No farmed armenians

The issue is the paucity of Armenians who have been elected to federal office who are products of our ‘farm team”, to borrow a term from baseball. The term refers to a lesser team (associated with a well-known team) where players get exposure and an opportunity to test and prove their mettle. Our farm team consists of those who have gone through the various Armenian-organized programs available in Washington, DC.

It is easily possible to expand this to high appointed offices, but let’s stick to the legislature, the House of Representatives and Senate. There have been ZERO Armenians elected to the Senate, and only six to the House, four of them only half-Armenian (two of whom were half Assyrian, interestingly enough). They are, chronologically Steven Derounian (NY-R, 1953-1963), Adam Benjamin (IN-R, 1977-1982), Chip Pashayan (CA-R, 1979-1991), Anna Eshoo (CA-D, 1993-present), John Sweeney (NY-R, 1999-2007), and Jackie Speier (CA-D, 2008-present).


This may seem like a lot, but it is not, considering we have had significant Armenian settlement in the U.S. for something like a century and a half. But it’s not even a matter of simple numbers, but the routes to office these people took. It has been over four decades since the first Armenian internship program in Washington, DC. was established. More programs have appeared since then. Yet, not one of those who have gone through these programs has been elected to the House or Senate. I’m not even aware of any of them running.

This is not to say that the programs our community has put in place to help our youth become involved in D.C. are bad. Quite the contrary, they are excellent. But somehow, we have not generated electeds. Even the numbers of Armenian congressional staffers are miniscule. I went through a directory of House staffers with more than 9200 listings. I found roughly 0.3% Armenian names, plus an additional, again roughly, 0.25% that MIGHT be Armenian names. So I can’t make the argument that our DC participants are still making their way through the pipeline, earning their stripes and getting exposure and training, especially since I don’t know what percent of these staffers are products of our programs.

This is also not to say that we haven’t had success at lower levels of government – state legislatures and city councils, especially in California and Massachusetts. We have also done fairly well in Rhode Island. At one point, we had four Armenians in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, if I remember correctly. But that legislative body, of a relatively small-population state, has 400 members! So four members is not such a big deal. There have also been other Armenians elected to office from Arizona to Florida. Efforts are also in place to build political teams, often referred to as machines, which “reproduce” younger office holders. But again, these very positive activities have not been products of community’s political-electoral infrastructure, rather the efforts of individuals acting alone or as groups.

This is not even to say that individual Armenians haven’t made occasional, and often quite valiant efforts to get elected to congress, e.g. David Krikorian battles again Jean Schmidt in Ohio. Then there are those who have run on minor-party tickets, which have almost no chance of success. In addition, many quixotic, and often embarrassing, runs for office are in evidence.

Is it a cultural/parental/social problem we confront? Are we still brainwashing our community’s youth to believe that only “professionals” (doctors/engineers/lawyers/pharmacists and more recently technology, meaning the internet/software universe, etc.) and “businessmen/entrepreneurs” (shopkeepers, artisans/tradespeople, merchants, and wheeler-dealers) can make a decent living? That these are only the worthwhile fields to enter? That service (to nation, country, community, church, etc.) is for suckers and fools?

How many shining examples of honest, forthright public servants can you name from whatever other background, be it Anglo, Mexican Hispanic, Italian, Indian, Arabic, without singling any ethnicity nor casting aspersions on any ethnicity, and certainly without making generalizing or tarring an entire culture or ethnicity with the same brush, as you seem to be doing. You, however, are ever so anxious to cast the woost possible aspersions on Armenians, whom you have singled out for your racist and hateful tirade.

You would not dare to make such hateful, racist and excluding generations against any powerful ethnicity, be it Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics, Moslems, Native Americans, Italians, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indo-Pakistanese, etc., because you know that dreadful consequences and recriminations would soon make your life unbearable. You know that those aforementioned ethnicities are extremely well-organized to mete out extremely painful consequences, so you choose to go after what you perceive to be a harmless ethnicity that is not in a position to make your life unbearable and make you regret every hate-filled, racist and unfounded accusations you spew out like vomit.

I think Alex missed the point. BIG TIME. Since the genocide, Armenian-Americans have contributed greatly, considering their small numbers, to almost every American industry. Armenians, by and large, are a resourceful and/or educated bunch, with lots of energy to succeed in business, law, medicine, engineering, and science. It was a perfectly sage observation by Garen’s friend that only six Armenians have ever been elected to the U.S. Congress. That seems like a low number, especially compared to one or two other small ethnic groups that have a history of success in other fields. Most noteworthy, as Garen pointed out, is the fact that Armenian-Americans are very active in donating to candidates and educating officeholders. But, getting elected to serve in D.C. just doesn’t seem to be happening, even with the thousands of our best and brightest, who have interned in our nation’s capital, as college students. And, finally, this myth that the only thing that public-policy-minded Armenian-Americans care about is the genocid…is rubbish. YES, it is important. Very important. If you don’t think it is, you have no sense of history, humanity, or justice. But, in my Armenian-American life, there is sooooo much more going on than attempting the important work of getting justice for our forefathers. I suggest Alex pick-up an Armenian newspaper or go to the hundreds of websites of Armenian-American organizations that do so many fun and philanthropic things. So sad that the internet is, once again, the comfortable refuge for the uninformed critics among us.