BY MELKON MELKONIAN
On February 24, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western U.S. Central Committee celebrated the 128th anniversary of the party’s establishment. During the event, the ARF Central Committee’s message was delivered by its member Melkon Melkonian. Below is the speech.
We are gathered here to celebrate the 128th anniversary of the founding of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
Why are any of us here and why does this 128 year old organization matter?
Furthermore, what is the Tashnagtsutyun? Who is the Tashnagtstagan?
Many of us here, have answers to these and other such questions for ourselves and for those who ask. But it seems finding and justifying these answers have proven to be increasingly difficult.
Over the past year, since the last time we gathered here in front of our people to deliver our message, a lot has happened. Many changes have taken place here in our region and our homeland. Changes that asked of our people to stand together to demand a better life for themselves and our nation. Changes that gave birth to a new generation of Armenian activists. Young men and women of conviction, striving to a better future.
However, this type of change is never easy. Revolution is never easy. A peaceful, Velvet Revolution is even harder. But our people accomplished just that. And each and every Armenian can be proud of that. The Tashnagtsutyun is proud of our people.
But during these uncertain times, some people questioned the decisions and position of the ARF; not toward the political or social climate within Armenia, but they questioned the ARF’s intentions toward the homeland. That is where we draw the line.
You may not agree with our politics or methods. You may not agree with our policies or decisions. But let me declare to you, the ARF is and it remains dedicated with all its might to the protection, preservation, and prosperity of our people and Homeland. Believing and tirelessly working towards a free, independent and united Armenia, Artsakh and Javakhk.
The Western United States Central Committee of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, through that creed, sees itself as an organization that leads and protects the interests of our people in our region. But leading does not come through dictating our will on our people. The ARF leads by service. The ARF leads through its work. This organization that was founded 128 years ago, was born through the struggles of its people; was born through the will of its people; and was born to serve the people.
So then, what is the Tashnagtsutyun?
The Tashnagtsutyun was born under of Nationalist, Socialist, Democratic, and Revolutionary principles.
Nationalist, not to favor ourselves over any other nation, but to love our people, to protect the rights of our people, and be proud of our history and heritage.
Socialist, because we believe in Social Justice. We believe in the betterment of the quality of life our people; we believe that the rights of ordinary individuals must be preserved and protected. The safety and security of our nation is tied to the social equality and justice for our people.
Democratic, because we believe in the rule of law through democracy and democratic principles. To ensure that the will and voice of the people are safeguarded from tyranny and autocracy.
And finally Revolutionary; not for the sake of a revolution or opposition; but the belief in change. The belief that we as an organization and a people can strive and struggle to be better, to grow and prosper. And perhaps it is this last principles that ties all the others together. To be revolutionary is to dare to act when others retreat; it is to do what is right even when it is not popular; it is to struggle for the National, Social and Democratic rights of our people and not spare any effort to achieve those goals.
We believe in a safe and prosperous homeland.
We believe in the just resolution for the crime of the Armenian Genocide.
We believe in an independent and secure Artsakh.
We believe in a strong and vibrant Diaspora.
And we believe in protecting and fighting for the rights of our people wherever they may be.
Who is the Tashnagtsagan?
One of our great leaders and thinkers, Hratch Dasnabedian, describes the Tashnagtsagan as a person of conviction. “A person who has not only filled him or herself with an ideal, or the selfless dedication to a social or political goal, but also to proactively and consistently contribute to the realization of those ideals.”
For the Tashnagtsagan it is not enough to proclaim devotion or love for the nation, he must also be willing to work, to go down in the trenches, and shed sweat and if need be blood for our people and homeland.
So for those who ask, what or what the Tashnagtsutyun is: It is that same organization who led the formation of the First Armenian Republic in 1918; it is that same organization that sough and executed justice for the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide; It is the same organization that organized and preserved our diasporas all over the world, by building schools, churches, and community centers to serve the needs of our people; it is the same organization that stopped at nothing to send aid to our brothers and sisters in Artsakh; it is the same organization that continues to tirelessly work for our people and nation.
As proud as we are of our history as an organization, as humbled as we find ourselves living in the shadow of all those who came before us, we do not simply continue to exist because of our past. We are a Revolutionary organization because we believe in our future. We believe that our best days are not behind us, but are here among us in the eyes of our youth. The strength of our organization, comes from that youth, and the belief that our work and service to that nation is not done.
Today standing before you, I do not want to merely recount our past successes, but I want to tell you—I must tell you—about our work and accomplishments; because as we celebrate today, we are also here to stand accountable to you, our people, from whom we were born, for who we exist. The success of that work does not belong to an individual, or even a group of individuals, it belongs to the collective strength of the ARF in our region. It belongs to our regional Gomidehyutyuns. It belongs to our youth, the Armenian Youth Federation. It belongs, to the Armenian National Committee. And it belongs to all of our sister organizations and countless volunteers who work tirelessly in service of our people.
Here are just of a few examples of the new initiatives that I would like to recognize tonight in our region and in our homeland:
- Our ungers in the Orange County Armen Karo Gomidehyutyun, were able to contribute to the creation of a solar powered water heating system for the people of Mardagerd.
- The San Fernando Valley Rosdom Gomidehyutyun contributed to the development of a Dental Medical Facility for the people of Hadrut.
- The La Crescenta Zavarian Gomidehyutyun, helped purchase a much needed sanitation truck for the people of Karvajar.
- The establishment of a new Summer Camp Program by our San Francisco Kristapor Gomideyutyun.
- The establishment of a youth center in Gyumri through the “We are Gyumri” initiative of the Central Committee.
- The establishment of the Gars Academy, an educational program geared to teach and create a learning environment to foster analytical thought of issues concerning our nation and people.
These new programs join many others already in existence through our Gomideyutyuns, such as day camps, social service programs, educational seminars or fundraising for our local schools and churches.
Not to mention all the others organized and executed by the AYF or the ANC, such as, The AYF Youth Corps program, founded to build a bridge between our homeland and the youth in our region, the AYF Summer Camp program, serving more than a thousand young Armenians each year, the AYF’s and Shant Student Association’s divest Turkey initiatives, to discourage investment into the republic of Turkey by the higher learning educational institutions in our region, the ANC’s internship program, developed to educate and encourage activism amongst our youth, as well as the many advocacy programs of the ANC and its local chapters.
Forgive me if I left out any other programs or activities that I should have mentioned. Our time to speak is short, and our work is a lot. But to all those volunteers, please accept our praise and gratitude.
This type of work or service to our people does not merely exist by chance. It is engrained into the very principles of our organization as I mentioned. Although much of this work has been around and initiated for some time now, it was further enforced and solidified when on January 24, 2019, the 33rd ARF World Congress declared that the ARF in the homeland and around the globe will dedicate its efforts towards Social Justice for our people through the established of programs and the newly formed ARF Office of Social Welfare.
The Central Committee of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US, recommits itself to this effort and promises to continue and expand on this mission of service to our people.
Sireli Hayrenagtsiner, the work of building, strengthening and supporting our communities cannot be done by the ARF alone. It will require the dedication and commitment of all of us. We need you. The Nation needs you. Do not wait to be called up. Do not wait to be asked. Rise and lend a hand.
This is especially crucial in our region. The Western United States is the home of the most diverse and dynamic Armenian Diaspora in the world. We have communities old and new with rich histories and traditions, all woven together to create this home away from home. No one person or group represents us, yet we are one. The ARF has long been part of this rich history. And as long as we are here, we will continue to serve and protect these communities.