On May 4 the Armenian National Committee of America Burbank chapter hosted its annual banquet, during which ANCA Communications Director Elizabeth Chouldjian delivered the keynote address. Below is the text of her presentation:
Folks have asked me over the years, what it is that I find most gratifying about working with the ANCA.
My answer has always been — our community.
Where else would a person have the opportunity to work with such a diverse group of activists – from major U.S. cities and small town America, some here for generations, others calling the U.S. home just for a few years, folks who have spent a lifetime toward the betterment of our community, and others who are just starting their service – gathered together either physically in halls and community centers like this one or linking up virtually through Facebook and Twitter – Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Libertarians – all working together with one singular aim – the strengthening of the Armenian nation.
It’s joining you on evenings like this and spending time with ANC leaders like Zareh Sinanian – whose service to this organization began here in Burbank and now extends to our regional and national programs. It’s speaking with Sarkis Nikogosian, who has worked quietly and tirelessly to assist the good people of Artsakh – but when I wanted to print his specific donations and actions as part of an article in Asbarez – he responded humbly, “keedek, ayt desagee paneroo maseen harmar che khosel.” It’s young Talar Kossakian and the Burbank AYF Varak chapter members, who, through their community activism and youth leadership, give us all confidence that the future of our nation will be in good hands. Add to that local leaders like City Clerk Campos, who has spared no effort to expand Armenian American participation in Burbank civic life. Congressman Schiff – who takes the lead in ending the U.S. government’s shameful complicity in Turkey’s Genocide denial – works tirelessly to ensure much needed assistance to Armenia and Artsakh – and continues his efforts for the well being of his local community and constituents.
It’s having the opportunity to meet with each and everyone throughout the course of this evening who together serve as the integral foundation for the success of our local civic efforts.
In Washington, DC there is no shortage of interests — some righteous and some downright reprehensible, using every means imaginable – legal and illegal – all trying to secure victory for their side. But when you look at the reasons of the Armenian American community’s success, it comes down to the three C’s.
You have to have a just Cause – one that transcends party politics or parochial concerns. A Cause that has been handed down generation to generation for more than 3,000 years – a Cause of justice that seeks to guarantee the fundamental rights of the Armenian nation. A democratic and economically viable Armenia, a free and independent Artsakh, a strong Javakhk, justice for the Armenian Genocide.
And you have to have the Courage to fight for that Cause. To fight – day in and day out – against mighty interests who the odds makers would have bet should have crushed us politically, militarily or financially decades ago. Countries like Turkey and Azerbaijan – who spend collectively close to $4 million a year in anti-Armenian lobbying (according to the U.S. Justice Department records); 10 – 50 times that when taking into account alliances with multinanational corporate interests – co-opted and coerced to promote agendas of genocide denial and efforts to quash the right to self-determination of a freedom loving people. And as if that is not enough, we need to stand up to forces in our own government – the U.S. government – who dishonor the founding principles of our nation – of life, liberty – for the sake of perceived short term political gain.
And you need Capital. Human Capital — activists and advocates like yourselves who look at the challenges facing the future of our nation and say — as our Homenetmen Scouts said this evening – Meeshd Badrasd (Always Prepared). A community prepared to be the sword and shield of Armenian values in the political battlefield, just as our ancestors did in Avarayr, in Sardarabad and our brothers and sisters did in Karabakh when our nation needed them most.
Washington DC is a city of embassies and ambassadors – representing countries large and small. Here in the U.S., the Armenian nation has 1.5 million Ambassadors – each of us with an opportunity in the world of business, politics, even pop-culture, entertainment and sports – to advance the Armenian Cause.
And to educate, motivate and activate this second army of the Armenian nation – you need the other kind of Capital – financial Capital. To invest in programs like the Capital Gateway Program — bringing the best and brightest to Washington, DC to become the future leaders of this country. To continue internship programs like the Leo Sarkisian Internship, and our internships in the Western United States and Glendale and to expand to Burbank and every other community, to prepare the new generation of Hai Tahd activists. To set up programs like the Hyevotes initiative – not just in California and Massachusetts and New York and New Jersey where our traditional communities lie – but in Florida, and Ohio and other swing states that are going to decide who the next President of the United States will be. To encourage broader Armenian American participation in ALL political parties – as elected officials and community advocates – so that our voice is heard from the city council to the White House, so that politicians intent on double crossing our community, of renegging on campaign promises, of saying one thing and doing another — face the consequences they deserve.
To invest in programs that would expand our reach in media and ensure our nation, our values, our history is represented properly. To battle anti-Armenian defamation and racism – locally or nationally. To ensure that the Hai Tahd message doesn’t just go out to 30,000 ANCA facebook friends or 100,000 folks on our email list – but 300,000 or 3 million world wide.
That is what your support for the ANCA Burbank and the ANCA Endowment Fund does, ladies and gentlemen. That is what your support for 2006 and 2009 Telethons has contributed to the Armenian Cause. And that is why your support for the May 20th Telethon is so vital to our collective efforts.
Let me wrap up with one final thought.
I talked about the 3 C’s of our community’s success. There is a fourth ‘C’, that I only mention to the closest of our supporters. The ones who really understand the powerful forces that we are up against, the mighty battles we have to fight.
You have to be a little Crazy. A little Khent. Raffi Khent, who’s novel of the same name was a call to action to an entire nation. Barouyr Sevag Khent — whose song depicting Sardarabad best describes our nation’s political challenges — Yerp chee mnoom yelk oo jar, Khentern en kdnoom hnar. [When there remains no way out, it is the Khent that finds a way.]
Took ek, sireliner, aysorvah khenteruh vor beedee gerden mer azkee baydzar abakan. Yev yes, yerakhdabard em vor indzee areetuh dvadz ek tser hed baykareloo. [Ladies and Gentlemen, you are today’s Khents who will build a brighter future for Armenia. And I am an grateful for the opportunity to go into battle with you.]