ANCA Mourns Passing of Ronald Reagan

Armenian National Committee of America
888 17th St., NW, Suite 904
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: (202) 775-1918
Fax: (202) 775-5648
E-mail: [email protected]


June 4, 2004
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Tel: (202) 775-1918


— President Reagan was the Last U.S. President
to Properly Commemorate the Armenian Genocide

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)
mourns the passing of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and extends
its deepest condolences to the Reagan family as the nation prepares
to lay the respected statesman to rest this Friday.

“We join with all Americans in mourning the loss of President Reagan
and in sending our condolences to his wife and family,” said ANCA
Chairman Ken Hachikian. “We will remember President Reagan as the
last U.S. President to properly commemorate the Armenian Genocide, the
U.S. leader who initiated humanitarian aid to the survivors of the 1988
earthquake in Armenia, and a leader who believed deeply, throughout
the dark years of the Cold War, in the independence of Armenia.”

Ronald Reagan began his years in politics a close friend and supporter
of Armenian American interests. As California Governor from 1966
through 1974, Reagan reached out to the Armenian American community
and joined in their annual commemorations of the Armenian Genocide.
Most notably, in 1969, Reagan joined His Holiness Khoren I, Catholicos
of the Great House of Cilicia, a host of state and local dignitaries
and over 10,000 Armenian Americans at the Armenian Genocide Memorial
in Montebello, where he gave a rousing 15-minute speech honoring the
victims of that crime against humanity. “I am proud and appreciate
this opportunity to participate in this event,” said Gov. Reagan.
“Today, I humbly bow in memory of the Armenian martyrs, who died in
the name of freedom at the hands of Turkish perpetrators of Genocide.”

Following his election to the presidency in 1980, Reagan distinguished
himself as the last U.S. President to properly acknowledge the Armenian
Genocide as “genocide.” In Proclamation 4838, issued on April 22,
1981 to proclaim April 26-May 3 as “Days of Remembrance of Victims of
Holocaust,” Reagan stated, “Like the genocide of the Armenians before
it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it and like too
many other such persecutions of too many other peoples­the lessons
of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.” Later in his first term,
the Reagan Administration, at the urging of Secretary of State George
Schultz and Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, retreated from this
stand and opposed successive Armenian Genocide Resolutions in 1985
and 1987.

Armenian Americans will also remember President Reagan as a primary
force in encouraging the U.S. Senate to ratify and implement the United
Nations Genocide Convention. Adopted by the United Nations in 1948,
the Convention languished on the Senate docket for some 40 years,
despite the heroic efforts of Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire
(D) and later Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell (D) to obtain
passage of the measure. In 1986, President Reagan urged the Senate
leadership to take up the bill and, after a number of modifications,
the Convention was signed into law by Reagan in 1988.

Congress is currently considering legislation (H.Res.193 and
S.Res.164) marking the 15th anniversary of the implementation of
the Genocide Convention. Introduced in the Senate in June, 2003
by Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Jon Corzine (D-NJ), S.Res. 164
currently has 39 cosponsors. Its companion House measure, H.Res.193,
led by Representatives George Radanovich (R-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA),
and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and
Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), was adopted unanimously by the House Judiciary
Committee in May, 2003, and has 111 cosponsors. The resolution cites
the importance of remembering past crimes against humanity, including
the Armenian Genocide, Holocaust, Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, in
an effort to stop future atrocities. Support for the measure has been
widespread, with a diverse coalition of over 100 ethnic, religious,
civil and human rights organizations calling for its passage, including
American Values, National Organization of Women, Sons of Italy, NAACP,
Union of Orthodox Rabbis, and the National Council of La Raza.

In the last days of his second term, President Reagan led a U.S.
effort to help the victims of the devastating December 7th,
1988 earthquake in Armenia. Reversing a 40-year standing policy
that lasted throughout the Cold War, President Reagan airlifted
several planeloads of humanitarian assistance to Soviet Armenia
within weeks of the tragedy. In his December 25th radio address to
the American people, Reagan stated that, in the time of tragedy,
“the real differences that divide us and will continue to divide us
fall away.” He went on to note the tremendous outpouring of U.S.
assistance in light of the Armenian earthquake. “From the United
States the response has been staggering,” he said. “Relief workers,
tens of millions of dollars in private contributions, food, clothing,
a cascade of good will and fellow feeling.”

President Reagan will be given a state funeral on Friday, June 11th.