WARWICK, R.I.—Armenian Americans from throughout the eastern United States gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick to support the grassroots efforts of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Eastern Region at the fourth annual banquet hosted by the ANCA-ER Endowment Fund. The Dec. 4 gathering gave community leaders and activists an opportunity to reminisce about past successes and collectively commit to addressing the challenges facing the Armenian nation in the upcoming year.
“The banquet is a celebration of the accomplishments of the ANCA Eastern Region and a time to honor those that go above and beyond the call for truth, justice, and the principles of freedom so cherished by the Armenian American community,” explained Stephen Mesrobian, ANCA-ER and banquet chairman. Joining Mesrobian in organizing a successful event were Stephanie Killian, George Mangalo, Raffi Karakashian, Noubar Megerian, Fotini Dionisopoulos, and Alice Movsesian.
Among those recognized during the event were the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) whose 2010 ANCA Freedom Award was accepted on his behalf by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.); and community leader Tatul Sonentz-Papazian, who received the 2010 ANCA Vahan Cardashian Award. ANCA chairman Ken Hachikian introduced Sen. Whitehouse while ANCA-ER Board member Dikran Kaglian introduced Sonentz-Papazian. The mayor of Warwick, Scott Avedisian, served as master of ceremonies and was introduced by the Honorable Judge Haiganush Bedrosian. Also present was Rhode Island Congressman-elect David Cecilline, who succeeds retiring U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
“I accept this award with pride and humility,” Sonentz-Papazian said, not only with my name but all those with whom I served all these years—most of them are gone now—who worked as hard as I did. Perhaps I was lucky enough to be there when I was needed. The only gift I had was that my talents were used for a purpose that is above everything else—the welfare of one’s nation and its fight for human dignity, for freedom. And I’m proud to be part of this story in my small way.”
Sonentz-Papazian has had a prolific career in service to the Armenian Cause. He is director of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and First Republic of Armenia Archives, based in Watertown, Mass. He is the former editor of the “Armenian Review” and has been a contributor to the Armenian Weekly for more than 50 years. He currently directs the publications department of the Armenian Relief Society. Additionally, he is the author and translator of several books on Armenian poetry and literature.
Sen. Whitehouse, in accepting the Freedom Award on behalf of his late colleague, remarked, “It is important that we do this as a matter of justice to history, but it is more than just a matter of justice to history, the recognition of the history of Armenia is a platform truth, however harsh that truth may be… I am honored to be here with you tonight, honored to accept this award on behalf of my friend and former colleague Senator Edward Kenney.”
For over 46 years, Sen. Kennedy was an ardent advocate of Armenian American concerns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and nationally. From ensuring that the United States honestly addresses the issue of the Armenian Genocide to speaking out on the right of self-determination for the people of Nagorno-Karabagh, Kennedy championed truth, justice, and the principles of freedom so cherished by the Armenian American community.
ANCA-ER chair Stephen Mesrobian closed the event with his remarks. “This work can only be accomplished with our communities continued goodwill and active support. Please look deep within yourself and ask if you have done all you can to support our mission? Without your help, we will not be able to defend Armenian rights, support Armenia, counter Turkish and Azeri propaganda and programs, and pursue the cause of justice for the Armenian people.”
The annual banquet is organized to fund the educational efforts of the ANCA-ER and encourage expanded Armenian American civic participation. This year’s banquet drew over 250 supporters from throughout the Eastern Region. The ANCA-ER’s fifth annual banquet will be hosted in Boston in October 2011.