By Charles G. Yessaian
As many of you know, Edgar Hagopian positively impacted the political process in the state of Michigan for a very long time. Edgar, along with many other Armenian Americans, worked with elected officials at both the state and federal levels to ensure that Armenian American issues and perspectives are seriously considered when legislation is to be considered. Due to the tireless work of Edgar and others, the state of Michigan amongst many others has passed the Armenian Genocide Resolution, the Armenian Caucus in the House of Representatives remains one of the largest ethnic caucuses on Capitol Hill, and Armenian foreign aid to Armenia, even though shrinking over the past few years, has remained a top priority for the House Appropriations Committee. It is a testament to people like Edgar Hagopian that these issues and our people are not forgotten when legislation is considered.
Edgar was a mentor to me in many ways. He helped me enter the political process by introducing me to former Senator Spence Abraham (R) and encouraging him to hire me to work his reelection campaign in 2000. I have seen Edgar’s tactical reach into the Republican Party and encouragement for members of the party to support recognizing the Armenian Genocide, a position that traditionally receives more support from Democrats. Due to this advocacy, we can be proud that former Congressman Joe Knollenberg (R) co-chaired the Armenian Caucus for more than a decade and that Congressman Thaddeus McCotter currently gives the community a strong advocate within the Republican leadership in the House.
As this great generation of Armenian Americans grows older, it is increasingly important that new leaders and thinkers start to take the mantle of Armenia and Armenian American issues. In many cases this is taking place; however, more needs to be done to cultivate these leaders. In Michigan, John Jamian, Ned Apigian, Dr. Gary Assarian, and my father Chuck Yessaian are a few amongst many who have taken this charge and are moving forward to support these issues. This initiative of cultivating future leaders is of paramount importance and needs to be nurtured further and into younger generations of Armenian Americans.
I want to thank Edgar Hagopian for his years of service and thank his family for sharing him with our community. Today, we mourn the loss of a great man and leader of our community. But we also look forward, as our future is bright, due to Edgar’s leadership in encouraging others to carry the mantle of advocating on behalf of our people.