Florida Media Outlets Report on Local Armenian American Community’s Response to Biden’s Genocide Declaration
BOCA RATON, FL – As all eyes were on the White House last month, the Armenian American community was hyper mobilized in pressing the White House to fulfill President Biden’s pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide as President on April 24.
With all signs pointing in the right direction and anticipation of the President’s genocide declaration building by the day, two Florida media outlets covered the local Armenian American community’s response.
“Florida Armenians here and across the state welcomed President Joe BIden’s recognition of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day April 24” The Boca Voice posted on their Facebook page.
Later in the day, a headline from the Tampa Bay Times read “Biden’s recognition of genocide brings Florida’s Armenians relief.” Tampa Bay Times‘ breaking news reporter Josh Fiallo’s heartfelt reporting was the first major Florida newspaper to cover the President’s historic statement.
On Sunday, April 25, the Times devoted another story to the local Armenian American community on the west coast of Florida. Reporting “Genocide victims remembered on Red Sunday at Pinellas Armenian Church,” Times reporter Anastasia Dawson went to St. Hagop Armenian Church in Pinellas Park and spoke with Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian and several parishioners.
“Demerjian, pastor at St. Hagop’s, called Biden’s statement ‘the healing of a wound’ that was a ‘long time in the making,'” he told the Tampa Bay Times. =
While no other newspaper or media outlet in Florida covered President Biden’s acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide (reprinting the AP doesn’t count), Armenian Americans in Florida should be pleased to know that the Tampa Bay Times, that state’s largest newspaper, gave them ample coverage and connected with St. Hagop’s parishioners, and that our local reporters and outlets like the The Boca Voice truly listen to their community members and amplify their stories.
This past April, as Armenian Americans across the country were working hard and eagerly waiting to see if President Biden would recognize the Armenian Genocide in his first April 24th remembrance day statement, the community was also mourning the loss of three extraordinary men who would leave the their mark on the world in a way that makes all of us proud to be both Armenian and American.
In the beginning of April, the news broke that long time philanthropist and American homebuilder Hirair Hovnanian had passed away at his residence in Yerevan, Armenia, where he had retired after an impressive and successful life and career.
A bold, daring and caring individual, a visionary leader, the founder and benefactor of many charities, and devoted longtime Chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America’s Board, Hirair Hovnanian leaves behind a remarkable legacy. Hirair was an amazing leader and mentor, always ready to roll up his sleeves and tackle any challenge. Hirair’s integrity, passion, dedication, commitment, work ethic, and love of his people, were extraordinary.
A successful businessman, whose generosity extended to causes around the world, Hirair felt energized by the independence of Armenia, and did everything in his power to assist the newly independent Republic. He demonstrated his commitment to Armenia by resettling in his homeland where his philanthropy extended beyond precedent. Hirair responded immediately to the 1988 earthquake and embarked upon the recovery and rebuilding of the devastated areas. A builder and developer by profession, he knew exactly the type of assistance required and established a building parts manufacturing plant to accelerate the reconstruction process. His generous contributions in support of educational and religious institutions in Armenia and the diaspora are legion.
At the helm of the Assembly, he helped shape non-partisan advocacy, creating an example of a united voice for Armenian Americans in Washington, D.C., and strongly believed in the unique role of American leadership in advancing democracy and human rights. He lent every measure of support within his means towards the affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, including the establishment of the Armenian National Institute. He welcomed Armenian Assembly interns to his home every summer and embraced the next generation with his infectious enthusiasm for all things Armenian. Through his boundless generosity, he touched the lives of countless citizens in Armenia and Artsakh to whom he exemplified the best of the Armenian diaspora.
“We are all saddened by this great loss and remain immensely grateful to Hirair for his unparalleled legacy. He was the champion of every cause that benefited the Armenian people, and he never hesitated to lead from the front with unwavering dedication and commitment. May he rest in peace,” read a statement from the Armenian Assembly.
Ambassador Set Charles Momjian, a former trustee and board member of the Armenian Assembly, passed away on Monday, April 12, 2021 in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania.
“He was born in Atlantic City on April 9, 1930 to Julia and Charles Momjian, both orphaned refugees from the Armenian genocide who were raised by American missionaries. The two parents were born in Malatya in the Ottoman Empire. Charles died at an early age and the family, which included younger brother Albert, had a difficult time during the Depression era,” the Armenian Mirror-Spectator reported.
After enrolling in the U.S. Army, Set Momjian led a prolific career in marketing and advertising at the Ford Motor Company. He went on to become a special advisor to U.S. presidents, and, per President Jimmy Carter’s appointment, served as a U.S. representative to the United Nations with the rank of Ambassador. Momjian was also appointed as a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Momjian’s impactful commitment to the Assembly and Armenian causes on Capitol Hill is still relevant today. His longtime friendship with President Joe Biden was cultivated during train rides he shared in the 1980s with the Delaware Senator, who was then Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and marshaled through committee approval of an Armenian Genocide resolution, which Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) brought to the Senate Floor in 1990.
“The Assembly appreciates the Momjian family’s dedication, including Set Charles Momjian’s brother Albert’s many years of service as the Assembly’s Solicitor, a role which Albert’s son, Mark Momjian, currently holds. The Assembly extends its condolences to Set Charles Momjian’s family and loved ones,” an announcement from the Assembly stated. Momjian was also active with the AGBU and the Knights of Vartan.
Three days later, on Thursday, April 15th, the world mourned the loss of Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation, and one of the most famous Armenians in American history.
Dr. Gregorian was invaluable in the Armenian American community’s efforts to educate the public about the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of its denial. He led the way for others who followed in his footsteps in academia, administrative leadership at top universities, and as a world leader of philanthropy and education. His life’s work, much to long to list in a single column, took him to incredible places across the globe and led to his service in prestigious posts, such as the “Savior of The New York Public Library,” as the New York Times catalogued, as well as President of Brown University, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, to name but a few.
“This is a painful loss for all Armenians, the United States, and the world. His achievements will stand the test of time, and the spirit in which he delivered those achievements will always be valued. May he rest in peace,” a statement from the Armenian Assembly read.
WEST PALM BEACH, FL – Earlier today, President Joe Biden became the first U.S. President to properly recognize the World War I era mass killings of Armenians and other Christians by the Ottoman Turkish Empire as genocide.
“Today is #ArmenianGenocide Remembrance Day, commemorating the 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred in 1915 by the Ottomans, & today @POTUS has made history by becoming the first President to recognize it. This is a major step toward Armenians getting the justice they deserve,” Congresswoman Lois Frankel (D-FL) said on Twitter. Earlier this week, Frankel was one of three Florida Representatives to sign a letter to President Biden urging him to recognize the Armenian Genocide on April 24th.
“It has been more than 100 years since the atrocities committed against innocent Armenians and other ethnic and religious minorities at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire’s genocidal campaign from 1915-1923 killed 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children, as well as Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs, through a series of executions and death marches,” said Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), who serves as Co-Chairman of the Congressional Armenian Caucus. “I whole-heartedly welcome today’s historic announcement from President Biden formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide. I have been a major supporter of recognizing the Ottoman Empire’s atrocious acts as genocide, co-authoring the Armenian Genocide recognition resolution passed by the House of Representatives two years ago. We must acknowledge the atrocities of the past so that we might hopefully prevent them in the future. Our darkest moments as a human race have come during times when those who knew better stood silently, making excuses for passivity and allowing injustice and persecution to reign. Today at 2:30 p.m. I spoke with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasia George Kent who confirmed the Administration’s announcement today acknowledging the pain of history to ensure future atrocities do not happen,” Bilirakis said on Saturday.
Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), an active member of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, issued a statement on Twitter, saying “I commend @POTUS Biden for officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Yet over a century later some still minimize the Ottoman Empire’s systematic execution of Armenians. We must honor the victims & survivors, & we must keep its memory alive to prevent history from repeating.”
“President Joe Biden’s deceptively simple action goes beyond what any previous American president has ever been willing to do. The evidence, however, is clear the Turks engaged in a years-long ethnic cleansing campaign that included forced death marches and mass starvation. Recognizing this fact will, hopefully, bring an element of closure to this chapter of history for families impacted by these atrocities,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Robert Weinroth (D-FL) told FLArmenians.com.
Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer told FLArmenians.com, “The White House’s recognition today of the Armenian Genocide is an important step to honor the memory of the many who were killed. To prevent future tragedies, we must never forget those that occurred,” Mayor Singer said. Boca Raton, FL is the second largest city in Palm Beach County and is home to St. David Armenian Church, the first Armenian Church built in Florida and consecrated in 1989.
Responding to the news, Mark Samuelian, Miami Beach City Commissioner told FLArmenians.com, “Having recently visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, President Biden’s historic announcement today delivers profound meaning.” Elected in 2017, Samuelian is the first Armenian American elected official in Miami-Dade County, FL.
*This post was updated on Thursday, April 29, 2021 to reflect the new statements. FLArmenians.com will continue to update this post with new statements from Florida elected officials.