Colorado Governor Jared Polis has signed a law that mandates the teaching of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust, among other cases of genocide, as a requirement for High School graduation in the Centennial State.
“Armenian Genocide education has been a long-standing goal of the ANCA-WR and was included in the language of the recent congressional resolutions recognizing the Genocide. After years of hard work and persistence, we are thrilled that Armenian Genocide education has become a reality in yet another state,” remarked Nora Hovsepian, Esq., chair of the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region (ANCA-WR).
“We are grateful to Governor Polis, the legislative sponsors, and our community partners who championed this important bill and brought it to the finish line despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. This is yet another accomplishment for the Armenian Cause by our grassroots and Colorado’s vibrant Armenian community in a state that boasts America’s only Capitol Khachkar memorial that was recently referenced by the White House and a highway honoring the Battle of Sardarapat. We will continue this movement State by State and at all levels of government until public schools throughout the country are taught the valuable lessons of the Armenian Genocide and the pride as Americans of the Near East Relief rescue effort,” concluded Hovsepian.
At a socially-distant signing ceremony hosted outside the Jewish Community Center and across from the Assumption of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Wednesday, July 8, Gov. Polis was joined by the primary cosponsors of House Bill 20-1336, as well as representatives of the organizations that championed the law and community leaders.
In remarks broadcast live on his official Facebook page, Gov. Polis announced that “This bill… will make sure that every Colorado child including my son Caspian who is here will learn about Holocaust and Genocide, including the Armenian Genocide….” He then acknowledged Colorado’s oldest Holocaust survivor and education advocate Fanny Starr before stating, “I also want to thank the Armenian National Committee Western Region and Armenians of Colorado, and I want to thank you, Simon Maghakyan, for you work on this issue, and I want to thank the sponsors Rep. [Dafna] Michaelson Jenet, Rep. [Emily] Sirota, Sen. [Stephen] Fenberg, and Sen. [Dennis] Hisey… This bill will make sure that we will honor the words ‘never again’ in our time and in our children’s time.”
Following the Governor’s opening statement, remarks were made by the legislative sponsors and community leaders, including Coalition Against Global Genocide’s Roz Duman and Armenians of Colorado’s Sona Hedeshian.
“Today is a dream come true,” remarked ANCA’s Colorado representative Simon Maghakyan following the bill signing ceremony. “It was exactly a year ago tomorrow when we held the very first capitol meeting on what became Colorado House Bill 20-1336. I am very proud of my state for requiring genocide education in public schools, because teaching about the worst choices that humans are capable of making is a critical lesson for our children. Today’s victory is a testament to decades of activism and a celebration of the strong bond between Colorado’s Armenian and Jewish communities. As Governor Jared Polis said today upon signing the law, Hitler and Turkey have failed,” continued Maghakyan, whose full statement acknowledging all stakeholders of the bill can be read here.
Introduced in early March, HB20-1336 was initially among majority of bills that were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, even though it received unanimous support in the March 12 House Committee on Education, where Armenian community members Anahid Katchian, Kim Christianian, and Simon Maghakyan joined many others in testifying in support of the bill. However, in part because ANC-WR, Armenians of Colorado, Jewish Colorado, and the Anti-Defamation League, among others, committed to privately funding the administrative implementation of the law by making donations to the Department of Education, the bill was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on June 5 and the Senate on June 10.
The law requires Colorado’s state board of education to adopt standards related to Holocaust and genocide studies by July 2021, after which each school district board of education and charter school must incorporate those standards into an existing course that is already a condition of high school graduation for school years beginning in July 2023. The standards will be supported with a resource bank of materials pertaining to Holocaust and genocide courses and programs created and maintained by the Colorado Department of Education.
Besides Colorado, one dozen other states across the USA require genocide education, with specific mandates to teach the Armenian Genocide in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Rhode Island. Other states, like Texas, have established commissions that encourage genocide education.