So Much to Celebrate on July 4th!
BY DZOVAK KAZANDJIAN
It was 4th of July this past week, and there’s no better place to celebrate than in the nation’s capital. The interns had more than America’s independence to celebrate, since just days before, Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106) cosponsorship grew to 218 ‘s a majority of the House of Representatives.
Reaching 218 was particularly sweet for the “Leo Sarkisian” crew. Aside from our individual projects, each intern was assigned four to five Members of Congress who had not yet pledged their support for the Genocide resolution. We studied their Congressional districts, reviewed the Representative’s record on human rights issues, then called and emailed hundreds of constituents who had supported genocide legislation previously, asking them to contact their Representative in support of the resolution. The ANCA activists I called, most of them located in Texas and a good number of them non-Armenian, were very supportive and promised to help out. It was amazing to see the broad appeal of H.Res.106. Armenian Genocide recognition is not just an “Armenian” issue, but a vital human rights issue to which non-Armenia’s were more than willing to lend their voice.
Gaining House support is an ongoing process not just at the ANCA Washington DC office, but in the regional, and local chapters as well. And efforts have not subsided since reaching 218 cosponsors.
Case and point: Last Monday, I had the opportunity to join ANCA Legislative Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian in a meeting with George Poulios, Legislative Director for freshman Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. It was to be my first meeting with a Congressional office, and despite advice from Raffi and the ANCA team, I have to say I was nervous. Would the staffer be receptive? Would he give a fair hearing to our community concerns?
It turned out to be a lot less scary than I had anticipated. As a Greek-American, Poulios was well aware of Armenia’s situation and the Genocide resolution. He even prolonged the meeting, asking about Nagorno-Karabagh and the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Poulios, himself, was very receptive to what we had to say, although he could not commit to cosponsorship of the resolution until he discussed it with the Congressman. Fair enough, we said, knowing that this was a strong beginning we could build on in the future. The meeting helped me realize just how approachable Representatives and their staffers are, and how important it is to have constituents contact their Representative. At the end of the day, the Representative will always be more responsive to people who actually live and vote in their districts.
Reaching 218 cosponsors on the resolution gave the interns a lot to celebrate this weekend, which continued on to the 4th of July. We had a nice little barbecue at the ANCA apartment, and planned to go to the National Mall, the grassy area between the presidential monumen’s, to watch the fireworks at night. Unfortunately D.C. had a tornado warning (yes, they have tornados here) due to severe thunderstorms, so we decided to stay at the apartment instead. That turned out to be an excellent idea, since we have a gorgeous view of the Washington monument from our roof. Not only did we clearly see the fireworks going off at the National Mall, but also smaller fireworks from surrounding areas. We had fireworks going off all around us, while a few of the interns sang patriotic songs.
Celebrating the founding of American democracy… Watching democracy in action as we tip the scales of power in the nation’s capital in favor of justice for the Armenian Genocide; This is a July 4th we will always remember.