Thousands of Armenian Americans were beaming with pride Tuesday night during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) when a certain familiar face from Michigan appeared on-screen. The chyron read in big, bold letters—MICHIGAN STATE REP. MARI MANOOGIAN.
“I’m so grateful that our community was able to have that representation last night,” said Rep. Manoogian (D-Birmingham) during an interview with the Weekly the following morning. “Armenian Americans have been at the forefront of public service in this country since we came here, so to have that opportunity and to be recognized in this way was just so humbling for me to be the person that was the face of it,” she continued.
The 27-year-old was hand-picked by the presidential campaign for Democratic candidate Joe Biden to help deliver the keynote address on night two of the DNC along with 16 other elected officials and rising stars in the Democratic Party. “We can never let hard times turn us against each other,” she said during the historic virtual event as part of a pre-produced, 13-minute segment taped from her makeshift studio inside her home office with resources and technology shipped from the Biden campaign.
Rep. Manoogian, who is serving her first term representing Michigan’s 40th district (Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township and a portion of West Bloomfield Township), highlighted small businesses and the auto industry in the broadcast. But it was her reference to Biden’s now-infamous colorful use of language from his 2010 aside with President Barack Obama upon the passage of the Affordable Care Act that arguably became one of the more memorable moments of the evening. Rep. Manoogian inched her head toward the camera and uttered convincingly, “That’s a big effing deal”—a scripted punchline that was emphasized in unison by a grid of four other elected officials. Manoogian, who is now the face of a viral GIF on social media, says all kidding aside, “The issue of making sure that every American has access to the care that they need was definitely important to be front and center.”
— Roman (@Papa_Roman) August 19, 2020
A longtime supporter of Mr. Biden, Rep. Manoogian reflected on their first meeting several years ago when she tweeted about his book tour coming to Ann Arbor, Mich. Biden ‘liked’ Manoogian’s tweet and within moments, she was contacted by one of his staffers, who invited both Manoogian and her father—a labor union leader—to meet the Vice President. “That was the happiest I’ve ever seen my father…other than the night I won my election,” recalled Manoogian.
Speaking of Twitter, moments before Tuesday’s broadcast, Rep. Manoogian shared a heartwarming video of an Armenian girl named Karina who congratulated her role model before bedtime. “I was just floored,” exclaimed Manoogian tearfully. “I have very few words to describe it. As an Armenian American, there’s very few of us that have this opportunity. When you run for office, you hope that you can be a role model and that your message is getting out.” Manoogian also stirred the hearts of her Armenian audiences on Tuesday night when she was seen wearing a stunning gold «Է» necklace, the seventh letter of the Armenian alphabet and a symbol of Christianity for Armenians. It traditionally adorns the apex of Armenian church altars. “I want people to know without me having to say it that I am very proud of my heritage,” said Manoogian, who is often asked about the meaning behind her jewelry and uses it as a teaching opportunity.
I am legitimately tearing up. I cannot tell you how much it means to me that little Armenian girls see a bit of themselves in me. THIS is why representation matters. Getseh, Karina! 🥰✨ #DemConvention https://t.co/fzZXYDpEQp
— Mari Manoogian (@MariManoogian) August 19, 2020
The great-grandchild of Armenian Genocide survivors says she’s proud to represent Diasporan Armenians and amplify her voice as a member of a political party that is trying to promote a message of inclusion and diversity. In addition to campaigning for Biden’s election, Rep. Manoogian is running for re-election herself. She says her plan for her second term in office would include restructuring public education in Michigan and developing regional public transit options.