LOS ANGELES — On the evening of Thursday, November 6, 2014, the AGBU Asbeds Committee hosted a special reception at Getty House, the official residence of Mayor Eric Garcetti and First Lady Amy Wakeland, celebrating 100 years of Armenian-Americans in Los Angeles. The event, held under the auspices of the AGBU Western District Committee, was one of a series of endeavors planned by the Asbeds Committee to commemorate the upcoming centennial of the Armenian Genocide.
The evening began with a dinner reception featuring Armenian delicacies prepared by the Patina Group. Guests socialized and toured the beautiful grounds of the historic home, and later had the opportunity to personally meet and take a souvenir photograph with the Mayor.
The official program took place in the picturesque garden.
Master of Ceremonies Mr. Kurken Berksanlar welcomed the gathering of nearly one hundred guests, among them H.E. Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Los Angeles City Council member Paul Krekorian, city staffers, AGBU Western District Committee members, and AGBU Asbeds Committee members and supporters. He conveyed heartfelt thanks to the Mayor and First Lady for opening their home for the celebration and also thanked the organizing partners, the Getty Foundation and George Ignatius Foundation, for sponsoring the catering expenses. Mr. Berksanlar chronicled the remarkable journey of Armenian-Americans over the past one hundred years, from the killing fields of Eastern Anatolia and the searing Syrian desert, to a fruitful life in Los Angeles; from the first Genocide of the 20th century, to the Getty House, the home of our dynamic and visionary Mayor, as equal citizens of this great nation. We are here to celebrate life, human endurance, and being constructive members of society, of being fellow Angelenos, stated the MC, and concluded by thanking the United States and the City of Los Angeles for welcoming Armenians with open arms.
First Lady of Los Angeles Amy Wakeland thanked the guests for their presence, stating that when her husband was elected Mayor, they had resolved to turn the Getty House into the People’s House, a place where people of different backgrounds and walks of life can gather. She noted the various community events that are held regularly at their home, including special children’s programs for the holidays, and thanked the AGBU Asbeds Committee for their support in ensuring the continuation of their holiday community services.
AGBU Asbeds Chair Dr. Harout Yaghsezian thanked the First Lady and Master of Ceremonies for their remarks. He stated that AGBU is the world’s largest Armenian non-profit organization preserving the Armenian identity and heritage since 1906. The organization is especially active in Los Angeles, he said, home to the largest Armenian-American community and a place where our community has attained success and prominence in diverse arenas, from the sciences to the arts. We are proud of the City of Los Angeles and we are proud of the Armenian-American community which has achieved great success and positively impacted the City, said Dr. Yaghsezian. He expressed gratitude for all the opportunities the City of Los Angeles has to offer and thanked the Mayor for being a true friend of the Armenian people; for always having acknowledged the Armenian Genocide, and for transforming Los Angeles into a world-class city. With all of you here tonight, we will continue to be the vibrant and metropolitan city we are proud to call home, he concluded.
Dr. Yaghsezian subsequently invited AGBU Western District Committee Chair Mr. Krikor Karageuzian to join him in presenting the Mayor with a beautiful and symbolic memento by Armenian-American artist Michael Aram called “Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat.”
Mr. Karageuzian thanked the Mayor and First lady for inviting the community into their home, and announced that he had a special gift to present. He stated that while in Armenia just a few days prior, he had visited the Armenian Genocide museum at Dzidzernagapert and brought back a newly published book sponsored by the AGBU Asbeds titled “The Armenian Genocide on the Front Pages of the Press.” He presented the first copy of the book to Mayor Garcetti, who was deeply moved by the gesture.
Referring to himself as an Honorary Armenian, the Mayor conveyed how much it meant to him and his wife to have the AGBU family at their home. “AGBU welcomed me early on with such warmth, so it feels like welcoming family to our home,” he said. He expressed appreciation for the Noah’s Ark memento, which he found so fitting to the evening’s theme as Mt. Ararat symbolizes survival and thriving. “Together we have accomplished a lot for this community, whether establishing the Los Angeles-Yerevan Sister City program or revamping Little Armenia,” he said, and thanked the Armenian-American community for being a strength in the city, stating, “we couldn’t be the city we are without this community.” Mayor Garcetti affirmed that he and the City of Los Angeles will keep their ties with Armenia and the Diaspora strong, and concluded by inviting the guests to come back to the People’s House. In conclusion, the Mayor presented Dr. Yaghsezian and Committee members with a congratulatory certificate from the city, noting proudly that for many years now, the certificates are made by Armenian-American hands.
While the evening continued with a dessert reception and a meet and greet, the Asbeds leadership began to shift their main focus to their third planned Genocide centennial event, a public exhibition which will take place at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles from April 8th through 10th, 2015 in cooperation with the Armenian Genocide Museum, called “The Armenian Genocide, Front Page Newspaper Coverage in the Foreign Media.”