LOS ANGELES–A wide cross-section of supporters, from college students and businessmen to judges and clergymen, celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS)–Armenia’s first independent research and strategic studies institute–on Sunday afternoon, October 26, 2008. ACNIS founder and current member of Armenia’s Parliament, Raffi K. Hovannisian, was in Los Angeles to mark the occasion at the historic Hancock Park home and garden of Mr and Mrs. Krikor and Marilyn Bezdikian.
The Mission of ACNIS
After the outdoor reception and dinner, Mr. Al Cabraloff of the host committee kicked off the formal program by welcoming the guests who had gathered to celebrate what he called “one of the key ingredients for progress in Armenia.” Cabraloff summarized Hovannisian’s dedication to the nation by reminding the supporters that “Raffi has set an example by walking the talk,” moving to Armenia in its time of greatest need. He called Hovannisian an independent thinker with the benefit of having lived both inside and outside of Armenia, and who comes to Armenia with a deep belief in democracy and transparency, the fundamental principles advanced by ACNIS.
The Consul General of the Republic of Armenia, the Honorable Armen Liloyan, opened his congratulatory remarks by calling ACNIS “one of the first independent think tanks in Armenia established by my country’s first Foreign Minister, the Honorable Hovannisian.” He noted the essential role of research and analytical centers as generators of ideas and solutions to a wide range of complicated domestic and international issues. Acknowledging the vital work of ACNIS, the consul general concluded: “There are many issues in our society that have to be addressed at the expert level, and if we want to build the country of our dreams, we should learn to act responsibly and to think responsibly. The think tanks are one of best avenues to do that, and ACNIS, being one of them, is contributing to the public discourse on a wide range of issues in Armenia, and this goal can be further served by the expertise and dedication of its founder, Hovannisian, who has experience from his previous government positions, who has been in Armenian politics for several years now, and who can offer professional insight on the main issues of interest to the Armenian public.”
The Honorable Zaven Sinanian, judge of the Superior Court, spoke about “Raffi, the man.” Sinanian worked with Hovannisian in Armenia’s Foreign Ministry when the country had just gained independence. He said “Raffi was the one with the vision to begin a process of organizing and structuring the foreign ministry, to start a government system that is like the ones we’re accustomed to in this country.” Based on his three decades of friendship with Hovannisian, Judge Sinanian characterized Raffi’s unique sense of integrity and his dedication and devotion to Armenia. “He works to make Armenia better for everyone. He was dedicated to that goal from thirty years ago and has continued that goal to this day.” Judge Sinanian then invited Hovannisian to address the gathering.
Reverend Ashod Kambourian, on behalf of His Eminence Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and Reverend Dajad Yardumian, on behalf of His Eminence Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, participated with their blessings.
Raffi Hovannisian’s Message
Speaking both in Armenian and English, Hovannisian thanked every individual present for making a tangible difference in and for Armenia. Support for ACNIS helps to advance the ideal and reality that Armenia has much to offer the world, that it is above any given political party, whether in government or in opposition, and is committed to take a leadership role in the region and the world.
Hovannisian described ACNIS as an innovative research center committed to public and foreign policy research and international relations analysis for Armenia, so that Armenian decision-makers have alternate policy scenarios before making important decisions of state. He asserted that Armenia today stands at a crossroads as to how to move forward with democracy and with internal and external relations. He explained that in addition to providing expert analyses through publications and public outreach, ACNIS hosts roundtables and workshops with the participation of European, American, Russian, Turkish, Iranian, and other specialists, as well as with Armenian government and opposition figures. These serious gatherings are intended to hear varied perspectives, while at the same maintaining full acceptance of historical record and pursuing a forward vision.
He concluded: “The Republic of Armenia and its destiny lie today in the balance, and every person–every patriot here represented–knows that Armenia must prevail in this struggle for identity, for democracy, and for the national interest. This is what ACNIS is about. ACNIS is about bringing together the best minds we have in Armenia, in Artsakh and in Diaspora, to forge a policy agenda that looks at education, politics, economics, finances, and women’s issues, and allows a broad-based comprehensive strategy to assist Armenian society and decision-makers to make the most important decisions of our lives;. Government, opposition, civil society, Hairenik and Diaspora, must get on the same page for the sake of Armenia and its future, its democracy, its security, and its leadership in the region and the world. And we shall see that day.”
A Memorable Anniversary
World-class guitarist and singer Gor Mkhitarian entertained the guests with his soothing renditions of songs of love in Armenian and in English. Committee member Mr. Jack Messerlian added levity to the evening with witty anecdotes followed by a serious explanation of how contributions further the work of ACNIS and its staff members. He applauded and encouraged the continued support of all the benefactors.
Before dessert and more socializing, Professor Richard Hovannisian closed the program by expressing thanks to the guests, the host committee, and to Krikor and Marilyn Bezdikian, who opened up their home for the event. As a modest but lasting token of appreciation from the host committee, he presented the Bezdikians with the collection of his seven-volume series on the historic provinces of Western Armenia.
The 15th Anniversary’s Host Committee said it is gratified by the generous response of those in attendance and those who sent in their contributions. Major donations were made by Mr. and Mrs. Zaven Akian (Los Angeles), Mrs. Tina Carolan (New Jersey), Mr. and Mrs. David Hovannisian (Fresno), Mr. and Mrs. Philip Parnagian (Fresno), Mr. and Mrs. Vartkes Yeghiayan (Glendale), Mr. and Mrs. Eddie Arakelian (Fresno), Mr. and Mrs. Larry and Joan Bedrosian (Newport Beach), and Drs. Richard and Vartiter Hovannisian (Los Angeles).
All contributions on this occasion are being matched by an outside philanthropic source. Those who wish to donate and thereby have their contributions doubled may write (tax-deductible) checks to “ACNIS,” 15456 Valley Vista Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403.