By Alik Hovsepian
Two Fresno State ASO members spent their summer productively in our nationís capitol by participating in an internship at the office of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). Crissi Jelladian and Alik Hovsepian spent six weeks in Washington D.C. learning about present issues faced by Congress relating to Armenian-Americans.
A total of five interns participated in the ANCA program. Some of the projects consisted of doing research at the Library of Congress on other Caucuses and then comparing them with the Armenian Caucus. Another project was to locate Armenians across the United States on a database and then send information regarding present situations in Armenia and Armenian issues in the U.S. government. We interviewed the Armenian staff members of Congress and the Senate in order to get to know them better. After the interview there was to be an article on them in the Armenian newspapers to introduce them to the Armenian community and hopefully spark an interest in government and politics within the Armenian community.
Aside from their own projects the interns had other duties as well. One was to do research on Geidar Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan. Aliyev was invited as a guest to the White House at the end of July to meet with President Clinton and discuss oil matters. Through their research they found that Aliyev was a former KGB member, and a human rights violator. The Azerbaijanis also have a blockade on Nagorno-Karabagh, which is all the more reason for the US not to do business with them. The interns actively participated in putting together media packets, calling members of Congress urging them to sign a letter to President Clinton opposing the meeting with Aliyev. We also protested in front of the Willard Hotel, where Aliyev was staying, and at Georgetown University, where he was speaking. Both of the protests had a lot of coverage by the media, including The Washington Post.
Another project we all worked on was calling, faxing and writing letters to members of Congress urging them to co-sponsor the Genocide Resolution, which was written by Congressman George Radanovich, (R-CA). The resolution would recognize the Genocide of the Armenian people by the Ottoman empire.
Twice a week the interns had a lecture usually given by a guest speaker. Among the lecture topics were the purpose and functions of the Armenian Relief Society (A.R.S.), given by the Executive Director of the A.R.S, Karine Alemian and a lecture on US AID to Armenia given by the US Rep to Armenia, Gerry Donnelly. The structure of the US Congress lecture was given by Raffi Hamparian, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Armenian History was reviewed by ARF Bureau member Garo Armenian, and Armenian History given by Professor Zodoian from Queens College.
Besides hard work and experience, the interns were also provided tours by the ANCA every Friday. Among the arranged tours were the Holocaust Museum, Arlington Cemetery, Library of Congress, U.S. Capitol, a tour of the White House, etc. The interns were free on weekends for sightseeing on their own, or just relaxing..
I, personally, had one of the best experiences of my life. I learned a lot during the six weeks that I was in the Capitol due to the hands on experience. Before the internship, I did not care a lot about government, and now I find it fascinating. By calling so many members of Congress on Armenian issues and getting a positive reaction from some, I have hope that one day our people in Armenia will live a comfortable life, and not have to face so many of the hardships they do today. The people we worked with in the office are very committed to their jobs, which had a positive influence on the interns. I think itís safe to say that all of the interns made life long friends that we will never forget. I truly enjoyed my time with the ANCA. Itís easy to see why the ANCA is the largest and strongest Armenian political organization in the U.S. If ever given the opportunity to do it again, I most definitely would.