ANC-SF: Speier says Bay Area will be "Epicenter" of Political Action


Armenian National Committee
San Francisco – Bay Area
51 Commonwealth Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118
Tel: (415) 387-3433
Fax: (415) 751-0617

[email protected]


San Francisco, Saturday, March 8, 2008 – At the Bay Area Armenian
National Committee’s annual "Hye Tad Evening" in San Francisco,
Armenian-American congressional candidate Jackie Speier talked about the
power of her Armenian roots, her record passing laws on issues important
to the Armenian-American community, and her commitment to pursue those
issues in Congress.

"When I get elected to Congress, the epicenter of Armenian-American
representation in Congress will be right here," said Speier, pointing
out that the Bay Area Congresswoman Anna Eshoo is also of Armenian descent.

Speier and Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National
Committee of America, were the Special Guests at the sold-out event,
during which Bay Area ANC Chairperson Roxanne Makasdjian outlined the
chapter’s activities over the past year, calling on the community to
continue and increase their participation in political action. The
evening also included videos of ANCA Western Region news and clips of
the October 10th House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, during which
the Armenian Genocide resolution was heatedly debated and passed.

"I attribute my ability to withstand adversity and survive in the
political arena to my Armenian blood," Speier said. Referring to the
1978 Jonestown, Guyana mass murder during which Congressman Leo Ryan was
killed and Speier, his young staffer, was shot five times, Speier said,
"As I lay on the tarmac shot several times and left to die… I think my
ability to survive can be attributed to my Armenian heritage. As you
know, Armenians are known for their ability to withstand atrocities
greater than anyone can imagine. It’s also possible that my stubborn
Armenian genes played a part as well."

Speier also spoke about her early education about the Armenian Genocide.
"Growing up I remember my Mother sharing stories about her relatives
who were killed during the Armenian Genocide," she said. "And I have
read over and over and over again Ambassador Henry Morgenthau’s telegram
to the Secretary of State, dated July 16, 1915: ‘Deportation of and
excesses against peaceful Armenians is increasing and from harrowing
reports of eye witnesses it appears that a campaign of race
extermination is in progress under a pretext of reprisal against

"We are told by some to forget the Armenian Genocide. We have a
Secretary of state that says, ‘Get over it.’ But we will not forget and
we will not get over it. We demand justice, because we know as students
of history that our world is more dangerous to everyone if it is allowed
to dismiss the Armenian Genocide. We demand justice because we cannot
allow the murder of a nation with impunity. If the US is to be the
leader of the free world, we need to lead on this issue, not follow the
Turkish government’s immoral attempts to bury the truth." said Speier.

Speier criticized the U.S. government for removing the U.S. ambassador
to Armenia. "Shame on America for first muzzling and then punishing
Ambassador Evans for his speech and his acknowledgement of the Armenian
Genocide, and then offering a denier of the Armenian Genocide as his
replacement," said Speier. She also criticized the government for doing
nothing to stop Azerbaijan’s continuing eradication of Armenian
historical landmarks in Azerbaijan, and it’s military threats against

She reminded the audience that she has been working alongside the ANC
for many years, and as a California state legislator, she authored 16
bills related to Armenian issues. In 1989, she advocated for the law
mandating the Department of Education to include instruction on the
Armenian Genocide in public schools. Every year thereafter, she
co-sponsored the resolution commemorating the Armenian Genocide,
including the 2005 bill that made the commemoration permanent law. In
her final term, Speier introduced a measure that allows Armenian
Genocide victims or their beneficiaries to file claims against banks
doing business in California, that refuse to pay for deposited or looted
assets of Armenian Genocide victims.

As a member of Congress, Speier said she would also work to provide
development and humanitarian aid to Armenia and Karabagh, and help them
become more democratic and prosperous. Referring to the recent Armenian
government police actions against demonstrators in Yerevan, Speier said,
"A democratic government must represent the will of its people, never to
oppress or violate their rights."

Speier said she would rally support for Section. 907 of the Freedom
Support Act, limiting aid to Azerbaijan, until it lifts its blockade of
Armenia and Karabagh. Section 907 is currently not in effect due to a
waiver by President Bush. "Turkey cannot strangle Armenia into
submission by circumventing Armenia’s territory in every regional
infrastructure project. Turkey must include Armenia in these projects,
because this is the only way to lasting peace."

Aram Hamparian gave a rousing speech on the current national work of the
ANCA, beginning with praise for the Bay Area ANC. "There is no better
chapter in America than the one here in San Francisco," he said, adding
that the ANCA is continuing to grow, establishing more chapters across
the country. "The ANC is wherever the Armenian Cause and the Armenian
communities are."

Hamparian told about the ANCA’s involvement in the presidential
elections, working to elicit policy positions from the candidates.
"We’ve all learned through painful experience that political promises
are not always honored. But it would be a mistake not to secure as much
commitment as possible from the candidates when we have the most
leverage, and we have the most leverage during the election season."

He also spoke about ANCA efforts to bring Armenian-American youth into
the political process, by expanding outreach to students, internships,
launching Internet blogs, and particularly emphasizing ANCA’s Capitol
Gateway program, designed to financially and professionally support
young professionals in pursuing careers in public service, advocacy, and
media in Washington.

"I see it time and time again," said Hamparian. "The greatest payoff
for our community is an investment in our youth. Give them a hand, and
they will carry us on their backs tomorrow. They will rise in the State
Department. They will rise in the Department of Defense. They will
rise in the White House and Congress. They will be the future Jackie
Speiers, the future Anna Eshoos. They will be the proud children of our
nation that will take our hopes and our dreams with them to very high
places. Our Capitol Gateway program is essential for our future."

Hamparian also said that that the best way for our cause to move forward
is for Armenians to take positions of power. "We want to be at the
table, all the tables that deal with our future," he said. Instead of
asking what public officials can do for us, it would be much more
effective to sit down with public officials and ask, ‘How can we
together toward our common goals?’, Hamparian suggested. "We are today
under-represented in Washington. There’s a limit to what you can do
standing outside of a building holding signs and shouting slogans. And
there are limits to what you can do, doing the lobbying game. You
transcend that wall by getting yourself into the system," said Hamparian.

On behalf of the Bay Area ANC, Roxanne Makasdjian presented Speier and
Hamparian each with a framed large photograph from the 1918 Fourth of
July parade in San Francisco, showing Armenian-Americans marching with
banners asking for support for America’s "little ally."


Pick 1 of 2: Armenian-American congressional candidate Jackie Speier
Pick 2 of 2: Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National
Committee of America