ANCA-ER Announces 14th Annual ANCA-ER Freedom Award Recipients

Representatives Eliot Engel and Christopher Smith to be honored on Thursday, October 15

WATERTOWN, Mass. – The Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region (ANCA-ER) is set to honor US Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ) with the ANCA-ER Freedom Award at its virtual gala – Havak for Hai Tahd – on Thursday, October 15 at 8 pm EDT. The gala’s program will take place on Facebook Live; the online giving platform can be found at www.givergy.us/ancaer.

The ANCA Eastern Region Freedom Award is the highest honor the region bestows upon individuals who exhibit extraordinary courage and devotion to freedom and justice. It is presented annually at the regional gala to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions toward issues that concern Armenian-Americans.

Rep. Eliot Engel

Representative Engel, who serves New York’s 16th congressional district and as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Representative Smith, who serves New Jersey’s 4th congressional district, will be among an elite group of past recipients including Dr. Taner Akçam; Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA); former US Ambassador to Armenia John M. Evans; former US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power; US Senator Robert Menendez; US Senators Robert Dole and Elizabeth Dole; Baroness Caroline Cox; and renowned lawyer Robert Morgenthau and the Morgenthau family.

“Both Representatives Eliot Engel and Chris Smith are deserving of the Freedom Award as they have exhibited courage and leadership for the Armenian Cause during their decades-long time in office. They have not only advocated for the Armenian people in their own congressional districts, but for Armenian Americans nationwide. 

Whether it’s their efforts to recognize the Armenian Genocide or concern for the safety and security of Armenia and Artsakh, they have shown their steadfast support. And unfortunately, now at a time when Armenians in Armenia and Artsakh need the voices of the world’s leaders most, we are honored to have these two representatives supporting the Diaspora’s initiatives to help their brothers and sisters in the homeland,” said Lara Nercessian, ANCA Eastern Region Board Member. 

U.S. Representative Eliot Engel serves as the Chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee. A longtime member of the Congressional Armenian Caucus and steadfast supporter of the Armenian American community, Representative Engel was born in Bronx, NY in 1947 and graduated from Hunter-Lehman College with a bachelor’s degree in history. He later received his master’s degree in guidance counseling from Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York in 1973 and his law degree from New York Law School shortly thereafter.

Chairman Engel has been a strong leader and true ally of the Armenian American community both in his district and in the region. His consistent support of the Armenian Cause is notable in his determination to make aid to Artsakh a priority. Whether it’s his support of genocide education in schools or the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the US House, he has illustrated his support and worked with members of the Armenian Diaspora for the decades he has served in the US House of Representatives. 

Whether in the halls of Congress or during his trip to Armenia, he’s shown concern for the safety and security of the Armenian Nation through his support of funding for de-mining in Artsakh or bilateral tax treaties between Armenia and U.S. He co-authored the Royce-Engel Peace Proposal for a just resolution for the Republic of Artsakh – a proposal that included a cessation of cease-fire violations by Azerbaijani forces. 

Last year, Chairman Engel provided crucial testimony at the H.Res.296 proceedings for the Armenian Genocide Resolution. “I’m sure the government of Turkey is not happy with [these plans], but then again we’re not happy with the government of Turkey,” Chairman Engel told NPR reporters in 2019. 

In 2019 alone, he backed the Speier Amendment to the Foreign Aid Bill calling for $40 million in aid to Armenia, the Sherman Amendment to the NDAA against Azerbaijani threats to shoot down civilian aircraft and signed the Sherman-Cox letter to continue US aid for Artsakh de-mining. 

Chairman Engel will step down from his role as a Representative in January 2021, but will live on to be one of the ANCA’s most staunch supporters. 

Rep. Chris Smith

US Representative Chris Smith was elected to office in 1980 and is currently serving his twentieth term in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 4th congressional district of New Jersey. Representative Smith is a senior member on the Foreign Affairs Committee and is Ranking Member of its Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee. In addition, he also serves as the Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission 

Representative Smith was born in Rahway, NJ in 1953. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Trenton State College, now known as The College of New Jersey and spent a semester abroad at Worcester College in England.

Representative Smith’s achievements for the Armenian Cause are greatly appreciated – they include cosponsoring the Genocide Prevention Resolution, H.Res.220, and the Trott Amendment attaching H.Res.220 to the NDAA. Additionally, he cosponsored and voted for the Resolution condemning the Erdogan-ordered attacks against peaceful protestors on U.S. soil on May 16, 2017, H.Res.354, as well as the Azerbaijan Human Rights Resolution, H.Res.537. 

As a member of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian issues, he has called on the Administration to recognize the Armenian Genocide, participated in Capitol Hill Commemorations for the Armenian Genocide and been a powerful voice for the Armenian American community. 

The region will also honor Sarkis Agasarkisian, Bearj Barsoumian and Stephen Hagopian with the prestigious ANCA-ER Vahan Cardashian Award, along with Michigan State Representative Mari Manoogian with the inaugural ANCA-ER One to Watch Award. The Eastern Region’s summer interns Nairi Diratsouian and Garine Koushagjian and the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship Program interns Aram Harumi, Tatevik Khachatryan and Nicholas Krikorian will also be recognized.

For more information about this year’s gala contact ervirtual@anca.org

To donate to the virtual gala or bid on online auction items, visit www.givergy.us/ANCAER

Lori Baronian

Lori Baronian

Lori Baronian is a sophomore at Mount Holyoke College. Her goal is to graduate with a double major in Biology and French. Lori is involved in many student organizations on campus including the Circle-K International Club (CKI), the College Democrats Club, the Planned Parenthood Generation Action Club (PPGA), the Biology Club, the French Club and the Vet Club. Lori is also an active member in the Armenian community; she's part of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), Hamazkayin Nayiri Dance Ensemble and HMEM Scouts. She enjoys drawing, reading, writing, dancing and caring for animals.

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