BOSTON -- California Gov. George Deukmejian, called the nation's highest ranking public official of Armenian descent, was joined Saturday night by three presidential candidates in calling for greater U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide earlier this century.
'America has always been a bright, bold beacon of hope and freedom,' Deukmejian said at a testimonial banquet in his honor, coinciding with the conclusion of the annual national conference of the Armenian Assembly.
'I cannot understand why our federal government won't stand up and designate a national day of remembrance in honor of our families and ancestors,' he said of the 1.5 million Armenians killed from 1915 to 1923 at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey.
Vice President George Bush and Kansas Sen. Robert Dole, both Republican presidential hopefuls, and, by videotape, President Reagan and Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts, joined in recognizing accomplishments of Armenian-Americans.
'The U.S. has a stake in acknowledging the history of the Armenian people,' Bush told the gathering of about 800 people, including many officeholders of Armenian descent. 'We cannot and must not deny the testimony of (Armenian) survivors and scholars alike.'
'It is time for the Congress of the United States to acknowledge the Armenian genocide and to expose the wound and let the process of healing and forgiveness begin,' Dole said.
Reagan, who previously has said memorializing the Armenian genocide would further undermine troubled U.S.-Turkish relations, did not mention a possible memorial day but praised Deukmejian.
'Few Americans have so exemplified the essence of the American dream,' Reagan said, citing Deukmejian's 'great distinction' to public service.
Dukakis compared Deukmejian's Armenian heritage to his own Greek heritage. He said Deukmejian has 'taken the tragic history of the Armenian people and created a positive image.'
The Armenian Assembly is a non-profit organization founded in 1972 to promote interests of Armenian-Americans. The group said Deukmejian was the highest ranking public official of Armenian descent in the nation.