Apigian-Kessel: Armenians and Greeks Band to Support Rep. Gary Peters

Congressman Gary Peters (D) of Michigan’s 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives was the guest of honor at a highly successful fundraiser dinner on Sept. 28 at Ginopolis’s Restaurant in Farmington Hills, Mich. The event was jointly sponsored by the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Michigan and members of the area’s substantial Greek American community. It was an opportunity to get to know Peters, who will be making another run for Congress next year.

Peters, 50, a life-long Oakland County resident, has accrued an admirable record of accomplishment since earning his B.A. in political science from Michigan’s Alma College (Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa), his MBA from the University of Detroit, and a law degree from Wayne State University.

The married father of three children has been a political science professor and a highly successful financial adviser, has served in the Michigan Senate, appointed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm as Michigan Lottery commissioner, and adding to his illustrious list of accomplishments is the fact that he served in the United States Navy from 1993 to 2000, and 2001-05 as lieutenant commander.

That evening, Peters’ introduction was by his mentor Paul Jingozian, a noted area financial investment adviser, presently serving as branch manager of Morgan Stanley in Birmingham. Jingozian brought the audience up to date on how he first met Peters: “In 1980, I had a mandate to go out and hire the brightest students for Merrill Lynch, and academically Gary was at the top of the list. I hired him immediately. He started out in the Rochester office working from the basement. He was studying law at the same time and beginning to gain an interest in politics.” According to Jongozian, clients loved the hard working, customer-oriented Peters who had a passion for helping people, and he soon rose to the position of manager.

Jongozian’s mentoring included introducing Peters to the Armenian community by way of the annual golf outing sponsored by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU).

According to Jingozian, Peters told him, “I’m not about making a lot of money,” and soon parlayed his interest in politics into a successful run for the Michigan Senate and eventually the U.S. Congress.

Peters grabbed the headlines in a hard-fought race in 2008 when he defeated long-time Republican Congressman Joe Knollenberg for the 9th District Congressional seat in wealthy Oakland County northwest of Detroit, which began shifting from a predominately Republican stronghold to a Democratic one.

ANC chairman Ned Apigian also took part in the evening’s introductions by presenting Peters with best-selling author Peter Balakian’s book The Burning Tigris, “making the Armenian case known to the world.”

Apigian was good naturedly chided by Greek community leader and attorney Ted Andris, who rose to add levity to the evening, much to the amusement of the guests, by declaring the strong presence of Greeks as well as Armenians, although they “did not come bearing gifts.”

Author Bob Koolakian also presented Peters with his book, Struggle for Justice.

An item of great importance was the announcement that Peters had joined the Armenian and Greek Caucus. Attorney Basil Simon rose to commend Peters for his support of Greek interests concerning the illegal Turkish occupation of Cyprus. Much work remains in getting the U.S. to acknowledge the grievances of the Greek and Armenian American communities against the present Turkish government.

There is strength in numbers and Assyrians should not be left out of inclusion in these grievances, as they too were part of the genocide committed by the Ottoman Turks.

Peters was introduced to the guests as they arrived and immediately impressed them with his friendliness. Everyone wanted to get to know this new congressman and what his views were on the many pressing problems facing this great land which gave our immigrant generation refuge.

He answered questions intelligently, unfalteringly. He is a convincing speaker. “We have huge challenges ahead of us. Please discuss any issues you want,” he said. “As a member of the Financial Services Committee, we are working on Wall Street regulations. It was unfathomable about what happened in the auto industry, job losses, and our economy in Michigan. We have to get the economy going here.”

Peters is a member of the Science and Technology Committee. “We have incredible engineering brain power here. We have more engineers in southeast Michigan than any other part of the country. I introduced a bill for Advance Vehicle Technology Plan with over 315 votes supporting the bill. We are in a race with the Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese right now,” he said.

The congressman answered questions about Social Security, Obama’s healthcare plan with public option, and what is fact, what is reality. He commented that we have under-invested in science and engineering especially with regard to young women, and that was a major concern he wanted to work to reverse.

Twelve thousand dollars was raised to fund Peters’ run for re-election next year, an indication that he has garnered strong support from his constituents. There was an overall feeling that a mutually beneficial working relationship between Peters and the Greek and Armenian communities has been established. We wish him well.

One burning question remains. What if Peters runs for president in the future? He seems to have the qualities we want in a leader. Will he then honor the memory of our Armenian ancestors, who helped make America the great nation it is, by unequivocally stating that a genocide was committed against the Armenian nation? Then he will truly be deserved to be called a man of his word.

Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty (Serpouhie) Apigian Kessel was born in Pontiac, Mich. Together with her husband, Robert Kessel, she was the proprietor of Woodward Market in Pontiac and has two sons, Bradley and Brant Kessel. She belonged to the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild for 12 years, serving as secretary for many of those years. During the aftermath of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the Detroit community selected her to be the English-language secretary and she happily dedicated her efforts to help the earthquake victims. She has a column in the Armenian Weekly entitled “Michigan High Beat.”


  1. It’s about time the communities got organized enough to work together.  This should happen on a national level.  Too many interests seem to compete to get in the way.  Let’s make this grow.

  2. I concur. We need to band together with the Greeks, Cypriots and Assyrians more often so that we have more NUMBERS. Without numbers we will all be pushed around on the political scene. Where are the politically astute Assyrians? Krikorians campaign is an excellent example of one of our own making a real difference and setting a different tone for the better. Rep. Peters is another example of an accomplished leader who has risen the ranks to also make a difference. If we support just these two alone (of course the more the merrier), the tangible difference will not only be felt in DC sooner than you think but will also set a precedent to reckon with in the future. Our relationship with the Greek, Cypriot & Assyrian community’s should be based on more than just having a common thorn in the region.
    Just like the Turks and Azeri’s band together in co-operation to ‘manage’ Armenia, so too can and should Armenians, Assyrians,Greeks & Cypriots band together and cooperate to manage a common foe
    Great piece Betty. Keep up the great work!!

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