near East Foundation Board Chairman Shant Mardirossian and President Charles Benjamin, along with Ambassador Morgenthau’s great grandson Dr. Henry Morgenthau IV, Mr. Dodge’s great-grandson and current Vice Chairman of the Near East Foundation Johnson Garrett, and Jackie Coogan’s grandson Keith Coogan joined the ANCA WR leadership on stage to accept the award, the overflow crowd of over 1,000 greeted them with a standing ovation, which was perhaps the most emotional portion of the evening.
In his acceptance speech on behalf of the Near East Foundation, Mardirossian stated, “For most, the story of the Near East Relief is largely unknown, but thanks to the ANCA and the many dedicated individuals and historians around the world that is about to change. We are pleased to have partnered with the ANCA Western Region’s America We Thank You initiative to raise awareness about this lost chapter in American history.”
“The work of the Near East Relief is a reflection of the strong bonds between the American and Armenian people. Nearly 1,000 relief workers volunteered and risked their lives to help an ancient civilization they knew little about; twenty-seven of them made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives. Thousands more volunteered around the country, raising millions in aid and supplies. Everyone from the President down to the school children were engaged…It is unimaginable to think of how many Americans responded to the call to duty to save the starving Armenians. I can think of no other humanitarian effort, which mobilized the American public for such a sustained period of time, nearly 15 years. Many of us, including me, would not be here today had it not been for this undertaking.”
“On September 16, 2015, one hundred years to the date the Near East was founded, let us celebrate the altruism and generosity of the America people and the resilience of those, who, with their help had the will to survive. So today we say, America we thank you, Near East Relief we thank you, to our friends around the world who came to our aid during our darkest moments, we thank you, but most of all, to our grandfathers and grandmothers, a whole generation of orphans who instilled in us our sense of dignity, perseverance, and commitment to justice, we thank you too,” he concluded.
The emotional presentation was followed by yet another with ANCA WR Board Member Steve Artinian and ANCA WR Advisory Board Members Aida Dimejian and Berdj Karapetian presenting the 2014 ANCA WR Legacy Award to Mr. Vahe Karapetian for his decades of community service and support, and for setting an example of dedication, service, selflessness and generosity.
In his remarks, Karapetian reaffirmed his continued support for the ANCA and called on the community to become even more organized and united then we are today, not just in the US, but worldwide as he stated, “We are all here tonight as proof to the ANCA that we are behind you and stand in support of you. I have always supported the ANCA and I will be supporting more and more in the future.”
After the acceptance speech, Artinian took the podium to proudly announce “Vahe follows the ANCA and all that it does from halls of congress to the streets of Little Armenia in Hollywood where he played a pivotal role in the construction of the St. Garabed Church and Alex Pilibos School. I’m proud to announce that today in support of the ANCA Western Region, he is standing up and speaking loud with a generous donation of $50,000.”
This was all topped off with ANCA WR Board Members Raffi Kassabian and Nareg Kitsinian, along with ANCA WR Advisory Board Member Garo Madenlian presenting the 2014 ANCA WR Advocate for Justice Award to Mr. David M. Balabanian, Esq., the first President of the Armenian Bar Association and litigator of more than 40 years who utilized his legal skills, resources, and network to further advance issues of concern to the Armenian American community.
In describing the selfless dedication of Balabanian to advocating for Armenian American rights, Kassabian stated, “David’s work has had a far-reaching impact in the courtroom and has brought the issue of genocide awareness to the forefront of the U.S. judicial system. Among other contributions, David has represented the ANCA, the Armenian Bar Association and other organizations in filing an amicus brief in the Movsesian/Arzoumanian Armenian Genocide-era life insurance case and has successfully defended the Mt. Davidson cross in San Francisco from Turkish attempts to silence speech on the Armenian Genocide. David is also currently an active member of the Bay Area’s Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee.”
“David is not only a brilliant legal scholar, a leader and an activist, but he is also a true Hye Tahd soldier. His body of work has demonstrated that the “power of the pen” can educate, motivate and activate our community and beyond. This man is at the very top of his field and instead of turning his back to the community, he has turned his heart and his hands towards the community to give and give again. David is in it for all of the right reasons, with an agenda none other than to elevate the Armenian Cause,” added Kassabian.
After accepting the award, Balabanian called on the community to regain our history in tangible ways as he stated, “I want to also thank you for this opportunity to reaffirm with you the need for us to obtain redress for the wrongs done to our community and to put an end to the denial. To the denials of things that simply cannot be denied…The consequences of those events continue to be felt by nearly all of us and the pain of that loss is inflicted anew with each false statement about what occurred…What distinguishes our loss is not simply its magnitude, the obliteration of nearly the entire Armenian population of Asia manor, but the obliteration as well of its history, the wiping clean of record of centuries of peaceful and productive achievements by our people in all fields of human endeavor. Indeed, it is not too much too say that the foundations of what is today the prosperous Turkish Republic were laid in significant part by people whose very existence it denies.”
“We must regain our history not just in words, but in tangible ways that not only acknowledge the heroic sufferings that our people endured, but that also convey recognition and respect for their contributions to the life in the region….It is however something we owe to our children and grandchildren and to Armenians around the world whose lives and fortunes continue to be impacted daily by these century old events. In accepting tonight the honor you have given me, I pledge to do what I can to help achieve that goal. I hope you will too,” he added.
Following Balabanian’s empowering speech, ANCA WR Board member Souzi Zerounian Khanzadian and ANCA WR Advisory Board Members Mourad Topalian and Artin Manoukian presented the 2014 ANCA WR Vahan Cardashian Awards to a group of ANCA grassroots stars from across the nation, Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, Ani Haroian, Bearj Barsoumian, James Kalustian, and Ani Martirosian, who helped lead the way in their respective hometowns to defeat countless anti-Armenia and anti-Artsakh resolutions and obtain recognition of the Genocide and the independence of Artsakh.
In introducing the stars of the evening, Zerounian Khanzadian stated, “These five individuals braved the storms of injustice, misinformation, and powerful foreign lobbies working against them. Their legislators were told that their state’s relationship with Azerbaijan was a good thing. Their legislators were told that the Independent Republic of Nagorno Karabagh did not exist – that it was a fantasy. Their legislators were told that the Armenians were perpetrators of genocide. With odds against them, Anna, Ani, Bearj, James, and Ani turned the scales of justice in our favor. Thanks to their ability to engage their communities, thanks to their knowledge of the truth and their compelling personal stories of survival, the countries of Turkey and Azerbaijan didn’t see a victory in the states of Maine, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Hawaii. Thanks to their grassroots organizing efforts, their legislative bodies recognized the independence of Nagorno Karabagh and rejected the lies being fed to them.”
“The ability of the grassroots is to take an issue and educate the masses, igniting the sense of urgency, and organizing the community. How will you organize your community tomorrow? As you allow this thought to mull in your mind, remember the great words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.’ And it is that love for Hai Tahd, for the Armenian Cause that drives this year’s Vahan Cardashian Honorees to do daring things” she added.
Attendees were then asked to direct their attention to the screen for a video message from the 2014 Freedom Award recipient, Bako Sahakyan, President of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh) who in his remarks thanked the ANCA Western Region and the Armenian diaspora for their relentless efforts in fighting for the self-determination and the independence of the people or Artsakh.
ANCA National Board Members Raffi Hamparian and Steve Dadaian, ANCA WR Advisory Board Member Levon Kirakosian, and ANCA National Board Chair Ken Hachikian then presented the award to Robert Avetisyan, Permanent Representative of Artsakh to the United States who accepted the award on behalf of His Excellency.
The 2014 ANCA WR Gala Banquet concluded with powerful remarks by Hamparian who stated, “We are the sons of Ararat, we are the daughters of Artsakh, we are the children of our proud past, and we are the fathers of our future. We are united tonight in support of the ANCA, which mans the watchtower of the Armenian Cause. We provide 360 degree coverage of the Armenian Cause. We plow the field, we plant the seed, we beat the drum, we turn the wheel, we cut the thorns, we slash the weeds, we harvest goodwill, we dream, we compromise. Sometimes we fail. We work in fair weather, we work in stormy weather. We work when it is convenient and we work when it is inconvenient. We work before a thousand people, we work before just one. We defend our community and we are unafraid to attack our enemies. We always fight the good fight and we fight for all the right reasons. We man the watchtower of justice. The watchtower that your grandmother and grandfather believed in, the watchtower that your parents had faith in, the watchtower that we, the ANCA, stand ready as the second army of the Armenian Nation. Vigilant, with fidelity, with honor, with courage, without fear, and with love.”
The ANCA-WR Annual Banquet is the largest event of its kind and helps raise funds to operate the nation’s largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots and political advocacy organization. Through these funds, the ANCA-WR is able to educate the general public about the Armenian Genocide, the Republic of Armenia, Artsakh, and other vital issues of concern to the Armenian American community.
In addition to the dignitaries, elected officials, community leaders and representative who took the stage also in attendance were:
Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Former Minister to the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America Reverend Joseph Matossian, Representing the Armenian Catholic community the Very Reverend Thomas Garabedian, Representing the Armenian Evangelical Bretheran Church Father Hendrik Shanazarian, Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles & Mrs. Sergey Sarkisov, Consul & Mrs. Artak Galstyan, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, United States Congressman Ed Royce, Congressman Adam Schiff, Congressman Brad Sherman, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congresswoman Janice Hahn, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, California State Controller and ANCA-Western Region Endorsed Candidate for California State Treasurer John Chiang, CA State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, CA Senator and Ricardo Lara, CA Assemblymembers Katcho Achadjian, Adrin Nazarian, Scott Wilk, Ian C. Calderon, Mathew Dababneh, and Marc Levine, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Krekorian and Mitchel Englander, Los Angeles City Controller Ron Gaprin, ANCA WR endorsed candidate elect for the LA County Assessor Jeffrey Prang, LAUSD School Board Member Steve Zimmer, Mayor of the City of Burbank Dr. David Gordon, Vice Mayor of the City of Burbank Bob Frutos, Burbank City Council Members Emily Gabel-Luddy and Jess Talamantes, Mayor of the City of Glendale Zareh Sinanyan, Glendale City Council Members Paula Devine and Dave Weaver, Pasadena City Council Member Gene Masuda, Mayor of Sierra Madre John Harabedian, Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Montebello Jack Hadjinian, Montobello City Council Member Vivian Romero, Santa Monica School Board Member and ANCA Western Region Endorsed Candidate for California Senate District 26 Ben Allen, Artesia City Council Member Victor Manalo, Rolling Hills Estates City Council Member Frank Zerounyan, Norwalk City Council Members Marcel Rordarte and Leonard Shyrock, Pico River City Council Member Bob Archuleta, Glendale City Clerk Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian, Glendale City Treasurer Rafi Manoukian, President and Superintendent of Glendale Community College Dr. David Viar, Glendale Community College Board of Trustees President Dr. Vahe Peroomian, Glendale Community College Board of Trustees Member Anita Quinonez Gabrielian, Superintendent of the Glendale Unified School District Dr. Richard Sheehan, Members of the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education Nayiri Nahabedian and Dr. Armina Gharpetian, Crescenta Valley Town Council President Harry Leon, Montebello School Board and Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela, Former Assemblymember of the 41st Assembly District Anthony Portantino, Former California State Senator and Past Chair of the California Republican Party Jim Brulte, Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse, Board Member of the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council Christina Khanjian, Members of the Glendale Planning Commission Greg Astorian, Arthur Devine and Erik Yesayan, Chair of the City of Glendale’s Community Development Block Grant Commission Zanku Armenian, Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee Chair and Glendale Civil Service Commissioner Garo Ghazarian, Pasadena Recreation and Parks Commissoner Ciran Hadjian, Los Angeles Police Permit Review Panel Commissioner Lara Yeretsian, North Valley Planning Commission Oshin Harootoonian, Director of the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting Ed Ebrahamian, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judges Greg Keosian, Zaven Sinanian, and Armen Tamzarian, A.R.F. Western USA Central Committee Chairman Dr. Viken Hovsepian and members of the Central Committee, Armenian Relief Society Central Executive Board Chairperson Vicky Marashlian, Armenian Relief Society Regional Executive Board Co-Chair Becky Berberian, Armenian National Committee of America Board of Directors Chair Ken Hachikian, Chair of ANC Canada – Western Region Vahe Andonian, ANC Australia Executive Director Vache Kahramanian, Hamazkayin Central Executive Board Member Dr. Viken Yacoubian, Hamazkayin Regional Executive Board Chairman Manoug Joukhajian, Homenetmen World Committee Viggen Davidian, Armenian Bar Association, Armenian American Chamber of Commerce Chair Alissa Asmarian, Armenian Medical Association, Armenian Youth Federation of Western USA Central Executive Chair Arpa Hatzbanian, Western Prelacy Board of Regents Co-Chairs Sako Berberian and Maggie Sarkuni, Asbarez Editor in Chief Apo Boghigian, Asbarez English Editor Ara Khachatourian, Chairman of the Board of Ararat Home Los Angeles Joseph Kanimian, Kessab Education Association of Los Angeles Chair Esther Chelebian Tognozzi, Organization of Istanbul Armenians Chair Edvin Minassian, major philanthropist and business leader from Armenia Ruben Vardanyan, among others.
Corporate sponsors of the 2014 Annual Gala Banquet included: Silver Level Sponsors Commerce Casino, Keosian/Berberian LLP, Attorney at Law, Southern California Edison, Bronze Level Sponsors Comcast Cable, EH National Bank, Mr. Garo Mardirossian, Southern California Gas Company, Sun Dairy, Inc., and Youth Sponsors Altounian Family Trust, Bank of the West, Anita Q. Gabrielian.
To financially assist the ANCA WR in its work, community members are encouraged to enroll in the newly launched Friends of the ANCA WR Monthly Giving and/or the ANCA WR Founders’ Circle Annual Giving programs by visiting ancawr.org/donate.