WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) commemorated its landmark 50th anniversary with a special event honoring the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), with the Assembly’s Ambassador Henry Morgenthau Award for her strong support of and leadership on U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
The event, representing a cross-section of Armenian American organizations, and filled with an impressive number of young and mid-career professionals, took place on Thursday, November 17, 2022, at The Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., and included a salute to the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, led by Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), and Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Speaker Pelosi, who received multiple standing ovations throughout her remarks, expressed her gratitude to the Assembly for the “very distinguished honor” of receiving an award created in honor of an outstanding and heroic diplomat who courageously promoted human rights and helped save the Armenian people. Speaker Pelosi noted that it was a “privilege” to receive an award named after Ambassador Morgenthau, “who sounded the alarm on the Armenian Genocide unequivocally and without hesitation.”
She thanked the Assembly Board for its “excellent leadership” and emphasized that the Assembly has been an “invaluable force for half a century in creating bonds between America and Armenia.”
“It’s been a joy to work with you in our treasured Armenian American community, and in my hometown of San Francisco,” she said. “All of you are active advocates, and I thank those of you who I saw firsthand strongly lobbying and advocating.”
She stressed that visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan was a “life-changing experience, where we learned the horrific truths of the 1.5 million Armenians murdered, and where we spoke the names of the communities that were erased. At that eternal flame, we felt the pain and open wounds.”
Reflecting further on her trip, she said it was a “thrill” to lead the delegation, alongside Reps. Anna Eshoo, Frank Pallone, and Jackie Speier.
“We made it very clear the U.S. strongly condemns Azerbaijan’s attacks as illegal, brutal and escalatory, threatening prospects for a long-awaited and deeply needed peace agreement,” said Speaker Pelosi. “In the weeks since, both parties and the Biden Administration have redoubled diplomatic efforts to pave a way towards peace.”
Speaker Pelosi continued that the world must formally recognize the Armenian Genocide, and the passing of H.Res.296 in 2019, authored by Rep. Adam Schiff, was a culmination of a decades-long fights. Thanks to the support and leadership of President Biden, the historic step of formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the U.S., which was rooted in “bipartisan cooperation in Congress,” came to fruition.
“We pledge to fight efforts to erase history that denies the truth,” said Speaker Pelosi. “America is committed to upholding liberty and security in Armenia and around the world…in this difficult moment we draw inspiration from the Armenian people who keep the flame burning now and for centuries to come.”
In his remarks, Rep. Pallone thanked the Assembly and fellow organizations across the diaspora who work on behalf of Armenia and Artsakh.
“We in Congress would not be able to do the things that we do without you, because you are our backbone that support all of our initiatives, and get people to join the Armenian Caucus,” said Rep. Pallone. “While it may be frustrating at times, stick with it because what you do is so important.”
Turning to Speaker Pelosi’s efforts within the Armenian Caucus, Rep. Pallone said she “really knows when to make a difference.”
“Speaker Pelosi knew when the time was right to get the votes for Armenian Genocide recognition, and that’s one of the main reasons why we were able to accomplish getting H.Res.296 passed,” he said.
On the most recent occasion of the latest aggression by Azerbaijan, he said that Speaker Pelosi “understood the dangers Armenia and Artsakh faced, and she was determined that she’d take us to Armenia at that crucial time to make the point that the U.S. was with Armenia and it was going to speak out against the aggression taking place.”
In his introduction of Speaker Pelosi, Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny emphasized her 35-year record as a champion of human rights and democracy, and on Armenian issues. He cited the many times Speaker Pelosi participated in Armenian Genocide commemorations on Capitol Hill.
He also elaborated on her strong support of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, and her efforts to stop the provision from being repealed.
“The Speaker stood with us on the House floor, and when forces tried to repeal that provision of law, we prevailed on the floor 231-182,” said Ardouny. “And this September, when the Speaker, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Armenia, traveled during a critical time and condemned Azerbaijan’s ‘illegal and deadly attacks on Armenia,’ she helped diffuse the escalation by Azerbaijan and helped save lives.”
He concluded: “The Speaker has been with us every step of the way and was on the House floor leading by example, speaking in strong support of the Armenian Genocide resolution” that passed the House by a vote of 405-11.
Assembly President Carolyn Mugar expressed her “gratitude and love” to Speaker Pelosi.
“There’s no substitute for being present, and you showed the world you were present when you demonstrated that the U.S. is an ally of the Armenians,” said Mugar. “From the bottom of our hearts, you will be enshrined in our hearts and in our history books.”
In her welcoming remarks, Assembly Board of Trustees member Annie Simonian Totah stated that 2022 has been a very important year for the Assembly as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. She acknowledged distinguished guests, Ambassadors, Embassy representatives, military attachés, elected public officials, and current and former statesmen, including Ambassador John Evans, a former recipient of the Ambassador Morgenthau Award, the Ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S. Oksana Markarova, and the Ambassador of Armenia to the U.S. Lilit Makunts. Addressing Speaker Pelosi, she said:
“Madam Speaker, you have been and continue to be a remarkable lady and role model, and we are sure your unbelievable career is going to be enshrined in the Halls of the U.S. Congress, and in American government and history textbooks, where students are going to learn all about you.”
Assembly Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian recognized the importance of and saluted the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues. Barsamian thanked Speaker Pelosi for “highlighting the human rights violations that are happening” in the South Caucasus region, and appreciated the support of the United States, the largest democracy, towards the Republic of Armenia, an emerging democracy.
Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian in his closing remarks noted the presence of major Armenian American organizations in attendance.
“This is the same concept that led to the Assembly being formed 50 years ago,” said Krikorian. “Our commitment to bipartisanship has paid off over the years, both in the Armenian and American contexts, and Speaker Pelosi, when we say thank you, we mean it from the depths of our hearts.”
The closing prayer was led by Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), who stated that Speaker Pelosi is “part and parcel of Armenian history,” and that “generations to come” will speak about her.