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August District Meetings a Way to Hold Our Representatives Accountable

Every August, Congressmen are given a month-long recess in order to return to the districts they serve and more directly connect with the people they represent. As Americans, then, this is our opportunity to reconnect with those who serve us. As Armenian Americans, it’s a crucial step in reconnecting with, or in some cases, starting new relationships with our elected officials.

L to R: Aram Hamparian, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8), and Michelle Hagopian.

L to R: Aram Hamparian, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8), and Michelle Hagopian.

The ANCA has thousands of activists across the country. In the Eastern Region alone, we cover 31 states with significant votes and voices in our national elected bodies. To ignore or sit idly and not engage with those we elect is a huge mistake.

Even if you’re left wing, live in Mississippi, and didn’t vote for the Republican representing your district, you should try to meet with him or her. If you’re conservative but live in a liberal state, it’s still important to establish ties with the Democrat representing your views and values.

Why? Because Members of Congress, regardless of political party, all have the potential to become friends to the Armenian cause if they aren’t already. People like Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY-11) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA-28) have proven themselves as steadfast supporters of ours. Others either need more convincing, need more time to sift through our issues, or need more visits from constituents.

That’s where you come in. Our local ANC teams in the Eastern Region are planning on meeting with their representatives in August. If you live in the region and want to get involved, e-mail me at michelle@anca.org. If you already have a personal relationship with a representative or have a contact in his or her office, go ahead and reach out to them on your own. Who says you need to wait on someone else to take initiative?

The ANCA needs all the friends it can get in politics, and the U.S. Congress is a key outlet for us to pass legislation, build relationships, and teach others about our cause. It takes time for these friendships to flourish. People like Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI-1) and Jim McGovern (D-MA-2) didn’t just decide overnight to help their Armenian-American constituents. Those relationships, and so many more, are the result of months, sometimes years, of phone calls, e-mails, meetings, and follow-up.

For now, look up your representative online and call their district office. Get the name of the scheduler and his/her phone number and e-mail address. Prepare your request—say that you’re a constituent in Representative X’s district and you want to meet with him/her—and send it in as soon as possible. Sometimes meeting requests flood in months in advance. Make sure to follow up and set a meeting time in August, and be sure to bring a friend or two with you to show support for the representative.

There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to meet with your representative, but even if you only meet with a staffer, it will be worthwhile. I spend my weeks in Washington on Capitol Hill trying to meet with elected officials face to face, but if a staffer is the only option, I jump on that as well. Any meeting has value, even if it’s just to educate them on our issues.

If you aren’t comfortable setting up a meeting up on your own, please e-mail or call me at (917) 428-1918 and I will walk you through it and provide the resources. If you want to get in touch with your local ANC chair to collaborate on a meeting, I can help with that as well.

Discussing House Resolution 227—the Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution—and the Nagorno-Karabagh peace process should be at the top of your list, but don’t forget to talk about foreign aid to Armenia, U.S.-Armenia ties, Turkey and Azerbaijan’s relations in the region, and the return of Christian churches.

Summer’s a busy time for all of us, but we must not get lazy on the Hai Tahd front. August recess is the perfect opportunity to educate and build ties with our elected leaders. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the ANCA Eastern Region for guidance in this and all endeavors.

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