Jimmy Carter photo

Reception Honoring Armenian Americans Remarks at the White House Reception.

May 16, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. The first thing I want to say is that it is an honor for Rosalynn and me to have you here in our home, which is also your home.

In preparation for the previous meeting that I had with your group in the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing, I went back and studied some of the history of the Armenian people. And I, again, am impressed with the tremendous contribution that you've made to our own Nation, the high examples that you've set in leadership, in music, arts, in business, in politics, in education, and in your sound political judgment in choosing to be Democrats— [laughter] —also in your very early support of me when I ran for President. Yours was the first group that had confidence in me, and I will always remember it. And your help for our party and our country is something that I appreciate very much.

As one of the oldest people in the world, you have, I think, struggled with great courage and tenacity to preserve your own identity, your own customs, and, too, in a very modest way, let the world come to appreciate what you've accomplished.

I feel close to you because you were the first Christian people, first Christian nation, and because of that, your deep religious beliefs, I doubt that any other people have ever suffered more. I know that through the early years of the foundation of your people's home, you suffered a great deal. But it's generally not known in the world that in the years preceding 1916, there was a concerted effort made to eliminate all the Armenian people, probably one of the greatest tragedies that ever befell any group. And there weren't any Nuremberg trials. There weren't any high public figures who recognized how much you and your families had to suffer.

Well, I feel very deeply that I, as President, ought to make sure that this is never forgotten, not only the tragedy of your history but also the present contributions that you make and the bright future that you have.

I'm very grateful that there are about a million Armenian Americans who provide stability in a unique place in our Nation's social and political structure, and I'm very grateful to you.

I might add one other thing. You are very generous people. Some of you have become quite influential, quite affluent, and quite famous because of your superb achievements. And this is a matter of great pride to me as it is to you.

So, I just wanted to let you know that, in a few words, as President, and on behalf of the American people, I appreciate what you are.

Thank you very much.

CLEMENT CONGER. Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, as Curator of the White House, it gives me great pleasure to inform you that the Committee for the Preservation of the White House accepts with great pleasure two very important gifts of American paintings being given by the Manoogian family. They are, on the left, "Barn in Winter" by N. C. Wyeth, and on the right, "The Red Mill" by Ernest Lawson, American impressionist art. And I know that all of us realize that President and Mrs. Carter are very impressed with American impressionist artists.

I think Mr. Richard Manoogian would like to say just a word before we accept them.

MR. MANOOGIAN. Mr. President and Mrs. Carter, on behalf of the Manoogian family, I'm very pleased to present these paintings to the permanent White House collection. And I believe I speak for all the Armenians present to extend to you our appreciation and thanks for inviting us today, and we're looking forward to coming back over the next 7 years. Thank you.

Mrs. CARTER. I want to thank you, too, for these paintings. One of the things that we need in the White House is a good collection of American paintings. And I really appreciate this contribution. And I want to welcome all of you here today. It's just a great pleasure for us to have you here with us.

THE PRESIDENT. One of the things that we enjoy here in the White House is having come to visit our Nation, world leaders, kings, and prime ministers, chancellors, presidents. One of our most important visitors was Chancellor Schmidt from Germany. And when he came, we wanted to be sure, as one of our chief allies in preserving world peace, that we had the best entertainment that was available in our country, and we had Lili Chookasian to sing for us that night. It was a wonderful evening. And she honored us by being here. And this afternoon it's, I know, with a warm sense of common appreciation that you and I now welcome Lili to sing for us again.

MS. CHOOKASIAN. May I say, Mr. President and Mrs. Carter, that it's indeed my pleasure. It's just unbelievable to be back here within a year. And my pianist is going to be Mr. Shahan Asranee.

The first number I'm going to sing is called "Siranitzar," which is translated "Apricot Tree." The lover is begging the apricot tree not to bear any fruit because his sweetheart has left him, and his sorrow is as deep as the deepest ocean.

Note: The President spoke at 4:33 p.m. at the reception held for Armenian American leaders of business, labor, educational, civic, and religious organizations in the East Room at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Reception Honoring Armenian Americans Remarks at the White House Reception. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244700

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