State Sen. Anthony Portantino was recently presented with the Pontifical Encyclical of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians and honored with the prestigious St. Nerses Shnorhali Medal in recognition of his years of support of the Armenian American community.
Portantino received the honor on April 27 during a reception held at the headquarters of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church in Burbank. His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian bestowed the medal, with public officials, friends and representatives of Armenian organizations in attendance. The senator is the first non-Armenian in the Western Diocese to receive St. Nerses Shnorhali Medal.
“I am humbled to receive this special honor and grateful to have the privilege and opportunity to be part of the spiritual center of the Armenian community,” Portantino said. “I have always been proud to represent this vibrant constituency in our state’s capitol and I cherish the deep connection I have with my Armenian neighbors and friends.”
“State Sen. Anthony Portantino has been a close friend of the Armenian community whose support and dedication has been immensely appreciated by the members of the Armenian community of North America,” Derderian said. “Additionally, being an advocate of the Armenian cause, he has earned the respect and love of our brothers and sisters in Armenia and Artsakh. I personally have witnessed his genuine respect for our faith, history and culture, which should be regarded as a gift to our community. Since my arrival to the West Coast, I have witnessed his active engagement on many levels to bring to the Angelenos his steadfast services and utmost regard for all people.
“The one and perhaps the most important characteristic which should be underlined is his humility which has inspired us all. What has also empowered us tremendously is his dedication to his family, which I certainly believe is the greatest gift he shares with us all,” he added.
Portantino has been a steadfast supporter of the Armenian American community and the Armenian cause for decades. He has visited Armenia and Artsakh on a number of occasions. In 2021, Portantino became the first state or federal official to visit Artsakh after the 44-day war. The senator has also authored countless legislation and resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide and has been a strong proponent of including the Armenian genocide as part of the state’s curriculum.
Portantino continues to chair the Senate Select Committee on California, Armenia, and Artsakh Mutual Trade, Art, and Cultural Exchange, which was first established in 2017 at the request of the senator to expand business opportunities through trade, economic development, cultural awareness, and education between California, Armenia and Artsakh.
In 2019, he helped negotiate the historic Memorandum of Understanding between California and Armenia, which established the California Armenian Trade and Services Desk in Yerevan. Portantino has also been instrumental in securing state financial support for the Armenian American Museum in Glendale.
California has the largest population of Armenian Americans in the country, with the 25th Senate District having the largest concentration.
First published in the May 6 print issue of the Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader.