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Armenian Assembly of America Announces New South Florida Regional Council For 2015-2016

SFRC-header-2015-16

PALM BEACH, FL – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) is pleased to announce a new slate for the Assembly’s South Florida Regional Council (SFRC) for 2015-2016. The mission of the South Florida Regional Council is to advance Armenian American issues at the local and state level, hold events such as the annual board of trustees meeting, and assist in the development and growth of the organization in South Florida. The new Assembly SFRC includes Lu Ann Ohanian (Boca Raton), Board Member; Arsine Kaloustian (Palm Beach), Chair; Carol Norigian (Boynton Beach), Vice Chair; Marta Batmasian (Boca Raton); and Harout Samra (Miami).

Arsine Kaloustian, Public Affairs Director for Florida Armenians and Chairwoman of South Florida’s Armenian Genocide Commemoration, Inc., will serve as the Assembly SFRC Chair effective immediately. Kaloustian brings years of public relations, event planning, and fundraising experience to the council. Batmasian, an Assembly Trustee for over two decades, is a highly respected community leader and philanthropist in South Florida. Samra, a Miami-based attorney, is an active member in the Armenian community in South Florida. Norigian, a life-long activist in several Armenian American organizations, has managed the Assembly SFRC since 2007 and will serve as Vice Chair effective immediately. Assembly Board Member Lu Ann Ohanian will continue to serve on the council in her official capacity.

“Together, Arsine, Carol, Marta, and Harout make a dynamic team and I’m excited to begin working with them to carry out the Assembly’s mission right here in South Florida,” Ohanian said.

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

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NR: # 2015-035

Miami Herald Publishes Op-Ed on the Passing of Harry Pilafian, South Florida’s Last Armenian Genocide Survivor

On Christmas Day, the Miami Herald published an op-ed by Harout Jack Samra, a Miami-based attorney of Armenian heritage. His article calls attention to the recent passing of Harry Pilafian (1921-2014), a grandfather, father, husband, veteran, and genocide survivor.

Miami Herald-Pilafian

Below is an excerpt from Samra’s article and a link to the full story.

Annually, Armenians around the world gather on April 24 to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Survivors of this national calamity stand at the front of each assembly as symbols of a people’s capacity to survive.

With each passing year in South Florida, with the commemoration reaching its centennial, survivors have grown fewer. Two weeks before Christmas, South Florida’s last known Armenian genocide survivor died.

Harry Pilafian was born in Tekirdag, in Thrace, during the final years of the Ottoman Empire. His mother and father had fled their home to Damascus in 1918. Their first son, James, was born in that ancient city.

During a period of calm, the family, like so many others, tried to return home. This is when Pilafian was born.

You can read the article in full by clicking here.

Armenian-Americans at RNC 2012: Support Mitt Romney for President

By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Contributor

The Tampa Bay Times Forum, Home of RNC 2012

Every four years, the campaign for the highest office of the land takes place. As candidates from the Republican Party navigated the choppy waters of the primary storm this election season, one man sailed to victory: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Winning the party’s nomination was no easy feat and on several occasions, the media and members of his own party, were quick to write him off. However, Mitt Romney and his campaign rose to the challenge, and secured the 1,190 Republican Party Delegates necessary to clinch the nomination. No doubt, the battles he faced in the primary contest will come in handy when he goes head-to-head with President Obama.

Among these Republican Party Delegates, who are elected within their respective state party systems, were six Armenian-Americans. The States of Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island were each represented by an official GOP Delegate of Armenian descent.

Harout Samra, an attorney in Miami said, “it was a privilege to attend the Republican National Convention as a delegate for Florida. Coming to the floor of the Convention hall for the first time was very exciting. Frankly, I did not expect to be as moved as I was. It was a great honor to have been selected to represent my fellow Floridians. That came home to me as I reached the floor. I genuinely enjoy interacting with people from different backgrounds. The United States is a remarkably diverse place, and I believe this diversity was represented not only in our delegation, but also in those of the other states. Florida’s delegation included first-generation Americans, such as myself, and longtime natives. It included Indian-Americans, Cuban-Americans, and even one Armenian-American.

Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Harout Samra

“Governor Romney knows and understands the issues that are important to Armenian-Americans. Living in Belmont and serving as the Governor of Massachusetts, he’s had more important contacts and relationships with the Armenian-American community than any President since Ronald Reagan. He will not mislead us and pander to us to get Armenian-American votes like President Obama.

“Governor Romney is the right man for the moment. He understands how to turn around the economy at home and to ensure that America is respected abroad. Unlike President Obama, Governor Romney’s top priority will be to create an environment that leads to more jobs and spurs economic growth,” stated Samra.

Another Republican Party Delegate, Bob Semonian, State Chairman of Massachusetts Republican Party-Ethnic Outreach expressed that he was “thrilled to attend the Republican National Convention in Tampa this year. Americans want honesty in the White House and Mitt Romney is an honest man who will best represent all of America,” stated Semonian, who also serves as the Armenian-Americans for Mitt Romney Coalition Massachusetts State Chair.

Bob Semonian with Josh Romney

From the Great Lakes State was Krista Haroutunian, who serves as the Republican Party Chair for the 13th Congressional District. She stated, “My time at the 2012 RNC was extremely important and made me proud to be American, an Armenian, and from Detroit, Michigan.” Haroutunian continued, “The first concern of an American, of whatever cultural or ethnic background, is the independence, freedom, and well-being of Americans. This allows us to be able to express concerns for Armenian issues and to assist appropriately.

“Mr. Romney knows that the founding fathers of America had great concerns about dictatorial attitudes and insisted upon a separation of powers – something Mr. Obama has side-stepped for the better part of four years. Mr. Romney wants to return to a Constitutional government through our elected Representatives. Mr. Obama wants all-pervasive government with the decision makers being unelected bureaucrats.

“The choice is clear – constitutional guarantees and responsibilities to preserve the rule of law versus arbitrary actions from a few with no guarantees of the rule of law. For all Armenians and all Americans, Mitt Romney is the best choice.”

Over the course of this year, several Armenian-Americans across the country, including the author, have been challenged on our position of supporting Governor Romney over President Obama. “What do you expect from Romney that will be different from Obama,” is the common intrigue.  To put it plainly, like all Americans, we expect leadership, honesty and values from our elected officials. When it comes to Armenian issues, President Obama failed to fulfill his campaign pledge to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide as President. That calls into question his honesty. President Obama’s nomination and subsequent recess appointment of Matthew Bryza to serve as Ambassador to Azerbaijan was opposed by Senators of his own party, not to mention many Armenian-Americans. That calls into question his ability to lead. And the silence of the Obama administration on the destruction, confiscation and profiteering of Christian Armenian religious properties by the Turkish Government, as well as Azerbaijan’s completed destruction of centuries-old Armenian Khachkars at Julfa, call into question his values.

From Fresno to Philadelphia, from Manchester to Miami, from Detroit to Denver, from Waukesha to Washington, DC, Armenian-Americans have expressed their frustration with President Obama, and many former Armenian supporters of his are now backing Mitt Romney for President. In fact, one prominent Armenian-American who supported President Obama in 2008, and is now backing Governor Romney, expressed as much to the author. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, she shared her frustration: “Senator Obama chose to promise, in campaign speeches and written outreach, recognition of the 1915 genocide of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks. He fully understood the importance of that issue to the Armenian American community and indeed to all right thinking Americans.  Americans deserve a President who knows his principles and makes his decisions in accordance with those principles. Americans deserve a President who has integrity. So why come November would I vote for a President who over the course of four years has delivered precious little and lied to us and other communities?”

Indeed, why would we? She then confessed, “I’ll take a chance on Romney.”

This article originally appeared in the October 13, Volume 13 Print Edition of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator.