NECO welcomes Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan
The First Presidental International Medal Recipient
On Thursday, September 22nd, the President of the Republic of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, stepped onto Ellis Island as a guest of the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations to personally view an exhibit commemorating the 1915 Armenian Genocide and the Armenians who immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island. This historic event was the Presidents' first visit to Ellis Island and the event was made all the more significant by it coinciding with Armenia's observation of its 20th anniversary of independence and on the eve of the President's remarks before the UN General Assembly the next day.
President Sargsyan was joined by NECO Chairman Nasser J. Kazeminy, NECO Board members, leading Armenian-Americans, New York business and community leaders and members of the Armenian diplomatic mission in New York. NECO is especially grateful to Board member Helene Irma derStepanian for her efforts in organizing this momentous occasion and for her assistance on NECO's behalf. NECO has long been a supporter of Armenia and its efforts to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights.
While on Ellis Island, President Sargsyan received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from Chairman Kazeminy in recognition of the Presidents leadership on US-Armenian issues, his dedication to peace in the South Caucasus region as well as his support for successful integration of immigrants in Armenia. In our 25-year history, President Sargsyan is the first head of a foreign nation to receive the Medal.
While bestowing President Sargsyan with the Medal, Mr. Kazeminy observed, “Today I am proud to present the Ellis Island Medal of Honor to His Excellency President Serzh Sargsyan. And this is a historic first – President Sargsyan is the first president of a foreign nation to be given this honor. This is a man who has fought for his country on the field of battle and in the halls of government, whose vision for a free and prosperous Armenia has the support of the U.S. government and the world. And perhaps most importantly, he has opened a dialogue of peace and tolerance with his neighbors, bringing his people closer to peace than ever before. Mr. President, for all that you've done for your country and US-Armenian relations, I'm sure history will remember you with great respect.”
The private tour of Ellis Island culminated in a private dinner personally hosted by Mr. Kazeminy for the President and his entourage. Mr. Kazeminy presented the President with some uniquely American gifts including a beautiful Boehm porcelain Statue of Liberty pendant specially commissioned for NECO. President Sargsyan returned the gesture with gifts from his country including a rare, framed scroll showing some of the earliest examples of written language. President Sargsyan ended the evening with a short speech thanking his hosts and inviting NECO to Armenia in the future. Mr. Kazeminy was very keen on the idea and NECO is currently exploring worthy projects that would bring NECO and our long time partner, Gift of Life International on a humanitarian mission to the Caucus region to save children's lives and continue the important international dialogue created that evening.