Florida Elected Officials Respond to White House Affirmation of the Armenian Genocide
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.
Over 100 Members of Congress Sign Letter Urging President Biden to Recognize the Armenian Genocide
Florida Representatives Bilirakis, Frankel, and Crist sign the letter to President Biden.
On April 21, the bipartisan co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), David G. Valadao (R-CA), and Jackie Speier (D-CA), along with over 100 Congressional colleagues, sent a letter to President Joseph R. Biden urging him to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide in his statement on April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
“On April 24, the world will mark the 106th anniversary of the first days of the Armenian Genocide, the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, and the displacement of many more. Yet for decades, while leaders around the world recognize the first genocide of the 20th Century, the President of the United States has remained silent. We join with the proud Armenian American community and all of those who support truth and justice in asking that you clearly and directly recognize the Armenian Genocide in your April 24 statement,” the Members write in the letter. “Mr. President, as you said last year in your April 24 statement, ‘Silence is complicity.’ The shameful silence of the United States Government on the historic fact of the Armenian Genocide has gone on for too long, and it must end. We urge you to follow through on your commitments, and speak the truth.”
In 2019 and 2020, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed resolutions formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide. H.Res. 296 passed with strong bipartisan consensus by a vote of 405-11, and S.Res. 150 passed under unanimous consent.
The Armenian Caucus letter to President Biden was signed by over 100 Members of Congress, including Representatives Brad Sherman, Joaquin Castro, Grace F. Napolitano, Sheila Jackson Lee, Jamie Raskin, John P. Sarbanes, Andy Levin, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Carolyn Maloney, Jim Cooper, Sean Patrick Maloney, Joe Neguse, David N. Cicilline, Jared Huffman, Lori Trahan, Anna Eshoo, Gregory W. Meeks, Jim Costa, Dina Titus, Abigail D. Spanberger, Judy Chu, Josh Gottheimer, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Thomas R. Suozzi, James P. McGovern, Tony Cárdenas, Betty McCollum, Jan Schakowsky, Ro Khanna, Stephen F. Lynch, John Garamendi, Jeff Van Drew, Juan Vargas, Jake Auchincloss, Ann Wagner, Greg Stanton, Nicole Malliotakis, Marcy Kaptur, Paul D. Tonko, Julia Browley, Earl Perlmutter, Linda T. Sánchez, David P. Joyce, Katherine M. Clark, Sara Jacobs, Grace Meng, Mike Quigley, Gwen Moore, Haley Stevens, Devin Nunes, Zoe Lofgren, Adriano Espaillat, James R. Langevin, Josh Harder, Peter A. DeFazio, Donald S. Beyer Jr., Rashida Tlaib, Mary Gay Scanlon, Barbara Lee, Norma J. Torres, Lois Frankel, Chellie Pingree, Donald Norcross, Alan Lowenthal, Bradley S. Schneider, Danny K. Davis, Jimmy Gomez, Colin Z. Allred, Chrissy Houlahan, Earl Blumenauer, Doug Lamborn, Susan Wild, Debbie Dingell, Diana DeGette, Scott Peters, Ted Lieu, Jay Obernolte, Karen Bass, Madeleine Dean, Michelle Steel, Brian Fitzpatrick, Mike Levin, Darrell Issa, Charlie Crist, Albio Sires, Mike Garcia, Lucille Roybal-Allard, David Schweikert, Mike Doyle, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Carolyn Bourdeaux, Young Kim, Jason Crow, Ilhan Omar, Christopher H. Smith, Chris Pappas, David Trone, Ayanna Pressley, Veronica Escobar, Raúl M. Grijalva, Richie Neal, and Jim Himes.
Click here to read the letter, or read the full text below:
Dear Mr. President:
Later this month, on April 24, the world will mark the 106th anniversary of the first days of the Armenian Genocide, the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, and the displacement of many more. Yet for decades, while leaders around the world recognize the first genocide of the 20th Century, the President of the United States has remained silent. We join with the proud Armenian American community and all of those who support truth and justice in asking that you clearly and directly recognize the Armenian Genocide in your April 24 statement.
We know that this is an issue you are well acquainted with from your time in the Senate and as Vice President, including shepherding S.J.Res. 212 (designating April 24, 1990, as a National Day of Remembrance of the 75th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide) through the Judiciary Committee in 1989. We also appreciate that as Vice President you attended the centenary anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2015 at the National Cathedral. It was during the centennial that His Holiness Pope Francis at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica said this about the Armenian Genocide: “concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”
The historic fact of what occurred a century ago is not in serious dispute. American diplomats of the period documented the mass slaughter of the Armenians, though they had no word for what they were witnessing. It was only decades later that Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide”, and did so specifically with the attempted extermination of the Armenian people in mind.
In accurately describing the Genocide this year, you will be joining both the House and Senate which overwhelmingly passed resolutions doing so in 2019. Additionally, the Library of Congress has already taken the important step of cataloging books on the subject under historically accurate Armenian Genocide subject heading.
Mr. President, as you said last year in your April 24 statement, “Silence is complicity.” The shameful silence of the United States Government on the historic fact of the Armenian Genocide has gone on for too long, and it must end. We urge you to follow through on your commitments, and speak the truth.
U.S. House of Representatives to Hold Floor Vote on Armenian Genocide Resolution Today
WASHINGTON, DC – For the first time in more than 30 years, this week the U.S. House of Representatives is set to hold an up-or-down vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H. Res. 296), a bipartisan measure locking in U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the 20th century. If adopted, this resolution would strike a powerful blow against the gag-rule Turkey has long enforced against genuine American remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.
Following Rules Committee passage yesterday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the H. Res. 296 would be on the House docket on Tuesday, October 29, 2019, setting up a potential vote as early as this afternoon.
“We applaud the action taken by the Rules Committee led by Chairman James McGovern (D-MA), the remarks by Committee Member Donna Shalala (D-FL) and the powerful testimony by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) along with Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA),” stated Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. Yesterday’s “adoption of the rule for H.Res. 296 sets the stage for a historic vote on the House floor,” he said.
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian called the resolution a “signal” to Turkey “that Washington won’t be bullied, U.S. policy can’t be hijacked, and American principles are not for sale.”
In addition to Armenian American organizations, major Greek American and Assyrian organizations are supporting the measure as they have since the beginning, one of the largest Christian groups in the U.S. the National Council of Churches, and once again Jewish American leaders from the Anti Defamation League and American Jewish Committee have strongly endorsed U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
“The Armenian community of Florida is uniquely positioned to play a decisive role in passage of H. Res. 296, the Armenian Genocide Resolution in 2019,” stated FLArmenians.com Editor Taniel Koushakjian. “Florida is now the third largest state in the U.S., the home of the Winter White House, and boasts one of the fastest growing Armenian communities in America. Let’s all make our voices heard today. Get on social media, send an email to your friends, and pick up your phone and dial your Congressman today!”
Call Your Representative’s DC Office This Morning –– Vote Could Happen This Afternoon
Yes, it’s it’s really happening. The U.S. House of Representative, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), is set to vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution as early as this afternoon. It has over 140 cosponsors.
Here is a list of Florida’s Congressional delegation and their DC office phone numbers. If you don’t know who your Congressman is, click here to find out. We’ve also written a sample phone script for you, just scroll down.
Seven (7) of Florida’s 27 Members of Congress are cosponsors of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, they are in bold. Reps. Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Charlie Crist (D-FL) just signed on this morning –– joining original cosponsors Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Ross Spano (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), and Donna Shalala (D-FL) –– indicating they are likely to vote in favor of the resolution.
Call your Congressman/woman and ask them to VOTE YES on H. RES. 296. If he/she is a cosponsor, be sure to thank him/her for their cosponsorship!
Matt Gaetz (R-FL-1): (202) 225-4136
Neal Dunn (R-FL-2) (202) 225-5235
Ted Yoho (R-FL-3): (202) 225-5744
John Rutherford (R-FL-4): (202) 225-2501
Al Lawson (D-FL-5): (202) 225-0123
Michael Waltz (R-FL-6): (202) 225-2706
Stephanie Murphy (D-FL-7): (202) 225-4035
Bill Posey (D-FL-8): (202) 225-3671
Darren Soto (D-FL-9): (202) 225-9889
Val Demings (D-FL-10): (202) 225-2176
Daniel Webster(R-FL-11): (202) 225-1002
Ross Spanno (R-FL-15): (202) 225-1252
West Coast Florida
Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12): (202) 225-5755
Charlie Crist (D-FL-13): (202) 225-5961
Kathy Castor (D-FL-14): (202) 225-3376
Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16): (202) 225-5015
Greg Steube (R-FL-17): (202) 225-5792
Francis Rooney (R-FL-19): (202) 225-2536
Brian Mast (R-FL-18): (202) 225-3026
Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20): (202) 225-1313
Lois Frankel (D-FL-21): (202) 225-9890
Ted Deutch (D-FL-22): (202) 225-3001
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL-23): (202) 225-7931
Frederica Wilson (D-FL-24): (202) 225-4506
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25): (202) 225-4211
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL-26): (202) 225-2778
Donna Shalala (D-FL-27): (202) 225-3931
Sample Phone Script
Hello, my name is (Your Name) and I am calling from (Your City).
H.Res.296, the Armenian Genocide Resolution, is coming up for a vote on the House floor this week and when it does I urge you to VOTE YES.
It’s about time America spoke honestly about the Armenian Genocide. The world knows the truth. 49 U.S. States including Florida acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. This vote is important for many reasons. Do the right thing and vote YES when it comes up for a floor vote.
My family, friends and the local community will be watching this vote on C-SPAN and I look forward to seeing you cast your YES vote on this measure.