Mahwah, NJ – Earlier this month, Florida Armenians (FLArmenians) Editor Taniel Koushakjian joined over 300 Armenian-Americans for the Armenian National Committee Eastern Region’s (ANCA-ER) 6th annual banquet. Mrs. Nora Kzirian, a former FLArmenian, served as the evening’s Mistress of Ceremonies, as the community honored Armenian studies luminary Dr. Richard Hovannisian, and Artsakh rights champion her ladyship Baroness Caroline Cox.
National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) Director of Academic Affairs Dr. Marc Mamigonian gave a moving introduction about Professor Richard Hovannisian, this year’s ANCA Vahan Cardashian Award recipient.
Dr. Hovannisian, a professor of Armenian and Near Eastern Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), is a pioneer of Armenian studies in the United States. He has authored many books and edited and contributed to at least a dozen other works. In 1987, he was appointed the first holder of the Armenian Educational Foundation Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History at UCLA.
“I’m deeply honored and thankful to the ANCA for considering me worthy of receiving this award. Vahan Cardashian remains a champion and a symbol for the Armenian people. I feel very satisfied after my long career, and I feel rewarded that I’ve had more than a half century of wonderful experiences in the classroom teaching generations regarding Armenian history and identity,” Hovannisian said.
Ms. Virginia Davies, who sponsored FLArmenians’ participation, introduced Baroness Caroline Cox before presenting her with the ANCA Freedom Award.
“Speaking in the British parliament is a place to give voice to the voiceless, to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. … I would like to say thank you to the Armenian people, who in that holy land of Artsakh have formed that front line of faith and freedom for the rest of the world. We who live in freedom, we who call ourselves Christian, owe you a debt of gratitude for holding that front line for us. With all my heart, I thank you,” the Baroness said.
Baroness Cox has visited Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh 78 times to date, many of them during the war with Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, and is planning on at least two more visits in 2013. Working with the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), she helped establish the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre in Stepanakert in 1998, which has become a leader in providing care and rehabilitation for those with physical or mental disabilities.
Among the dignitaries in attendance were Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America; Very Rev. Fr. Thomas Garabedian of the Armenian Catholic Exarchate of America; His Excellency Ambassador Garen Nazarian, Permanent Representative of Armenia to the United Nations; Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Co-Chair of the Armenian Caucus; Executive Director of the Armenian Missionary Association of America, Mr. Levon Filian; Armenia Fund USA Chairman, Mr. Khoren Bandazian; and many prominent community benefactors.
By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Contributor
Armenian-Americans have what few ethnic groups enjoy: knowledgeable, skilled, and effective leadership in Washington, DC. The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) and the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) are organized, principled and steadfast in protecting the rights of Armenian-Americans, developing a strong US-Armenia relationship, helping the people in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh achieve freedom and democracy, and overall successfully representing the community in the nations capital for over 40 years. When it comes to ethnic political organizations, the Assembly and the ANCA are models for other minorities in America.
Looking at the relationship of Armenian-American advocacy organizations with US Presidential campaigns, one must rely on the record of the ANCA, as the Assembly is an independent, non-profit organization that is not involved in electioneering or endorsing of political candidates at any level. Full disclosure: the author is a former employee of the Assembly.
On Monday, October 15, 2012 the ANCA, the largest partisan Armenian-American advocacy organization, reported that they would not be endorsing either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney for President of the United States. “While we remain open to constructive engagement with both campaigns, we have no plans at this time to issue an ANCA endorsement this Presidential election cycle,” stated Chairman Ken Hachikian. The statement goes on to read, “the ANCA holds that neither Presidential candidate has earned the formal support of the Armenian American community.”
Why would the ANCA announce withholding a US presidential endorsement 22 days away from such an important election? A review of the ANCA’s statements over the last four years and their track record in US presidential contests over the last 20 years sheds light.
As rightfully noted in their 2012 announcement, the ANCA whole-heartedly endorsed Senator Barack Obama in 2008. After President Obama failed to live up to his campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide as President, his nomination and subsequent recess appointment of Matthew Bryza to serve as US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, and the fact that neither President Obama nor Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have met with Armenian-American community leaders, the ANCA had very little political room to maneuver in this regard. Further boxing themselves into a corner, the ANCA publicly slammed President Obama for the aforementioned policies, publicly lambasted then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2010 for failing to bring the Armenian Genocide Resolution to the floor for a vote (to be fair, this response was more warranted in 2007), then privately blasted House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer in front of a crowd assembled to commemorate the Armenian Genocide on Capitol Hill. Out of natural self-interest and after having their endorsement of President Obama thrown by the wayside, it was politically impossible for the ANCA to endorse President Obama for re-election.
In addition, it was interesting to read in the same ANCA press release that they are withholding an endorsement of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. An historical review of ANCA presidential endorsements over the last 20 years reveal that, when it comes to the race for the White House, only Democrats are worthy. Further analysis of the success rate of the ANCA’s presidential endorsements over the last 20 years, unfortunately, leaves much to be desired for the Armenian-American community; specifically, the two-time endorsement of Bill Clinton, who single-handedly blocked passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution in his final year in office; John Kerry, who lost his challenge to Republican President George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, who pandered to the Armenian-American community above and beyond any of his predecessors. The ANCA withheld an endorsement in the 2000 presidential election as well.
However, what is most interesting is an omission from this years ANCA press release regarding Mitt Romney’s statements as Governor of Massachusetts. According to a February 2008 ANCA press release, Mitt Romney shared with them copies of his four Armenian Genocide proclamations during his time as Governor of Massachusetts. “While the first three statements during his four years in office properly described the Armenian Genocide as genocide, his fourth and final statement refrained from using the accurate terminology,” read the 2008 ANCA press release. Yet the October 15, 2012 press release goes on to state, “Mitt Romney…has no evident public record on Armenian issues from his four-year tenure as Governor or his two campaigns for the White House.” While it is true that Governor Romney has not issued a statement on Armenian-American issues in either of his campaigns for President, the ANCA’s 2012 statement withholding endorsement appears to be at odds with their own record.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the ANCA could not endorse President Obama for re-election and that the ANCA would not endorse Governor Romney for President of the United States.
Taniel Koushakjian is an independent political commentator for Florida Armenians. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, and is currently enrolled at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management in Washington, D.C.
Majority of Florida Delegation Opposed Turkey-Skewed Measure
By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Contributor
Washington, DC – Yesterday, the US House of Representatives voted down legislation, on a bipartisan basis, that singled out Turkey for preferential treatment to engage in economic development projects on specific Indian tribal lands in the United States. H.R. 2362, the Indian Tribal Trade and Investment Demonstration Project Act, was brought to the floor for a vote under the suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority for passage. The measure was defeated 222-160, falling short of the 255 votes needed.
Speaking in support of H. R. 2362 were Representatives Doc Hastings (R-WA), Tom Cole (R-OK), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), James Moran (D-VA), Dan Boren (D-OK) along with Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS), while Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Hellenic Caucus Co-Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) led the charge against the legislation. On the day of the vote, Congressman Bilirakis, joined by his fellow Hellenic and Armenian Caucus colleagues, issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to House members, urging their opposition to H.R. 2362.
In a statement released by the Armenian Assembly of America, bill sponsor Cole noted in his remarks that the Turkish Coalition of America approached him about the bill. “According to campaign contribution records, Representative Cole has received $6,000 in Turkish PAC money this cycle while Representative Foxx received $10,000,” read the Assembly’s statement.
A majority of Representatives from the Florida delegation opposed giving preferential treatment to the Republic of Turkey. Florida representatives voting in opposition to H.R. 2362 include Reps. Sandy Adams (R-FL), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Bolart (R-FL), Jeff Miller (R-FL), Rich Nugent (R-FL), David Rivera (R-FL), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Dennis Ross (R-FL), Steve Southerland (R-FL), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), and Allen West (R-FL). Voting in favor of the legislation were Florida Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), John Mica (R-FL), Bill Posey (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Daniel Webster (R-FL) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL). Congressman Connie Mack (R-FL), who is anticipated to win the Republican nomination in the Florida Senate race, was not present at yesterday’s vote.
According to the Armenian National Committee, “the measure was opposed by a broad spectrum of Hellenic and Armenian American organizations, including the American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA), American Hellenic Institute (AHI), American Hellenic Council (AHC), the ANCA and the Armenian Assembly of America, all of which alerted House members about the negative repercussions of passing the controversial pro-Turkey measure.”
You can watch the debate on H.R. 2362 here.
*Updated July 26, 2012 at 11:55 AM