KNIGHTS AND DAUGHTERS OF VARTAN NATIONAL GRAND CONVOCATION IN WASHINGTON FOCUSES ON SERVICE LEADERSHIP AFTER ARMENIAN GENOCIDE CENTENNIAL

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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.

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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.”

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“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 www.kofv.org.

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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 DC: June 2-5, 2015

 

By Taniel Koushakjian (@Taniel_Shant)

AAANews Blog

June 2, 2015

Congress
returns this week with a full slate, US aid to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh is
under consideration, and Turkish parliamentary elections are slated for June 7.
Welcome to the Assembly Agenda, your
guide to Armenian American issues in Washington, DC.

A lot has
happened this year with the Armenian Genocide centennial commemorations taking
place around the world. With everything going on, it’s easy to forget about
important legislation and key events taking place in Washington that shape the
outcome of our advocacy. So, in the words of Eminem, it’s back to reality, and
on to the Agenda…

CONGRESS: The Senate returned for a rare Sunday session as the Patriot Act
was set to expire. At issue are the controversial NSA provisions on warrantless
wiretapping and bulk collection of American citizens’ phone records. Republican
Presidential hopeful Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) filibustered the Act’s renewal
last week. He objected to the NSA provisions and continued to block advancement
on Sunday, causing the Act to expire while putting himself at loggerheads with
key members of his caucus. The Senate will be busy this week working on an
alternative homeland security measure, the USA Freedom Act, a watered down
version of the Patriot Act which has already passed the House.

The House
returned last night for votes and is set to tackle a number of bills, namely
twelve related to funding the government.

$$$ FOR ARMENIA, NAGORNO KARABAKH:

It’s summer
time in the nation’s capital and that means the appropriations process will
seriously begin with Congress in session 8 out of the 9 weeks ahead, and with a
budget in place, Republicans will try to complete as much of the process under
“regular order” as possible, read: 2016.

The Senate
has not yet scheduled a markup for the FY 2016 State, Foreign Operations, and
Related Programs (SFOPS) appropriations bill, which covers US assistance to
Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh (NK). However, the House has scheduled its SFOPS appropriations bill for markup on Wednesday,
June 3, 2015 at 10:30 AM
http://1.usa.gov/1FrUEjh.

Earlier this
year, Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny testified before
the House SFOPS Appropriations subcommittee, outlining nine key policy
priorities of the Armenian American community with an overall request of not less
than $40 million for Armenia and $5 million for NK http://bit.ly/1LZSsI9.  

President
Obama’s FY2016 budget request calls for $22.36 million for Armenia with no
allocation for NK, a reduction of $2.34 million from FY 2015. The House
Appropriations Committee is headed by Chairwoman Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), a
co-chair of the Congressional Turkish Caucus http://bit.ly/1Jnpkae, and Ranking Member Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY),
an active member of the Congressional Armenian Caucus http://bit.ly/armeniancaucus. The Assembly will continue to work with
House and Senate appropriators throughout the process to ensure the best
possible outcome for Armenia and NK.

ARMENIAN GENOCIDE TRUTH & JUSTICE
RESOLUTIONS:
The House
version of the Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution, H. Res. 154, now
has 62 cosponsors http://1.usa.gov/1FrXy7J, while the Senate version, S. Res. 140, boasts
20 cosponsors http://1.usa.gov/1BHOppY. These
bills are not to be confused with the traditional Armenian Genocide Resolution,
which passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2000, 2005, 2007, 2010, and
which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2014.

Efforts in
the House to advance the Armenian Truth and Justice Resolution have been
checked by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) http://bit.ly/1J8HNHt. However, the Senate version has the support
of over 1/5 of the chamber and unlike his House counterpart, Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has not publicly opposed Armenian Genocide
recognition efforts. Notable cosponsors to the Senate Armenian Truth and Justice
Resolution include Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). Both
Republicans have announced their candidacy for President of the United States.
While neither Rubio nor Cruz cosponsored the Armenian Genocide resolution in
the last Congress, Senator Rubio, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee (SFRC), did vote YES during the committee passage. Senator Cruz is
not a member of the SFRC so he didn’t have a chance to vote on it. However,
Senator Rand Paul does serve on the SFRC and was absent for the 2014 vote http://bit.ly/1gQP8cR.

ERDOGAN THE LIBERATOR?: Turks will head to the polls on June 7 in
parliamentary elections largely seen as a referendum on Turkish President Recep
Tayip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party. Erdogan’s
goal is to gain a two-thirds parliamentary majority, which would enable him to
strengthen the role of the Presidency by weakening the role of the Prime
Minister, thus completing Turkey’s transformation into an authoritative
executive/presidential government. In typical fashion, Erdogan and Prime
Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hit the campaign trail and made some pretty
astonishing statements. For instance, at a campaign rally over the weekend,
Erdogan called for Muslims to invade Israel and sack Jerusalem. “Conquest is
Mecca, conquest is Saladin, it’s to hoist the Islamic flag over Jerusalem again,”
Erdogan reportedly stated http://bit.ly/1eNzxBC. A few days earlier, at another campaign
stop to mark the opening of an airport in a Kurdish province, Davutoglu
reportedly stated “By Allah’s will, Jerusalem belongs to the Kurds, the Turks,
the Arabs, and to all Muslims. And as our forefathers fought side by side at
Gallipoli, and just as our forefathers went together to liberate Jerusalem with
Saladin, we will march together on the same path [to liberate Jerusalem]” http://bit.ly/1FrYKrI. Last year, Erdogan displayed his true anti-Armenian
colors when he addressed those who questioned his ethnicity: “I was called
a Georgian. I apologize for this, but they even said [something] worse: They
called me an Armenian” http://wapo.st/1tYU6jf.  

This
provocative and racist rhetoric is matched only by Erdogan’s crack down on
civil society and the press. Turkey ranks #1 in the world for the most
imprisoned journalists. Weeks before last year’s election, Erdogan’s judges
blocked the country’s internet access to Twitter and YouTube, as an audio
recording was released implicated Erdogan’s inner circle in plotting events
that would justify sending Turkish troops into Syria to attack Christians and
Kurds. See Kessab and Kobani. This year, Erdogan’s judges have again blocked
access to YouTube, this time after a video was posted showing trucks belong to
the Turkish intelligence agency, MIT, delivering thousands of weapons and
munitions to ISIS in Syria http://nyti.ms/1dcy3j4.    

UPCOMING EVENTS IN DC:

–         
Coptic
Solidarity will hold its 6th annual conference, this year entitled
“100 Years Later: Middle East Christians Face Another Genocide” on June 11-13,
2015. Yours truly will be a panelist on Friday, June 12, at 4:30 PM http://bit.ly/1ESOiI8;

–         
The Knights
and Daughters of Vartan will hold their 2015 Grand Convocation, July 15-18,
2015 in Washington, DC http://bit.ly/1GW60R3.  

ARMENIAN AMERICAN POLTICAL TRIVIA: Name the highest ranking US government
official of Armenian ancestry. Bonus points if you can name the administration
in which this person served.