WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) stressed the vital necessity for the continued growth of a “confident, assertive brand of Diasporan advocacy that builds upon, but is not bound by, our past,” during the third Armenia-Diaspora Conference, held in Yerevan from September 18-20.
In his remarks to the opening session of the conference, attended by over 2,000 Armenians from around the world, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian, stressed the need to “expand Armenian power and influence globally, building a far-reaching network of identity and strength that serve as both sword and shield for our nation.” He added that, “We must carve out spheres of influence in the power centers of the world, including in areas traditionally controlled by our opponents, and we must constantly challenge, and when necessary confront, forces aligned against the Armenian nation, whoever they may be.”
Hachikian emphasized that, “our greatest challenges lie ahead; for the independence of the Republic represents both the realization of our shared hopes and the foundation upon which we will build a strong and healthy, free, independent and united homeland.”
Participating in the opening ceremonies, which featured remarks by a range of pan-Armenian organizations, were the President of Armenia, Robert Kocharian, the President of Nagorno Karabagh, Arkady Ghoukassian, leaders of the Armenian Church, notably His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, and the spiritual and lay leaders of the Armenian Catholic and Evangelical communities.
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian took part in the Conference’s panel discussion on “The Mechanics of Diaspora-Homeland Relations: A Two-Way Street,” which was moderated by Kevork Bardakjian, Director of the Armenian Studies Program at the University of Michigan.
The theme of the conference, which was televised in Armenia, was “New Answers to Old Questions – Armenians in the 21st Century.”
The full text of the ANCA’s address is provided below. The ANCA invites Armenians, in the homeland and throughout the Diaspora, to share their views regarding these remarks by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the best tradition of our ancient people, we are gathered once again around this table – the sons and daughters of the Armenian nation – to mark our progress and to chart our way forward through the ever-evolving landscape of the Armenian reality.
Armenians in the United States, along with Armenians around the world, take special pride that we have come together on this 15th anniversary of the Republic of Armenia. An independent Armenia – a dream that many doubted, as others doubt today the full realization of our national aspirations.
We celebrate this milestone in our nation’s long journey with a profound appreciation of the will and wisdom – the service and sacrifice – that have brought us to this proud moment in our history.
We recognize, as well, that our greatest challenges lie ahead; for the independence of the Republic represents both the realization of our shared hopes and the foundation upon which we will build a strong and healthy, free, independent and united homeland.
In this spirit, we welcome the very appropriate theme of this third Diasporan Conference: “New Answers to Old Questions – Armenians in the 21st Century.”
In searching for new answers, we are inspired that, throughout our long history, each Armenian generation has, with the benefit of the experience of our forbearers, reinvented the Armenian Cause. For more than 3,000 years, our people and leaders have borne the unique burdens of their time, struggling always to leave a better future for those who followed.
As Armenians, we are at our best when we remain true to our fundamental values while adapting to new realities.
We are at our best when we recognize that both our nation and the international community around us continue to change; but that, in addressing this new world, we have many lessons to draw upon:
* Leadership: Artashes, Tigran, and the cumulative experience of our leaders throughout the liberation struggles for each of our three republics
* Courage: Avarayr, Sardarabad, and Nagorno Karabagh
* Wisdom: Khrimian Hyrig’s “iron ladle” insight into securing the leverage we needed to shape our own destiny
* Unity: Consensus among Armenians and a common front to the outside world.
* Perseverance: The will to prevail through long years under Persians and Parthians, Romans and Russians, Arabs and Ottomans. As well as the extraordinary rebirth of our nation after Genocide and exile.
We have much to learn from our history, for little that we will face in the future will be without precedent in our past.
We have much to be inspired by, for the challenges we face will require the courage of our forefathers.
Our history has taught us that we will remain true to our fathers, not by tracing their footsteps, but by committing ourselves, as they did, to understanding the challenges of our time and facing them directly.
We all know our history. We understand that time and again we have fought bravely to maintain our identity and preserve our homeland. The war for Artstakh in our own lifetimes speaks to this powerful tradition, as do countless fallen solders in hundreds of battles over the past 3,000 years.
At other times – for far too long in fact – we have, during our long history, relied upon accommodations and affiliations that compromised Armenian national interests – bitter realities imposed by the strong on the weak.
Today, 15 years after independence, as we develop strength here in the homeland and assert our rights abroad, we have much to gain from a hard look at our past, the good and the bad.
Historians can study whether accommodation with outside powers was the cause or simply the result of the difficulties we have faced as a nation – the imposition of centuries of foreign rule, the brutal partition of our homeland. Some may see a survival strategy, others the source of the challenges we face today.
What is certain, however, is that today – given the realities we face, Turkey and Azerbaijan’s aggression among them, simple accommodation cannot serve as a useful guide to Armenia’s interaction with neighboring states, regional powers, or the international community.
Equally certain is that Armenia’s security cannot be ensured by affiliating with one side or another in the regional and global balance of power, but rather by navigating an authentically Armenian path forward, one governed by the core interests of the Armenian nation.
Both of these realities come with great challenges. And we must, Hairenik and Diaspora together, meet them head on.
In the United States – and throughout the Spiurk:
* We must continue to pursue a confident, assertive brand of Diasporan advocacy that builds upon, but is not bound by, our past.
* We must expand Armenian power and influence globally, building a far-reaching network of identity and strength that serve as both sword and shield for our nation.
* We must carve out spheres of influence in the power centers of the world, including in areas traditionally controlled by our opponents.
* And we must constantly challenge, and when necessary confront, forces aligned against the Armenian nation, whoever they may be.
The ANCA takes on these challenges daily. While many challenges remain, there has also been significant progress. The examples are many, among them:
* Our successful efforts to confront PBS, a major television network, that sought to provide a very public national platform for Armenian Genocide deniers.
* Our successful efforts to confront the misguided actions of the U.S. Justice Department, which sought, without any reasonable cause, to place Armenian nationals on an intrusive terrorist watch list.
* Our successful efforts to challenge the New York Times and the Boston Globe to reverse their long-standing refusal to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide.
* And most recently, our successful efforts to confront a White House leadership which fired an able and devoted ambassador, John Evans, simply for speaking the truth, and is now seeking to replace him with a nominee clearly unacceptable to a broad cross-section of the U.S. Congress as well, of course, to our own community.
We must do all these, and more, for an engaged and effective Diaspora represents a vital and essential key to Armenia’s freedom and the prerequisite for the realization of our national ideals.
We bring to this task, an organization, built upon a powerful grassroots foundation that has – with devotion and sophistication – carried the Armenian Cause forward in America for more than a century.
Our more than 50 chapters throughout the United States and affiliates in Brussels, Moscow, Beirut, and in over 40 countries throughout the world, work tirelessly on behalf of the Armenian Cause across a full range of issues. These efforts are familiar to many of you here today.
As you know, we continue to work to end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s denials of the Genocide, isolating Ankara internationally, and forcing its leaders to come to terms with their crimes. Our aim remains a reformed and repentant Turkey that accepts a just resolution of the Armenian Genocide – a resolution that, to the extent possible, makes our nation secure, healthy, and whole once again.
Justice, beyond its profound moral implications, remains an essential ingredient of Armenia’s security. Simply put, Armenia cannot be safe as long as it remains bordered by an over-armed and unrepentant perpetrator of genocide against our nation.
We continue to defend Nagorno Karabagh’s right to self-determination within secure borders, while countering the efforts of Caspian oil interests and others to tilt U.S. policy in favor of Azerbaijan.
We are working every day to strengthen Armenia through the promotion of:
* Increased trade and investment
* A strong and vibrant economy free of debilitating corruption
* Generous foreign assistance to Armenia
* Continued direct aid to Nagorno Karabagh
* Bilateral agreements designed to increase U.S.-Armenia commercial activity
We are fighting against the illegal and immoral Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades, as well as against their efforts to isolate Armenia from the benefits of the Caspian energy sector.
In each of these issues, we face powerful and well-funded opposition. Arrayed against us are some of the most influential groups in the American political system.
We have more than met their challenge by expanding our own resources, establishing a new permanent headquarters in Washington, DC and building an endowment fund to finance our growth in the years to come. We have matched these monetary gains with a renewed focus on strengthening our grassroots, both in our larger communities, such as Los Angeles and Boston, as well as in areas not traditionally populated by large numbers of Armenian Americans, among them Texas, Louisiana, Florida, the Carolinas, and the Pacific Northwest.
We have, of course, invested heavily in our youth through our Capital Gateway Program. This innovative program secures career-track public policy positions in Washington, DC for talented young Armenian American university graduates. Over the course of the past several years, we have helped dozens of Armenians enter the fabric of our nation’s policy-making establishment, working for Congress and the Executive Branch, the media, think tanks, and other policy-oriented professional organizations.
We are ready to do our part, today and for years to come.
And so, in closing, let me say that the key to our collective success is to remain confident in our strength, the abilities of our youth, the ultimate morality of our positions, and the devotion of the Armenian people to the cause of our nation.
We must – here today on the free soil of our independent homeland and long after we have left this hall – carry the burden of our generation so that we may realize – for ourselves and for generations to come – the promise of a prosperous, free, independent and united Armenia.
We will only achieve this by activating our communities at the grassroots level to take on the mission of our national struggle.
I invite each and every one of you to join with us in this fight for our ideals and our rights. I am confident that united together and with perseverance, we will ultimately prevail.