GLENDALE—The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region’s tribute to Near East Relief efforts in rescuing hundreds of thousands of Genocide refugees, orphans and survivors was in full swing during the month of April.
The “America We Thank You: An Armenian Tribute to Near East Relief” was center-stage at two high-profile Genocide commemoration events, the first at the California State Capitol and the second at Los Angeles City Hall.
More than 350 activists from around California converged on the State Capitol on April 6 for the ANCA-WR Advocacy Day, which included an exhibit of posters and memorabilia prepared by the “America We Thank You” Campaign at the Capitol Rotunda.
On Wednesday, April 23, the Los Angeles City Council, during its annual commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, commended the ANCA-WR’s efforts and honored the “America We Thank You” members for their dedication in highlighting this chapter of American history.
During the City Hall ceremony, the City Council also presented a proclamation to Keith Coogan, the grandson of actress Jackie Coogan, who was active in Near East Relief efforts and used her celebrity to raise awareness and funds for Armenian Genocide victims.
The ANCA-WR launched the campaign in March, timed for the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, to honor Near East Relief, an organization that mobilized Americans and rescued hundreds of thousands of orphans and survivors of the Genocide.
The campaign, called “America We Thank You: An Armenian Tribute to Near East Relief,” is a movement to recognize the outpouring of generosity by the American people in the immediate aftermath of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923) and to highlight the efforts of Near East Relief in rescuing and providing assistance to hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who were victims of the Genocide.
ANCA-WR officials said that the campaign is committed to promoting the role Near East Relief played in providing assistance to those less fortunate and for its groundbreaking ability to bring the American people together under one cause—the aid to refugees of the Armenian Genocide.
Through various events and programs, such as the ones in Sacramento and Los Angeles, “America We Thank You: An Armenian Tribute to Near East Relief,” will mark the centennial of the Near East Relief efforts and express its gratitude to the American people for establishing and continuing the tradition of being the most generous nation. Countless Armenian-Americans are descendants of those rescued by Near East Relief.
As news of the horrors of the Armenian Genocide poured into the this country, President Woodrow Wilson urged Congress in September of 1915 to act swiftly to provide assistance to the victims of Ottoman Turkish massacres of Armenians. This congressionally-mandated operation, which would later be dubbed Near East Relief, galvanized every segment of American society to rise up and provide assistance to the refugees of the Genocide.
Near East Relief established and operated several orphanages in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, including Armenia, to shelter and care for hundreds of thousands of orphans who escaped the horrors of the Genocide. The campaign was entirely funded by the American people.
“As we, a community and a nation, look toward the centennial of the Armenian Genocide in 2015, we would be remiss to discount the crucial role Near East Relief played in salvaging the victims of the horrible tragedy, and by the same token, play a critical role in safeguarding the survival of the Armenian Nation,” said Vanna Kitsinian, Esq. co-chairwoman of “We Thank You America: An Armenian Tribute to Near East Relief” effort.
“Through this campaign we want to say a collective ‘thank you’ to the American people for recognizing the plight of Armenians and mobilizing the entire nation. We thank you America,” added Hermineh Pakhanians, co-chairwoman of the committee.
“As the largest and leading Armenian-American advocacy organization, the ANCA-WR is taking the lead to ensure that the current generation of Americans is well aware of its past humanitarian efforts and the role that the US Congress and the White House played at the time of the Genocide,” emphasized Nora Hovsepian, Esq. chairwoman of the ANCA-WR.
In a paper published in 2010, Keith David Watenpaugh, an associate professor and a historian at University of California at Davis argued in an article published in the American Historical Review that the Armenian Genocide sparked the modern humanitarian movement and the original concept of “citizen philanthropy.”
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.