LOS ANGELES—In the wake of a week dominating national headlines for her work combating sexual harassment on Capitol Hill, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) joined friends, supporters, and leaders of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) for a policy-oriented discussion in downtown Los Angeles on the future of U.S. engagement with Armenia and Artsakh.
Congresswoman Speier, a San Francisco Bay Area legislator who serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, has worked closely with local, regional, and national ANCA leaders for decades, dating back to her tenure on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and her years in both the California State Assembly and the State Senate. The Congresswoman, whose late mother, Nancy Kanchelian Speier, was tremendously proud of her Armenian heritage, represents California’s 14th Congressional District, which includes portions of the City and County of San Francisco, among other municipalities, and is home to the Bay Area ANCA Chapter.
“Jackie Speier speaks truth to power,” remarked ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian after the event. “Whether she’s fighting for justice for the Armenian Genocide, freedom for Artsakh, or stronger U.S.-Armenia relations, she is a fearless and relentless truth-teller. Principled, practical, and effective, she gets the job done, and done right. We are honored to have her at the forefront of the Armenian Caucus—advancing the policy priorities that we all share as Americans of Armenian heritage.”
The gathering with Congresswoman Speier focused on a number of ANCA’s federal-level goals, including the organization’s drive to secure a $140 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs in Armenia’s public schools. As has been noted publicly by the ANCA, the Republic of Georgia secured a similar grant in 2013, and those funds were used, in part, to build 90 public schools in Georgia. The discussion with Congresswoman Speier also covered the ANCA’s goal of securing a new U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty, with the aim of improving bilateral economic relations between the nations. A third topic of discussion was the need for continued direct U.S. aid to Artsakh, including assistance for continued demining efforts by The HALO Trust and the need to fund rehabilitation programs in Artsakh, such as those being conducted in Stepanakert by the Baroness Cox Rehabilitation Center. A fourth topic was the prospect of establishing nonstop U.S.-Armenia flights, a key ANCA priority.
Earlier this year, Congresswoman Speier supported an amendment on the House floor, successfully spearheaded by Congressman David Valadao (R-Calif.), which ensured funding to allow the HALO Trust to meet its goal of a mine-free Artsakh by 2020. Congresswoman Speier has also been a vocal supporter of the ANCA’s goal to secure a MCC STEM education grant for Armenia’s public schools, noting that to be eligible for this merit-based grant Armenia needs to materially improve its scores in areas of corruption, democracy, and governance.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier is a survivor. As a young Congressional staffer, she accompanied Congressman Leo Ryan in 1978 to investigate the People’s Temple in Jonestown, Guyana. The Congressman was assassinated during this visit and Speier was shot five times and left for dead. Less than one year after that incident, Speier would run for Congress. While her first race for Congress was unsuccessful, she was later elected to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and then went on to serve in both the California State Assembly and the California State Senate. In 2008, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she currently serves on both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.