–Serj Tankian and John Dolmayan Meet Speaker Hastert; Visit with Members of Congress; Hold Media Interviews; Host Screening of New Genocide Documentary; and Join Rally at Turkish Embassy
WASHINGTON–DC–Serj Tankian and John Dolmayan of the Grammy Award-winning band System Of A Down raised awareness–garnered national press attention on the Armenian genocide–and pressed legislators for action on legislation condemning this crime during their three-day advocacy tour of the nation’s capital–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Among the highlights of the visit were the following:
* An unscheduled meeting with Speaker Dennis Hastert–during which Serj reminded the Speaker about the band’s past attempts to arrange a meeting to discuss the Armenian genocide–briefed him about their ongoing positive meetings with legislators–and pointed out that the fate of Armenian genocide legislation rested in the Speaker’s hands. The Speaker noted that he hadn’t looked at the band’s letter yet–but promised to read it.
* A series of strategy meetings with legislators on both the House and Senate sides of the Capitol. Among those they met with concerning the adoption of Armenian Genocide legislation were Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA)–Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO); Congressmen George Radanovich (R-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA)–the lead authors of Armenian Genocide legislation before the US House; Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Armenian Caucus–and; Representatives Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) and Devin Nunes (R-CA).
* The opportunity to meet dozens of legislators–including House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA)–at the ANCA’s annual Armenian Genocide observance on Capitol Hill on April 26. This remembrance–which drew 40 Senators and Representatives–featured the presentation of the ANCA’s ?Voice of Justice’ Award to System Of A Down. The band members were joined at this event by David Alpay–the star of Atom Egoyan’s groundbreaking film on the Armenian genocide–"Ararat."
* The first-ever screening–on April 25–of excerpts from "Screamers," a powerful and innovative new film by Carla Garapedian about the band’s efforts to secure justice for the Armenian genocide. The film–which was enthusiastically received by the Capitol Hill audience–was followed by an extensive question and answer session.
* A series of media interviews–including an April 25 hour-long on-air discussion about the Armenian genocide on DC-101’s "Elliot in the Morning" show–Washington–DC’s leading morning radio program.
* Stories about their advocacy tour appeared in influential publications across Capitol Hill and around the country–including the Los Angeles Times and the Gannett News Service. Congressional Quarterly–the highly regarded weekly publication–ran a story quoting Serj Tankian stressing that–"for the government to still deny this historical truth is an absolute travesty." The Hill–an influential Congressional publication–quoted John Dolmayan as saying that he would continue his work until Congress recognizes the genocide: "Even a blade of grass can break through concrete–and I’d rather be the grass than the concrete."
* Serj and John both took part in an April 24 anti-denial rally outside the Turkish Embassy organized by the ANCA and Armenian Youth Federation. Prominent among the more than 1,000 participants in the rally was Alecko Eskandarian–star forward of the DC United soccer team.
Meeting with Speaker Hastert
The unplanned meeting with the Speaker came on the heels of more than seven months of efforts by System Of A Down to schedule a meeting with him to discuss Congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide. Last September–Serj and John traveled personally to the Speaker’s district office in Batavia–Illinois–along with hundreds of their fans–to deliver a letter requesting a meeting about allowing a vote on Armenian genocide legislation that had recently been overwhelmingly approved by the House International Relations Committee.
Despite these repeated efforts over the course of more than half a year–the Speaker’s office has not scheduled a meeting with SOAD–nor has he responded positively to a series of meeting requests from the leadership of the Armenian American community. During this time period–however–Foreign Agent Registration Act filings at the Justice Department reveal that the Speaker has met personally with senior Turkish officials and their lobbyist Bob Livingston–who is paid close to $2 million a year to oppose American reaffirmation of the Armenian genocide.
Over 15,000 individual ANCA WebFaxes have been sent from across the United States urging the Speaker to allow a vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution.
System Of A Down
The members of System Of A Down–Serj Tankian–Daron Malakian–John Dolmayan–and Shavo Odadjian–who are of Armenian descent–all personally lost family members and family history to the Armenian genocide. "Because so much of my family history was lost in the Armenian genocide," said Malakian–"my grandfather–who was very young at the time–doesn’t know his true age. How many people can say they don’t know how old they are?" Tankian–Dolmayan–and Odadjian all identify their grandparents’ memories as the only links they have to their respective family heritages–as most of their families were obliterated during the Armenian genocide.
Having won a Grammy Award this year–debuted two #1 Billboard albums in 2005–and having sold over 16 million records around the world–System Of A Down has a tremendous nationwide following and loyal fan base–who have heeded their call to action on social justice issues–including support of legislation recognizing the Armenian genocide. The band’s efforts have gained national press attention in hundreds of articles appearing in the New York Times–Los Angeles Times–Washington Post–Chicago Tribune–Newsweek–MTV–BBC–VH1–ABC–FOX–WB–and Rolling Stone.