WASHINGTON, D.C. – This summer, the Knights and Daughters of Vartan gathered in our nation’s capital for the 2015 National Grand Convocation. The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, celebration of the victory of sanctification of our martyrs by the Armenian Mother Church, and a call to service leadership to our community, were the major themes throughout the convocation. The five-day event was held at the prestigious Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. Over 200 Armenian Americans representing 20 lodges and 17 chapters from across the United States convened for a series of business meetings, workshops, and various activities including tours of the monuments and visits with Members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

“It has been 40 years since the Grand Convocation was held in Washington DC. This event revitalizes our spirits in a year that stands out as landmark year for all Armenians. The issues facing the Republic of Armenia and our diaspora have changed since the 20th century. This convocation is our most important step for keeping pace with these changes,” stated 2015 Grand Convocation Chairman Jake Bournazian.

The convocation began on Wednesday, July 15, where a group of Knights and Daughters visited Members of Congress to discuss issues of concern to the Armenian American community. Later, members took an afternoon tour of Washington, DC and visited various sights such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, White House, and Capitol Hill. Later that evening, guests convened for a casual welcome reception hosted by Grand Commander Steven Kradjian and Grand Matron Lisa Kradjian, thus kick-starting the convocation.  

On Thursday, the Knights and Daughters held an all-day program of workshops dedicated to strengthening the Armenian Diaspora, our homeland, and the organization. In keeping with this year’s Grand Convocation theme, a series of visual panels from various collections of the Armenian National Institute’s Armenian Genocide exhibits were on display at every event.

In the evening, members convened for a private dinner with keynote remarks delivered by Armenian Caucus founder and co-chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). Pallone shared his experiences in fighting for Armenian Genocide recognition and his numerous trips to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Congressman Pallone thanked the Knights and Daughters for their service to the Armenian American community and dedication to the homeland. Following dinner, members danced the night away to American swing and pop music with a live performance by the Terry Lee Ryan Band.

On Friday, July 16, the Knights and Daughters held their annual convocation business meetings for 2015-2016. On Friday night, hundreds of Knights and Daughters gathered for a formal dinner and an evening of Armenian dancing. Taniel Koushakjian delivered remarks and reflections on the Armenian Genocide centennial, the activities of Armenians around the world, and the emotions that Armenians have carried for the last one hundred years. Koushakjian recognized those Knights and Daughters that played significant roles in organizing local centennial commemorations, as well as honorable guests in attendance Nagorno Karabakh Representative to the United States Mr. Robert Avetisyan, Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, and Armenian National Committee Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

During the Friday night dinner, Koushakjian presented two letters of support addressed to the Knights and Daughters of Vartan from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and presidential nominee Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Following dinner, members and guests listened and danced to the sounds of Armenian music performed live by the Artsakh Band of Philadelphia.

The 2015 National Grand Convocation concluded with another full day of business meetings on Saturday, July 18.  On Saturday night, the Knights and Daughters of Vartan held a Grand Banquet dedicated to honoring the memory and sacrifice of our ancestors who perished in the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923. Young vocalists Sareen Nairi Balian, Caroline Coleman, and Maya McGuire sang the American National anthem, followed by the Armenian National anthem performed by Balian. Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan of St. Mary Armenian Church in Washington, D.C. gave the invocation and benediction.


Serving as Grand Banquet Master of Ceremonies Taniel Koushakjian delivered introductory remarks and acknowledged honorable guests in attendance Hrachia Tashchian, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to the United States, Karen Israelyan, First Secretary of the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to the United States, and Mrs. Rita Balian, recipient of the 2007 Knights of Vartan Person of the Year award, the first woman ever to receive the award. Following dinner, guests were entertained by the sounds of classical Armenian music performed by acclaimed musicians, violinist Christine Kharazian and pianist Frank Conlon.

Grand Lieutenant Commander Hunan Arshakian, who chairs the Knights scholarship committee, publicly announced the 2015 Knights of Vartan Awards and National Scholarship recipients. Six students from across the U.S. were selected to receive the $1,000 award at this year’s convocation, namely: Toros Bardakjian, Schoolcraft College; Daniel Donabedian, Harvard University; Melissa Donofrio, Montclair State University; Deana Dulgerian, Georgetown University Law Center; Troy Farsakian, Marquette University; and Logan Serabian, Providence College.

Delivering keynote remarks at the Grand Banquet were National Grand Commander Steven Kradjian and outgoing Grand Matron Lisa Kradjian. “Our continuing mission to defend and safeguard our Armenian people, our Armenian Church and our Armenian culture takes many forms and demands boldness. In the words of Ghandi, we as determined spirits fired by unquenchable faith in our mission, can alter the course of history. We are now writing the history of the second century of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan,” stated Steven Kradjian. “It is a history that demands boldness. Choose how you will make your mark in that written history of the boldness of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan. I pledge to you to use every effort to lead us in that boldness this year, and I hope that you will all join me.”

Standing side-by-side, Steven and Lisa Kradjian presented the 2015 Knights of Vartan Man of the Year and Daughters of Vartan Woman of the Year awards, offered jointly to the 1.5 million saints who perished in the Armenian Genocide. This year’s award takes the form of a large (3’ x 4’) oil painting on canvas – Ascension of Saints of the Armenian Genocide – commissioned from artist Samvel Marutyan by the Knights of Vartan Grand Council – that will be delivered later in the Fall as a gift to His Holiness Karekin II at Holy Etchmiadzin in recognition of the victory of the Saints of the Armenian Genocide. Steven and Lisa Kradjian were joined by the Knights and Daughters Grand Council officers in displaying an authentic signed replica of the painting to the audience, which will be housed at St. Mary Armenian Church in Washington, D.C.

Following the award ceremony, outgoing Daughters of Vartan Grand Matron Lisa Kradjian introduced incoming Grand Matron Sona Manuelian. In her farewell remarks, Kradjian stated, “We in the Knights and Daughters accomplish more when we collaborate together for the greater good. Because the best relationships and causes and “memberships” never end. Because the things that matter most – our God, our mission and values, and our relationships – are eternal. Our Armenian ancestors taught us all of this, to live first and foremost for that which has eternal value, and we continue to live out the same truths today. The value and impact of our organization will always be luminously clear when we live with that purpose in mind.”


“When the Knights and Daughters work together as one, there is continued success. This was evident at this year’s Convocation hosted by Ani Lodge and Dikranouhi Chapter,” stated Grand Matron Sona Manuelian during her acceptance speech. “It does not take just one individual to accomplish great goals. It requires each individual member to contribute towards the achievement of any goal,” Manuelian said.

The local Washington, D.C. Ani Lodge and Dikranouhi Chapter spent over two years planning the convocation. The 2015 National Grand Convocation Committee members include: Jake Bournazian, Chair; Paul Murad, Co-Chair; Seda Gelenian, Co-Chair; Ara Avedisian; Margarite Avedisian; Louisa Bagdasarian; Malvina Brown; Natalie Grigorian; Arut Koseian; Taniel Koushakjian; Peter Melkonian; Lucy Murad; Greg Murad; Nairi Pakoyan; Marjie Satian; and Sarkis Satian.

Additional photographs are available on the Knights of Vartan – Ani Lodge Facebook page and the Knights and Daughters of Vartan Facebook page.

For more information on the Knights of Vartan, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and on the Daughters of Vartan, please visit


PR#: 2015-05

Photo Caption 1 (L-R): Grand Convocation Chairman Jake Bournazian, Past Commander Leo Manuelian, Grand Matron Sona Manuelian, Emcee Taniel Koushakjian, Deputy Grand Commander Hunan Arshakian, Past Grand Matron Lisa Kradjian, Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan, and Grand Commander Steven Kradjian. (Photograph courtesy of Neshan H. Naltchayan Photography)

Photo Caption 2: Grand Commander Steven Kradjian delivering remarks at the Grand Banquet. (Photograph courtesy of Neshan H. Naltchayan Photography)

Photo Caption 3: Grand Matron Sona Manuelian delivering remarks at the Grand Banquet. (Photograph courtesy of Neshan H. Naltchayan Photography)

The Assembly Agenda: This week in Washington, D.C. – December 18, 2014


By Taniel Koushakjian (@Taniel_Shant)

AAANews Blog

December 18, 2014

Welcome to the last Assembly Agenda of 2014! Below is a full recap of what went down on Capitol Hill when the 113th Congress came to a close this week. While I explain the “Cromnibus,” new ambassadors head to Armenia and Azerbaijan, retiring Congressman Moran looks to line his pockets with Azeri petro-dollars, and Jeb Bush leans in, here’s the Assembly Agenda: your go-to source for Armenian American issues in Washington, DC.

HOUSE: Last Friday, the House of Representatives adjourned for the year after passing a $1.1 trillion budget bill known as the “CRomnibus,” for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Part continuing resolution, or “CR,” and part “omnibus,” the legislation establishes new funding levels for the entire federal government through September 30, 2015, except for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS will be funded at FY14 levels through March 30, 2015, which will allow the incoming Republican Congress a chance to debate and potentially make changes to the department that are critical to enforcing President Obama’s post-election executive order on immigration, which was what caused the delays in the lame-duck budget process in the first place. In 2014 the House passed 11 out of 12 appropriations bills, nearly completing the process, whereas the Senate passed none. These 11 funding bills are the “omnibus” portion of the massive spending bill, while the “CR” part refers to the continuation of FY14 funding for DHS, hence the term “CRomnibus.”

While specific funding levels were not delineated for Armenia, Karabakh, and Azerbaijan in the cromnibus, the bill provides approximately $49 billion for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) for FY15 overall, and $1.9 billion less than the President’s request. US aid to Armenia in the cromnibus will follow President Obama’s request for a total of $24.7 million in FY15. The President’s request maintains military aid parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Also, the cromnibus includes language adopted by the Senate on Nagorno Karabakh and maintained Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. For a break down of the numbers, see here:

– WHAT ABOUT PRO-ARMENIAN LEGISLATION? In the 113th Congress, two pro-Armenian measures were introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives: H.R. 4347, the Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act, and H. Res. 227, the Armenian Genocide Truth & Justice Resolution.

Under Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), H.R. 4347 passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) on June 26, 2014 However, the Churches Bill was not scheduled for a vote on the House floor before adjourning for the year. 

The Armenian Genocide Truth & Justice Resolution, H. Res. 227, was not brought up in committee. Given the divergence of this bill from previous Armenian Genocide bills, and the problems Chairman Royce and HFAC Ranking Member Elliot Engel (D-NY) encountered when passing the Churches Bill, H. Res. 227 languished, garnering fewer cosponsors than resolutions adopted by HFAC in past Congresses.

SENATE: Like the House, the Senate finally passed the cromnibus bill and sent it to President Obama late Saturday night. Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had hoped to finish his chambers work shortly after the House wrapped up, however, a last-ditch effort by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in opposition to the spending measure forced the Senate to continue working through the weekend. Cruz’s actions did two things: First, it opened up floor time for Reid to begin moving Obama’s pending appointments earlier than originally planned; Second, it caused Senators to scrap their weekend plans and return to the Capitol to vote on the cromnibus. Senator Kelly Ayote (R-NH) was already at the airport when she got the call to come back, missing her daughter’s ballet performance, while incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) had to cancel his planned trip to Iraq, Turkey, and Pakistan. Eventually, Cruz’s point of order would be defeated and the Senate ultimately passed the cromnibus spending package and sent it to the President for his signature.

– I’M LEAVING ON A JET PLANE: Following the budget vote in the Senate, Reid set up confirmation votes on a slew of President Obama’s nominees on Monday and Tuesday. Several vacancies were filled, including ambassador posts in Yerevan and Baku. As expected, the Senate easily confirmed Richard M. Mills, Jr. and Robert F. Cekuta, as the next US ambassador to Armenia and Azerbaijan, respectively. For some background on Mills see here and for more on Cekuta see here

PENDING LEGISLATION: On April 10th, the SFRC passed S. Res. 410, the Armenian Genocide resolution Introduced by Chairman Menendez, it had 10 cosponsors, but didn’t make it to the Senate floor. Outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), a long time advocate of Armenian American issues, was a cosponsor of S. Res. 410. However, he did not bring the resolution up for a vote. The Senate operates under different rules than the House, making it much more difficult to pass an Armenian Genocide resolution. A single Senator can place a hold on the measure, effectively blocking its passage.

This year’s committee passage was historic as an Armenian Genocide resolution had not passed a Senate committee in almost 25 years. That bill, in 1990, was brought to the floor under the leadership of then-Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-KS), but failed two cloture votes after being filibustered by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV).

TURKISH, AZERBAIJANI, GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET: Also this week, the foreign ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia met in the Turkish city of Kars. The tri-lateral meeting is the fourth such meeting since the three began regular negotiations in this format in 2012 The meeting is timely, given Russia’s decision the week prior to scrap the planed South Stream pipeline for an alternate pipeline that would deliver Russian natural gas to Europe via Turkey

MORAN TO LOBBY FOR AZERBAIJAN: Not even out of office, retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) has informed the House Ethics Committee that he is pursuing new employment for his post-Congress life. According to a report from the Sunlight Foundation, Moran has entered into negotiations to work for the Assembly of Friends of Azerbaijan (AFAZ). “This is true that retiring Congressman Jim Moran and Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan entered the negotiations for employment,” Kemal Oksuz, president of AFAZ said. “He will provide consulting and advising services to AFAZ in its activities in the United States.”

WHAT WILL THE NEXT CONGRESS LOOK LIKE?: The last outstanding races of the 2014 midterm elections have finally been called. In Louisiana, incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) lost reelection to Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-LA). Cassidy was a member of the Azerbaijan Caucus during his time in the House, giving them another friend in the Senate. Two open seat Congressional races in the Bayou State also went to Republicans.

In Arizona, Republican Martha McSally defeated Democratic incumbent Ron Barber in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional district. The seat was formerly held by Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who voted YES on the Armenian Genocide resolution in the HFAC in 2007. Barber, a former staffer of Giffords’, succeeded her after she resigned following the attack on her life in 2011. Unknown to most Armenian Americans, Turkish PACs had been targeting this seat since the 2008 election cycle, funneling thousands of dollars to Giffords’ opponent.

With the final races called, the House will now have a Republican majority of 247-188 Democrat, the largest House majority for Republicans since the Hoover Administration.

The Senate will also now hold a Republican Majority of 54 seats, while Democrats will hold 46 (2 Independents caucus with Democrats). It is unclear if the incoming Senate Republicans will overturn the “nuclear option,” a rule change made by Reid in the 113th Congress to expedite presidential nominees by lowering the confirmation threshold of 60 votes to a simple majority of 51. 

Also, Rep. Ed Royce will continue to chair HFAC, while Senator Corker takes the gavel of the SFRC from Senator Menendez.


BUSH 45?: No, I’m not talking about beer. I’m talking about the possibility of a third President Bush. On Tuesday, former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush (1999-2007) announced that he is “actively exploring the possibility of running” for President of the United States in 2016. Essentially what this means is that he has formed a political action committee (PAC) to begin fundraising. While this sounds like big news, it really only brings him up to speed with other potential Republican candidates like Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) who already have their own leadership PACs.

For Armenian Americans, it’s important to note that in 2006 Governor Jeb Bush issued a proclamation recognizing the Armenian Genocide

– Days until the Iowa caucuses: 396; Days until the 2016 election: 691


LOS ANGELES, CA: The Armenian Assembly’s California office is hosting a Summer Intern Alumni Happy Hour tonight at The Griffin in Los Angeles from 6:00 – 9:00 PM. For more info check out the event page on Facebook here

BOCA RATON, FL: The Armenian Assembly South Florida Regional Council will host a 2015 Kick Off Reception at the Waterstone Resort in Boca Raton on Saturday, January 3, 2015 from 8:00 – 10:00 PM. You can download the invitation here

LOS ANGELES, CA: On Saturday, January 17, the Assembly’s Southern California Regional Council will host its annual New Year Gathering at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Krikor and Marlene Yerevanian in Tarzana from 6:00 – 9:00 PM. Click here to download the flyer

ARMENIAN CONGRESSIONAL TRIVIA: Congratulations to Hagop Koushakjian and Peter Melkonian who both correctly answered that Edward Djerejian is another prominent Armenian American currently working at a university in Texas. Hagop gets bonus points for answering that Djerejian is the founder and director of the James Baker Institute of Public Policy at Rice University in Houston. As I hinted, Djerejian served as US Ambassador to Syria under President Ronald Reagan, and as US Ambassador to Israel under President Bill Clinton. For more on Djerejian and his role at Rice, see here:

Thanks for reading Peter, and glad to know my dad is keeping up with my columns, too!

Peter has this week’s question: Name an Armenian American politician from Long Island, New York. Hint: this person served as supervisor of one of the island’s cities. Bonus points if you can name the city and extra points for naming the company this person founded.

Send tips, suggestions, comments, complaints and corrections to If you don’t already, please follow me on Twitter @Taniel_Shant, and follow the Armenian Assembly of America @ARAMAC_DC and @ARAMAC_CA.

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