We hear it said often–especially in speeches–and especially in the current presidential election campaign season–that "it is a distinct privilege," or "it is a great honor"–"to be here…" or "to address this audience…" or some other similar formulaic greeting or clich.
But despite being an editor–whose job it is to find the most apt words for just about any situation–the only words I can come up with on this happy occasion are the most tried and true–and–coincidentally–the most heartfelt–that I am so proud–and so honored–to be greeting you as an editor of such a venerable institution as the Asbarez.
Among my predecessors have been some very talented–sometimes brilliant–and almost always absolutely dedicated Armenia’s. And now–here I am among such outstanding company–and have I said how honored I am? Especially as the first female English-language editor of the Asbarez–I am doubly proud–not only as an Armenian–but also as an Armenia woman–to be addressing you–the members of the Armenian-American community on this occasion.
Our community was still in its infancy when–in 1908–the first-ever issue of the Asbarez rolled off the presses in its home town of Fresno. Though we were here in body–our minds and thoughts were often in the homeland. The Armenian-American press linked our two worlds–establishing a connection that helped to reconcile our dual existence. The experiences of the first generation of Asbarez readers has since been repeated–again and again–with each new generation of immigran’s–albeit manifested differently each time; what has been constant–however–is that Asbarez–through the decades–has continued to be a physical link between us–person to person–and individual to nation–its history and culture–its retreats and advances–politically and otherwise.
Consider what our nation has seen in the last 95 years: In 1908–the establishment of the ostensibly democratic Ottoman Constitution; the Adana massacres of tens of thousands of Armenia’s only a year later; the First World War and the Genocide that killed 1.5 million and emptied Western Armenia of its indigenous population; the 1918 battles for national survival and the subsequent Independence of Caucasian Armenia; the destruction of all traces of Armenian presence in Western Armenia by the Turks and the Soviet takeover of independent Armenia; the February 1921 uprising against Bolshevik rule; the formation of the Diaspora as we would come to know it–from Cairo Egypt–to Paris France–to Beirut–Lebanon–and Worcester and Fresno in the United States; and another World War–with up to 300,000 Armenia’s killed fighting against Nazism; the mass exodus of Eastern European Armenian communities; the chilling polarization of the Cold War; upheaval in the Middle East from Iran to Lebanon; again mass migrations–along with the reassertion of Armenian national rights through armed struggle; the Karabagh liberation movement; the fall of Soviet rule and the re-establishment of Armenian independence; war and socioeconomic collapse; more migration; a stubbornly surviving and gradually developing republic–and… well–here we are…
Why the listing of events?
Because–however abridged that list may be–it gives a sense of the turmoil that successive generations of Armenia’s worldwide have experienced.
Because Asbarez–as a publication of the ARF–has been there–every step of the way–reflecting the hopes and conflicts and experiences of our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents–just as it does today with our own–and those of our children.
Because the ARF’s role has been so instrumental–even vital–in so many periods of Armenian life in the past century–that the history of the ARF and our nation–for better or worse–I would say for the better–have often been intertwined.
Accordingly–the ARF press worldwide–including the Asbarez in California–has been uniquely positioned to connect Armenia’s the world over–and not merely as observers–but as individuals fully engaged in the life of their nation.
It is exactly there that some see a contradiction in the ARF press–between the press as objective observer and the press as actor in public life. But I would rather view that apparent contradiction as a source of vitality. I would instead term it "a sense of mission," and I would say that in the objectivity sweepstakes we can more than hold our own against our peers in the Armenian-American press.
Because Asbarez is truly that–both an open forum and an arena for differing ideas and views. We are more than secure enough in who we are and what we believe to offer space to views that differ from ours. Divergent views can and do find a home in our pages. At the same time–timid voices usually do not find comfort there–because Asbarez is also–as I said–an arena–where ideas not only meet but also clash and duke it out. And though the gladiators may not always come to terms–the spectators almost always come away with their own syntheses from the clash of opposing theses.
As an ARF paper–we are exactly that; you know exactly what you’re getting–and you can take us at face value. Simply put–there is no hidden agenda–only the agenda of being in the service of our nation.
And what a multifarious nation we are. Just as Americans we are of various backgrounds–so too as Armenian-Americans we are of various backgrounds. We are divided by country of birth–and therefore cultural differences–political differences–lifestyle differences. But as with all immigran’s to these shores–our children become acculturated here. Ironically–however–the more "Americanized" our children become–the more similar they become to each other as Armenia’s–as Armenian-Americans.
And that’s where the English-language Asbarez comes in. Just as the Armenian-language paper has bridged expanses in Armenian identity–so too the English-language paper helps bridge the cultural gaps among us. It speaks to our youth in the language of their daily lives. It also speaks of the commitment of the Asbarez to keep pace with the changing times and to serve and involve the entire community. And it has done so for nearly 34 years–since May 1970–when it began publishing its English section as a one-page insert in the Armenian section.
The Asbarez English section has become the voice of the community and a source of information within the halls of Congress–in libraries around the country–and newsrooms of major media outlets. The Asbarez English Section–which became a daily publication almost exactly 10 years ago–is today a vibrant and active presence in the community and reaches a larger–more diverse audience than ever before.
We’re far from perfect–of course–but we strive–if not for perfection–then for the best that we can be. With you continued support–we can be good–really good.