‘We Remember Our Past; We Remind The World Of Its Consequences; And We Demand Justice For Our People,’ Says ANCA’s Nora Hovsepian
Below is the text of a speech presented at the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region Annual banquet by the organization’s chairwoman, Nora Hovsepian, Esq.
Good evening Your Eminences, Distinguished Guests, Honorees and Elected Officials, representatives of Armenian community organizations, and fellow Activists:
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region, welcome to our 2013 Annual Gala Banquet! Seeing a packed house here tonight is so gratifying, as we highlight a busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend with our ANCA Grassroots Conference, which will end tomorrow with the Hye Tad Global Initiative. Our compatriots from Armenia to Europe, Canada to South America, and from the Middle East to Australia will participate in a groundbreaking interactive online presentation showcasing the activities of Armenian National Committees worldwide. We invite all of you who have not already registered, to join us tomorrow or, to watch it live-streaming on Asbarez.com. I guarantee you will be utterly impressed with the magnitude and scope of the dedicated work that is being done globally on behalf of the Armenian Cause.
The topics covered by our Grassroots Conference this year essentially highlight the mission of the ANCA. We analyzed the evolving inter-relationship between our Homeland and the Diaspora and how to meet the challenge of their dual roles in shaping our national destiny. We discussed how regional factors in Turkey, Kurdistan, Syria and Azerbaijan affect our quest to secure Western Armenia and Artsakh. We explored legal avenues to hold Turkey accountable for the Armenian Genocide and how to pursue reparations and justice through domestic and foreign courts. And we learned the best tools of advocacy through Film and the Arts, Hye Votes and Community Organizing, and citizen activism through the iZartonk campaign.
Nearly all of our 31 distinguished Grassroots panelists whose names are in your Program Books are here with us tonight. Thank you all for participating in our Conference and for sharing your expertise, wisdom and insight with us. And a special thank you to the Armenian Bar Association for collaborating with us on the Transnational Justice panel, and to Bared Maronian for adapting his award winning film Orphans of the Genocide in a special DVD which each of you has received tonight. So let’s all give them a big round of applause as they stand to be recognized.
I want to take a brief moment to explain about iZartonk. This was the brainchild of our dear friend and colleague, former ANCA-WR intern, community activist and visionary Allen Yekikian who we tragically lost along with his equally dedicated newlywed wife Sose Thomassian, in a terrible traffic accident on their way from Armenia to Georgia earlier this year. Allen and Sose were taken from us much too soon. But in their short time here on Earth, they inspired us all to serve our Nation, strengthen our Homeland, and activate our Diasporan communities based on the iZartonk credo, and ours, to “Speak Up, Speak Loud, and Participate in the 21st Century Reawakening of the Armenian Soul.”
So tonight I am very proud to announce that the ANCA Western Region will soon partner up with the Sose & Allen’s Legacy Foundation in a new project of iZartonk to promote activism and volunteerism amongst our youth. We extend our love, support and gratitude to the Thomassian and Yekikian families for sharing the memory of their beloved children with all of us, and even though Allen’s parents, Henrik & Asik Yekikian, were unable to join us tonight, please give a warm welcome to Sose’s brother Vache Thomassian and mother Emma Der Mardirossian. We are certainly all in this together, and we thank you for being here. So stay tuned for more details in the coming months as we embark on this exciting new joint venture.
For the first time, we have prepared and distributed to each of you our Annual Report and detailed Program Book, both of which outline the breadth and scope of our activities, including our financial resources and expenses. I won’t go into all the details, but I do want to specially highlight our trip to the Homeland, the first of many to come, where the ANCA-WR, working closely with our good friends Katcho Achadjian and Adrin Nazarian from the California State Assembly, organized and led an official California delegation to Armenia and Artsakh. I want to thank those members of our delegation who are here tonight: CA State Assemblymembers Cheryl Brown and Scott Wilk with his beautiful wife Vanessa Safoian Wilk, and of course Assemblymembers Achadjian and Nazarian and Councilmember Paul Krekorian and his wife Tamar. Please give them all a round of applause.
Finally, our hard-working Banquet Co-Chairs, Aida Dimejian and Sareen Bezdikian, have provided leadership, guidance, and dedication in heading our stellar Banquet Committee and helping us assemble all of you wonderfully generous sponsors, donors and supporters who sustain our work as we come together under one roof to celebrate our collective accomplishments. This is truly a team effort in every way, so let’s all give them a round of applause as well. Thank you!
In Armenian, ANCA’s name is Hye Tad: literally and simply translated as Armenian Cause. In short, these two words define and guide everything we do. We remember our past, we remind the world of its consequences, and we demand justice for our People. So if you are passionate about the Armenian Cause, about Hye Tad, then this is your place.
In every kind of environment, under adversarial circumstances, in the face of obstacles placed before us by Turkey, Azerbaijan, and even our own US Government, in every setting, we have done our work and activated our army of advocates and activists. We have a dual role, and we play it well as both the voice of the community and the watchdogs who challenge injustice wherever it may be. While some may say we are dreamers or idealists as if it is a bad thing, what they don’t realize is that dreams are for those who will not accept reality as it is. WE do not accept reality as it is, so we dream with eyes wide open of that which is not yet achieved, and we go out and find ways to get it done.
Whether that means removing Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s gag rule over our government’s foreign policy, or displaying a gift to the White House of a beautiful hand-woven rug by orphaned Armenian children of the Genocide, we as American citizens seek justice for our Cause. And I am happy to announce tonight, with his permission, that our dear friend Congressman Adam Schiff, acting on our behalf, has demanded that the White House release the rug for a display in the Capitol and that he is, in his words, “cautiously optimistic” that his request will be granted. So thank you Congressman Schiff for all that you do for us.
And if the elected officials who are here, to whom we are infinitely grateful, think we have been too demanding, it is for that reason. And we will be even more so as we continue to grow and the century-old experience of advocacy that our organization has developed becomes even stronger and more sophisticated.
This is precisely why we must all speak up, stand up and make our collective voices heard. We owe it to our parents and grandparents who were victims of the Genocide. We owe it to the brave soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. We owe it to our 4,000-year-old mighty Nation whose history and culture have survived and thrived against all odds. And we owe it to our children who deserve to live free of this burden of injustice that we all continue to carry.
This is our mission.
As my friend Maria Titizian says, “Nation-building is not a spectator sport,” and she is absolutely right. We haven’t survived by being passive. We all have a job to do to build and strengthen our Nation and our Homeland wherever we may choose to live. We must each ask ourselves whether we are fulfilling this obligation, but rest assured that simply by being here tonight, we are each doing our own small part, and I can prove it.
Our local ANCA chapters are our true grassroots working on a daily basis at the local level from the ground up. Our wonderful dedicated staff work very long hours and truly live and breathe the ANCA on a daily basis, day and night. Our interns and volunteers take time out of their otherwise busy lives to play their part in the advancement of our Cause. I want to take a moment to acknowledge them all by asking them to please stand up, and if you will indulge me, please remain standing.
Let’s take it one step further: Please stand up if you have ever volunteered your time for any community organization. And please remain standing for a moment.
If you have ever run for political office, worked on a political campaign, cast your vote for an ANCA-endorsed candidate, or responded to an ANCA Action Alert by contacting your elected representatives, please stand up.
If you have ever written a letter to an editor, responded in any way to negative propaganda, spoken out against injustice, or if you have ever donated your hard-earned dollars to support any aspect of our Cause, then please, stand up.
And finally, if you have ever attended any other ANCA event or even if this is your first time with us, then stand up, all of you, because you are here for a reason.
Look around you. Here you are: our army of Grassroots activists who are committed not to stand on the sidelines but to stand up for justice. Rest assured that your enthusiasm inspires us. Your generosity sustains us. Your commitment unites us. And your unyielding and consistent activism propels us all forward.
So give yourselves a big round of applause, because you are the ANC. You are Hye Tad. We need you, and we rely on you. And it is only with you that we will fulfill our dream together of achieving a truly free, truly independent, truly democratic, and a truly united Armenian Homeland where our Nation can prosper forever.