Armenian Assembly of America to Honor Congresswoman Jackie Speier at 2019 National Advocacy Conference and Gala

Rep. Speier with Anthony Barsamian

Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, Congressional Relations Director Mariam Khaloyan, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, and Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) will honor Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) for her exemplary work as a United States Representative, as well as her dedication, commitment, and passionate support of United States-Armenia relations. She will be recognized at the Assembly’s Gala on Monday, September 16th in Washington, D.C. as part of the Assembly’s National Advocacy Conference.

Congresswoman Speier has been a Member of the House of Representative for over a decade. She is a tireless advocate for women’s rights, the public good, and the security of Americans. Among the many congressional caucuses that she supports, Congresswoman Speier is a Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, the Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)/Demining Caucus, and the Democratic Women’s Caucus. Newsweek listed her as one of its 150 “Fearless Women” in the world.

As Chairwoman of the House Armed Services Committee Military Personnel Subcommittee and a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, she has worked to ensure that legislators care for and support our servicemembers and their families, keep the United States secure from terrorists and hostile nations, to honor and support our veterans, and save taxpayers millions by fighting for improved cyber defenses and sound management practices at the Pentagon. On these committees and in her previous assignments, she has led numerous investigations to protect the public by exposing corruption and dysfunction.

Congresswoman Speier was the first member of Congress to advocate for fundamental reforms to end the epidemic of sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, and she is leading the fight against sexism in the fields of science and technology. During the last Congress, she led an effort to overhaul sexual harassment protections for members of the congressional workforce, and she is also at the forefront of efforts to end discrimination and close the gender pay gap through ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

“Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s work in Congress is impressive. She is highly respected by her colleagues and is a tireless advocate for her constituents, state, and country. As one of the Co-Chairs of the Armenian Caucus, and as an Armenian American in the House, Congresswoman Speier is also making a difference for Armenia and successfully secured an additional $40 million in democracy assistance to Armenia in a House Appropriations Bill. She is more than deserving of this award, and we look forward to celebrating her achievements,” stated Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian.

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment offered by Congresswoman Speier to H.R. 2740 – the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Legislative Branch, Defense, State, Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act of 2020 – to provide $40 million to Armenia for democracy assistance. The following week, she joined Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) as an original co-sponsor for H. Res. 296 praising Armenia’s democracy and reaffirming the critical importance of the partnership between the U.S. and Armenia.

“I appreciate the important work of the Armenian Assembly of America in helping advance U.S.-Armenia relations and urging support for Armenia’s democracy. The United States and Armenia have very strong shared democratic values, which is what inspired my amendment,” stated Congresswoman Speier. “I believe that the best days of our relationship are still ahead as we work together to build Armenia’s blossoming democracy,” she added.

Rep. Speier and Annie Totah

Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Armenian Assembly Board Member Annie Simonian Totah at the 2019 Congressional Armenian Genocide Commemoration

Throughout her time in office, Rep. Speier has worked tirelessly to keep Armenia and Artsakh at the top of the congressional agenda. During her tenure in Congress, she has co-sponsored multiple resolutions reaffirming America’s storied history of recognizing the Armenian Genocide, supported humanitarian assistance to Armenia and Artsakh, encouraged visits and communication between the U.S. and Artsakh at all levels of civil society and government, urged Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and to return confiscated church properties, condemned Azerbaijan for its ceasefire violations against Armenia and Artsakh, as well as its anti-Armenian pogroms in Sumgait, Baku, and Kirovabad, and strongly supported life-saving programs to remove ordnance, mines, and other explosive remnants of war left on battlefields around the world, including in Artsakh.

Artsakh President

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr.

The Congresswoman had a long, difficult road before becoming a Member of Congress. Early in her career, she was a legislative aid for the late Congressman Leo J. Ryan, Jr. Speier traveled with Congressman Ryan on a trip to Jonestown in 1978 at the compound of the People’s Temple, a cult in Guyana that had previously been based in his San Francisco district, in an attempt to rescue some of the cult’s 900 members. Congressman Ryan was tragically shot to death, and Speier was left nearly lifeless herself on the airport tarmac after being shot five times at point blank range. Following her near death experience, she fought hard and made a name for herself in the political sphere.

Speier won her first election in 1980 when she ran for the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and defeated a 20-year incumbent. At the time, she was the youngest person ever elected to the board. She was reelected in 1984, and was later selected as chairwoman. Speier also served in the California State Assembly and State Senate until winning her congressional seat in 2008.

During her 18 years in both chambers of the California Legislature, she had more than 300 bills signed into law by Republican and Democratic governors. Some of her highest-profile efforts secured justice for women and children, including a series of bills that led to the collection of more than $2 billion in delinquent court-ordered child support payments. She also authored a measure that gave the state the nation’s strongest financial privacy law.

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Congresswoman Speier with the 2018 Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program Participants

“The Armenian Assembly of America is proud to honor Congresswoman Jackie Speier as a role model for all Americans. Her support for a democratic Armenia aligns perfectly with America’s fundamental values, as well as the Assembly’s mission in support of democracy, rule of law, and good governance,” stated Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “We strongly urge our nationwide activists to participate in this year’s National Advocacy Conference as we highlight Armenia’s democratic reforms and honor Congresswoman Speier,” he added.

Armenian American leaders and activists from across the country are invited to the Armenian Assembly’s National Advocacy Conference and Gala in Washington, D.C. on September 16 and 17, 2019. The two-day event includes an all-day conference featuring invited speakers and advocacy training, an evening gala honoring Congresswoman Jackie Speier, meetings with elected officials and staff on Capitol Hill, and a special congressional reception celebrating U.S.-Armenia relations.

Participants will learn advocacy techniques and be briefed on the current status of U.S.-Armenia and U.S.-Artsakh relations, as well as on a range of other priority issues, in preparation for their meetings with Members of Congress organized by the Armenian American Action Committee (ARAMAC), the Assembly’s grassroots arm.

Speier

Armenian Assembly California Delegation with Congresswoman Jackie Speier during the 2018 National Advocacy Conference and Gala

For more information on the National Advocacy Conference and Gala, visit www.aimhye.com or contact Armenian Assembly of America Congressional Relations Director Mariam Khaloyan at (202) 481-3337 or mariam@aaainc.org.

Early Bird rates are available for the conference and gala until August 2, 2019. For special room rates, contact the Wharf InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C. at (202) 824-9200 or click here to book your room.

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#: 2019-028

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Armenian Assembly of America Intensifies Advocacy and Outreach

Armenian Assembly of America Delegation with Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)

GLENDALE, CA – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) continued its outreach on the West Coast – including Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah – energizing Assembly members and supporters, and securing results.

Assembly district meetings yielded results with Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) cosponsoring H.Res.296 (the bipartisan Armenian Genocide resolution), and Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) agreeing to join the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues.

Armenian Assembly of America Delegation with Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA)

As previously reported, Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) also joined the Armenian Caucus after meeting with constituents Drs. Alice and Ara Apkarian. In another meeting with Rep. Porter, Assembly Board of Trustees member Lisa Kalustian, along with the Armenian Assembly delegation, including the Pastor of St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church of Costa Mesa, Archpriest Fr. Moushegh Tashjian; Assembly Southern California Regional Council (SCRC) member Helen Haig; Assembly Orange County Regional Committee Co-Chair Sosy Hachigian; 2019 Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program participant Mihran Markarian; constituent Alec Wansikehian; Mher and Sasoun Tcholakian, and Assembly Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan, thanked the Congresswoman for joining the Armenian Caucus and co-sponsoring H.Res.296.

The Assembly’s outreach continued with district meetings with Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), as well as the offices of Reps. Chris Stewart (R-UT) and John Curtis (R-UT). These meetings provided an opportunity to educate Members of Congress on policy priorities for Armenian Americans, including U.S. reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide.

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Tucson, Arizona-area meetings included the participation of the Assembly’s Arizona State Co-Chair Peter Akmajian, Esq. along with Assembly members and activists John Achoukian; Artie and Margaret Ehramjian; World War II veteran Arthur Ehramjian; Ed George; and Dr. Ara Arabyan, an Associate Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and the Director of the Engineering Design Program at the University of Arizona.

Phoenix, Arizona-area meetings included longtime trustee of St. Apkar Armenian Apostolic Church Deacon Stephen Ovanessoff, M.D.; AGBU Arizona Chapter Chairman Kirk Kaprelian and his daughter Shoushana Kaprelian; Gigi Laurent-Wyvill; Cara Matigian; Ann Andonyan, M.D.; Tammy Krikorian Gabel; and David Kouyoumjian.

In conjunction with the congressional meetings and for the second consecutive year, the Assembly served as a co-sponsor of Scottsdale Community College’s (SCC) Genocide Awareness Week and St. Apkar Armenian Church’s 2019 Genocide Awareness Program.  During this year’s SCC Genocide Awareness Week, academic presentations on the Armenian Genocide were delivered by Taner Akçam, Ph.D. (Professor of History and the Robert Aram, Marianne Kaloosdian, and Stephen & Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University) and by Barlow Der Mugrdechian (the Berberian Coordinator of the Armenian Studies Program and Director of the Center for Armenian Studies at Fresno State University).

Armenian Assembly Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan, Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, Prof. Taner Akcam, St. Apkar Armenian Church Pastor Fr. Zacharia Saribekyan, and Prof. Barlow Der Mugrdechian at SCC’s Genocide Awareness Week

St. Apkar’s Genocide Awareness Program took place on April 24, 2019 and included a memorial prayer service at the Armenian Genocide Monument located on the SCC campus. The service was led by St. Apkar Pastor, Rev. Fr. Zacharia Saribekyan, and included heartfelt remarks about the undeniable veracity of the Armenian Genocide by Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ), a co-sponsor of H.Res.296.

Armenian Assembly dinner briefing hosted by Kirk and Zhanet Kaprelian in Scottsdale

As part of the Assembly’s outreach efforts in Arizona, Mr. and Mrs. Kirk and Zhanet Kaprelian generously hosted a dinner in Scottsdale, during which Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny and Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan briefed attendees on the organization’s advocacy priorities and the Assembly’s 2019 National Advocacy Conference set for September 16-17 in Washington, D.C.  During the Assembly’s 2018 National Advocacy Conference, seven Arizona-based Armenian Americans enthusiastically took part in conference sessions and a full day of advocacy on the Hill.

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The Utah congressional meetings were led by the Assembly’s Utah State Chair Narine Sarkissian, and included the participation of local activists Miriam McFadden, Hovig Megerdichian, Eleonor Balasanian, Garine Bekearian, Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program alumna (2017) and intern coordinator (2018) Milena Davtyan, and Western Region Director Toumajan. As part of the Assembly’s outreach efforts in Utah, over 50 community activists attended an interactive town hall briefing on advocacy priorities held at the Arbat Banquet Hall in Salt Lake City, which was delivered jointly by Ardouny and Toumajan. Assembly leaders thanked Armen Galstyan, the owner of the banquet hall, for his thoughtful and generous hospitality during the community briefing.

Ardouny and Toumajan also provided a briefing at St. Geragos Armenian Apostolic Church in Las Vegas where they were welcomed by the Parish Council and Pastor, Very Rev. Fr. Sasoon Zumrookhdian. In addition to Hayr Sasoon and church trustees, briefing attendees included Archpriest Fr. Nareg and Yeretzgeen Paitsar Matarian; Assembly Nevada State Committee members Ara Tcholakian and scholar Rafael Oganesyan; Assistant Professor-in-Residence of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Dr. Nerses Kopalyan; and high school students who are members of the St. Geragos Armenian Church Youth Organization (ACYO).

Las Vegas community briefing at St. Geragos Armenian Apostolic Church

Armenian Assembly of America Town Hall Briefing in Las Vegas

Meanwhile in Sacramento, Western Region Director Toumajan testified before the California State Assembly’s Standing Committee on Public Employment and Retirement, while Assembly SCRC member Helen Haig testified before the California State Senate’s Standing Committee on Judiciary about the moral and economic merits of the “Prohibited Investments: Turkey” bill (AB 1320). Introduced and principally authored by California State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, the bill would prohibit California’s public employment retirement agencies – CalPERS and CalSTRS – from making new investments or renewing existing investments in Turkish government-issued and controlled debt securities and bonds.

Armenian Assembly Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan, Armenian Assembly SCRC Member Helen Haig, and Deacon Daniel Aydenian with Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian

On July 2, AB 1320 was approved with eight Senate Judiciary Committee Members voting in favor, one abstention, and no opposition. Having been approved the previous week in a hearing conducted by the CA State Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee, AB 1320 now moves to the CA State Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Assembly Western Region Office was also pleased to help put together two Armenian American community meet and greets with elected officials from the greater Los Angeles area. Along with the Southern California Armenian Democrats, the Assembly co-organized a meeting with the recently elected Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva in Glendale. Organized jointly by the Assembly and the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) Metro Los Angeles chapter, representatives of over 13 different Armenian American organizations sat down at a roundtable discussion with Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), a staunch supporter of Armenia and Artsakh. At the meeting, Rep. Chu awarded the Armenian Assembly with a certificate of congressional recognition for its work.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) giving certificate of recognition to the representatives of the Armenian Assembly, Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan and SCRC members Helen Haig and Margaret Mgrublian

“I would like to thank the Armenian Assembly’s members and supporters for their hard work and dedication.  Together, we continue to make important strides. We will continue our advocacy work to further strengthen U.S.-Armenia relations and Armenia’s burgeoning democracy. I look forward to seeing grassroots activists participate in this year’s National Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C.,” stated Assembly Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan.

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# 2019-027

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