Gus Bilirakis Wants U.S. Schools to Teach About the Armenian Genocide

Last week, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, to propose the “Armenian Genocide Education Act.”

The bill is modeled after the “Never Again Education Act” which Congress passed in 2020. That law had the U.S. Education Department create the Holocaust Education Assistance Program Fund, expanding middle and high school education on the Holocaust. U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., introduced the proposal with the backing of U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Kevin Cramer, R-ND. The bill would authorize $10 million over the next five years to expand educational efforts about the Holocaust with the director of the National Holocaust Memorial Museum in charge of the new program. Over in the U.S. House, Maloney and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, championed the proposal. More than 300 members of the House co-sponsored the proposal.

Now, Bilirakis and Maloney, who lead the Bipartisan Hellenic Caucus, want a bill to “give teachers across the United States the resources they need to educate our children on the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of intolerance and hate.” The bill would include $10 million over the next five years to give teachers the resources they need to teach about the genocide.

“As the saying goes, if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it,” said Maloney. “That is why I am proud to introduce the Armenian Genocide Education Act to teach the horrors and lessons of the Armenian Genocide accurately and effectively. Both chambers of Congress voted with overwhelming bipartisan majorities to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, and last year President Biden made it clear that it is the official position of the United States that these systematic killings were genocide. It is imperative that we now ensure Americans have access to the resources they need to learn and teach about this atrocity.”

“Our darkest moments as a human race have come during times when those who knew better stood silently, making excuses for passivity and allowing injustice and persecution to reign. We must acknowledge the atrocities of the past so that we might hopefully prevent them in the future,” said Bilirakis. “One of the best ways to achieve this goal is through education and awareness, which is why I am proud to co-introduce the Armenian Genocide Education Act with Carolyn Maloney.”

“The ANCA welcomes this landmark launch of the Armenian Genocide Education Act,“ said Armenian National Committee of America Chairman Raffi Hamparian. “With White House and Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide secured – we must now ensure that America’s schoolchildren are taught about the historical lessons and present-day consequences of this crime against Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians. The ANCA looks forward to working with Congresswoman Maloney, Congressman Bilirakis, and their growing bipartisan list of Congressional cosponsors to advance this timely measure. We are committed to challenging genocide denial at every turn, with the clear goal of securing a just resolution for all the victims of Turkey’s crimes – past and present,”

“We commend Representatives Maloney and Bilirakis for their continued efforts to further the cause of genocide education and prevention,” said Armenian Assembly of America Congressional Relations Director Mariam Khaloyan. “This legislation seeks to enhance education and awareness about the first genocide of the 20th century, which was officially recognized by President Biden last April 24, 2021 following the passage of legislation in the House and Senate affirming the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide.”

Other groups backing the proposal include the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights, the Armenian National Institute, the Genocide Education Project, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the Assyrian Policy Institute, the Hellenic American Leadership Council, the Hindu American Foundation, In Defense of Christians, the Middle East Forum and Promise Institute for Human Rights.

The bill has almost 50 co-sponsors but Bilirakis is the only member of the Florida delegation to co-sponsor it. On Thursday, the bill was sent to the U.S. House Committee on House Administration. So far, there is no companion measure over in the Senate.

In April 2021, Bilirakis, one of the co-chairmen of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, said he supported the Biden administration recognizing the Armenian genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire.

“It has been more than 100 years since the atrocities committed against innocent Armenians and other ethnic and religious minorities at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire’s genocidal campaign from 1915-1923 killed 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children, as well as Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs, through a series of executions and death marches,” said Bilirakis.

“I whole-heartedly welcome today’s historic announcement from President Biden formally recognizing the Armenian genocide,” Bilirakis added. “I have been a major supporter of recognizing the Ottoman Empire’s atrocious acts as genocide, co-authoring the Armenian genocide recognition resolution passed by the House of Representatives two years ago. We must acknowledge the atrocities of the past so that we might hopefully prevent them in the future. Our darkest moments as a human race have come during times when those who knew better stood silently, making excuses for passivity and allowing injustice and persecution to reign.”

Bilirakis said he talked to U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia George Kent on the “pain of history to ensure future atrocities do not happen.”

There are more than 120 members in the Congressional Armenian Caucus including U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla.

Kevin Derby
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