Two Meetings a Week Just Doesn’t Cut It Anymore

Reflections from Washington DC by Razmik Tchakmakian, Seneca College – Class of 2009

July 10, 2008

Initially, doing the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship was not in my agenda for this summer. I planned on taking a more laid back approach, which I hadn’t done in a few years — maybe work for a little bit, go on a couple smaller trips with a few friends. Until one day, my good friend Paul Ternamian, who did this internship last year, approached me with the overwhelming concept of me going to Washington. The first thing that came to my mind was – NO! After a couple get-togethers with Paul, I was convinced that this could be an experience of a lifetime. I was sold.

After Leo Sarkisian Internship Director Serouj Aprahamian picked me up from the airport – I was brought to a room full of strangers who had already been here for a couple days. Truth be told, I thought maybe this wasn’t such a great idea.

What if I don’t get along with these people?

Yes, we were all here for the same Cause and we all came from good Armenian families, but even then, anything can happen. And then the first week began and I was surprised at just how hectic my summer in Washington would be. Usually when you start a new job, your first couple weeks would generally be more laid back. However, after two back-to-back hearings on Capitol Hill, thousands of phone calls to constituents, and lectures by Executive Director Aram Hamparian and Ara Hovsepyan, Director of the Millennium Challenge Corporation program in Armenia, I learned the first of many lessons during this internship.

Hai Tahd is never laid back.

And, from moment on, my perspective on participating in the internship program took a 180 degree turn. I knew that by coming here I was going to learn a great deal that I would, in turn, go back to my Toronto ANC chapter, ready to take on the challenges ahead.

Once we got past the awe-inspiring energy of the first week, we had a chance to catch our breath, and started to feel much more comfortable with each other. Being with each other helped strengthen the bond within the intern group and gave us motivation to work harder. We started to realize that we are all here for the same reasons, and that our goals in pursuit of the Armenian Cause are the same.

And now, a month into the program, I feel like a changed person. Being here not only taught me how to efficiently work on our issues, but it also enhanced my social skills, business skills, and professional skills. This program does things to you that you wouldn’t expect to come from any internship program. The environment and atmosphere around this office makes you realize that what you have been doing your whole life back home is not even close to enough compared to what needs to done.

I have been in AYF all my life, and I thought that going to meetings twice a week was enough. I was doing my share. At the Leo Sarkisian Internship, I realized that the ANCA team works with our collective issues on a daily basis, following in the footsteps of Vahan Cardashian – the father of Armenian American advocacy. It’s inspiring to be a part of that, to learn how to apply that to my life, and to be able share that feeling with my chapter in Toronto

One thing I want to spotlight about this program is the lectures that we receive twice a week. Modern ANC legends like U. Garo Armenian have come to talk us about geo-politics, Aram Hamparian spoke to us about Armenians in America, and ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian will be speaking to us next week. We visited with Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Tatoul Markarian and the Nagorno Karabagh Representative’s office. These lectures really give you first hand insight on our past, and challenges facing our present and ways to ensure a brighter future for our nation.

Overall, I owe this experience to my good friend Paul, who knew I would love the program. And of course to the ARF Canada and ARF YOC, who made my participation possible. I will take this experience back with me to Toronto and work closer with the ANC, to bring justice to Armenians worldwide. It is the youth that will keep our culture vibrant and the youth need to be educated to do so. The ANCA – and specifically the Leo Sarkisian Internship program — is one of our best ways to receive that education.


Photo Caption: ANCA Leo Sarkisian Interns take a break during a trip to the Capitol. Pictured from Left to Right – Razmig Nalpatian, featured columnist Razmik Tchakmakian, Rita Astoor, Nieri Avanessian, Arbi Vartan, and Zori Eurdekian.

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