WASHINGTON, DC – More than twenty U.S. Senators and Representatives addressed a highly-motivated, standing-room-only crowd of Armenian Americans this evening during an inspiring Congressional remembrance ceremony marking the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The energetic program, held in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, featured sharp criticism of the Obama Administration’s refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and impassioned calls for Congressional action to properly condemn and commemorate this crime. The reach of the program was multiplied by social media, with Senators and citizens alike posting photos, tweeting impressions, and emailing updates throughout the event.
“The strong community turn-out and the energy of the principled stands staked out this evening by legislators really speak to the strength of our renewed drive to overcome the remaining obstacles being thrown up by Ankara and its allies to a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide,” said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. “We look forward to building on this enthusiasm, here in Washington and in communities across our country, to finally end the outsourcing to Ankara of U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide.”
As in years past, the observance was hosted by the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues – co-chaired by Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) – in conjunction with Armenian American organizations, and with the support of the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia and the Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.
The Master of Ceremonies was the Honorable Ardashes Kassakhian, Clerk of the City of Glendale, California, who drew on his broad understanding of Armenian history, his long experience working for the Armenian Cause, and his expert, first-hand understanding of the dynamics of Capitol Hill to inform and inspire legislators and all in attendance.
Among the U.S. legislators participating in the remembrance were Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representatives Joe Baca (D-CA), Howard Berman (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Robert Dold (R-IL), Elliot Engel (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Janice Hahn (D-CA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Ed Royce (R-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Bob Turner (R-NY).
In addition to remarks by legislators, powerful speeches were offered by Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Tatoul Markarian, and Republic of Nagorno Karabakh Representative Robert Avetisyan. Both spoke forcefully about the importance of the annual Capitol Hill commemoration and ongoing international efforts to secure justice for the Armenian Genocide. Ambassador Markarian announced that Armenian Government’s highest civilian honor, the Mkhitar Gosh Award, was to be bestowed on Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), Rep. Anna Eshoo and Rep. Brad Sherman for their years of service in promoting justice for the Armenian Genocide and a stronger U.S.-Armenia relationship.
Also invited to speak was special guest Tom Andrews, a former Congressman from Maine who now serves as President of United to End Genocide, the leading group behind the growth of a national, grassroots anti-genocide movement. In a stirring speech, he thanked Armenian Americans for working against all genocides and crimes against humanity. Former Senator Paul Sarbanes was invited to the podium and received a standing ovation for his praise of Armenian Americans as a true American lobby for American values. Also receiving a standing ovation was former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, whose term in office was cut short because he spoke honestly about the Armenian Genocide.
The observance’s opening prayer was offered by Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern U.S., who, earlier in the day, gave the opening prayer for the U.S. Senate. Archbishop Choloyan, during a busy day on Capitol Hill, met personally with over a dozen U.S. legislators. The closing prayer was offered by Very Rev. Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian, representing His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.
Obama Administration officials who handle Armenian-related foreign policy related issues were individually invited to attend the observance. Those who responded each explained that they were “unable to attend,” reflecting, by all accounts, a policy-level decision to appease Turkish government sensitivities by prohibiting foreign policy officials from participating in Armenian Genocide remembrance events in the United States.
Complete coverage of Congressional statements and guest speakers will be provided in upcoming days.
menendez_nj_contingent.jpg: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) with New Jersey natives including ANCA Legislative Director Raffi Karakashian, Sarine Arzoumanian and Kyle Movsessian.
eshoo_kvh_speier.jpg: ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian with Armenian American members of Congress Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Jackie Speier (D-CA)
royce_alex_eleeza_william.jpg: Congressional Armenian Caucus Ed Royce (R-CA) with ANCA Western Region Executive Director William Bairamian (right) and Orange County natives Alex Der Alexanian and Eleeza Agopian.