The Assembly Board with Secretary Paul Ignatius and his family
Washington, D.C. - The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) honored former U.S. Secretary of the Navy Paul Ignatius at the Willard Hotel on Tuesday evening, September 26, 2023. The tribute was headlined by several dignitaries, including Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), with guests including Congressmen David Valadao (R-CA) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, former State Representative Mari Manoogian (D-MI), and former Parliamentarian Garo Paylan, among others. Speaker Emerita Pelosi toasted Secretary Ignatius for his "patriotism" and how he has served as an "example of the American Dream." Turning to the current event, Pelosi also expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Assembly on Capitol Hill amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Artsakh. For the occasion of its 50th anniversary, the Assembly had the distinction of honoring Speaker Emerita Pelosi in November 2022 at The Willard, where she was awarded the Assembly's Ambassador Henry Morgenthau Award for her strong support of and leadership on U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. Echoing Speaker Emerita Pelosi, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) assured the audience that "we will do everything we can to move the needle with this Administration" in relation to Armenia and Artsakh, while noting Secretary Ignatius's contributions "in his service to this country" as the "son of the Armenian community."
Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Assembly Board Member and grassroots activist Valina Agbabian served as Master of Ceremonies and Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Vicar of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, delivered the opening prayer followed by remarks by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), who recently returned from Armenia. He noted that he was motivated to travel there due to the "vibrant Armenian community in Detroit" who feel "so strongly about what is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh and the suffering the Armenian people are going through." Senator Peters, who served more than 10 years in the United States Navy Reserve, stated that he was "going to encourage more of the colleagues in the Senate" to support the Armenian people and for "repercussions" to take place against Azerbaijan's Aliyev regime. As a co-sponsor of legislation that requests humanitarian assistance for the Armenian people, Senator Peters called on the Administration to "impose sanctions" on Azerbaijan and repeal the waiver for Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act. "I'm doing everything I possibly can to make sure the Armenian people are able to have their human rights protected and live with dignity," said Senator Peters. "We need to send a strong signal to Azerbaijan that what they did is simply unacceptable."
U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI)
Introducing Paul Ignatius, Assembly Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian highlighted his career as Secretary of the Navy from 1967-1969 and his years of service during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, followed by his appointment as President of The Washington Post and then as President of the Air Transportation Association. The son of Armenian parents who emigrated to the United States from the Kharpert region and settled in Glendale, California, Ignatius earned his B.A. degree from the University of Southern California, and his MBA degree from Harvard Business School. He began his military career in the Navy during World War II, and following his graduation from Harvard Business School, began to work with the Department of Defense. In a video salute, Ken Khachigian, speechwriter for President Reagan and former Assembly Board Member, said that Secretary Ignatius emphasized his public service and how he has been a "real role model for all of us who followed in your footsteps." "We should give you accolades for everything you've done from California to Washington," he said. "You deserve this great honor for all of your trailblazing and setting the standard for all of us in California." Speaking on behalf of the Ignatius Family, Sarah Ignatius thanked the Assembly for honoring her father and reflected on her family's heritage, while sharing her experiences traveling to the historic Armenian city of Kharpert, where her grandfather was born and raised. "Even though it was completely destroyed, I saw the same view that grandpa must have seen everyday," she said. "As I felt the breeze from the mountains in the distance, I felt like I had arrived in the center of the world." She emphasized the importance of a shared Armenian heritage that is "so powerful" and that the "sense of resilience goes back thousands of years," a feeling she holds onto now during the tragedy in Artsakh, expressing that "strength and resilience will prevail." The Assembly Board presented Secretary Ignatius with the George Deukmejian Award in recognition of exceptional public service, alongside his family members, including Adi Ignatius, Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Business Review, David Ignatius, Associate Editor of The Washington Post, and Sarah Ignatius, Former Executive Director of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research. In his remarks, Secretary Ignatius shared his thoughts on the dire situation in Artsakh and stated his pride in being Armenian, "an ancient people have survived through trying times and triumphant times." He reflected on his Armenian heritage and culture while looking ahead at the advancements in Armenia and "hoping and praying that peace will come to that troubled part of the world." Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian's closing words captured the family ties that exist among all Armenians including the pride in the accomplishments of Secretary Ignatius, as well as the pain of watching genocide repeat in Artsakh, thanking all those in attendance again.
The Assembly extends its gratitude to its Tribute sponsors and donors, including:
Bryan and Valina Agbabian
Armenian Bar Association
Armenian Missionary Association of America
David and Margaret Mgrublian
David and Myrna Onanian
Arlene Saryan and Christian Alexander and Family
Judy Saryan and Victor Zarougian
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization. ###