BY LARA GARIBIAN
On April 22, I was invited to go to Washington D.C. to help lobby in Congress for the Armenian Genocide. Fifty people from all over the Unites States gathered together to fulfill one purpose. Our goal was to visit a long list of congressional offices and speak to each congressman’s foreign affairs aide and provide them with the information necessary to cosponsor H. Res. 252, which calls “upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide…” Along with learning what the bill entailed, I also learned how to intelligently speak against the counter arguments that would be presented when we met with foreign affairs aides.
For years the Armenian National Committee of America has brought Armenian-Americans from across the United States together to make known the truth of history and to give Armenians who ended up immigrating to the United States as a result of genocide a solid piece of closure by working to make the world see the atrocities that occurred 94 years ago.
“The Armenian National Committee of America is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues, such as fostering public awareness in support of a free, united and independent Armenia, making sure that the U.S. recognizes the genocide of 1915, to influence and guide U.S. policy on matters of interest to the Armenian-American community, and to represent the collective Armenian American viewpoint on matters of public policy, while serving as liaison between the community and their elected officials,” according to the organization’s Web site anca.org.
To be honest, my family tried to get me involved in such organizations for a number of years and my response would always be, “Look, it’s not really my thing. I’ll leave the politics to the politicians.” However, after really having an opportunity in making a difference on such a strong and influential level, I realized that the ANCA represents more than just politics.
While we spent days working hard, walking the halls of Congress, and trying with all our hearts and efforts to make a difference, we were disappointed to hear President Obama’s failure to honor his pledge to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. We heard the news literally an hour before our protest at the Turkish Embassy in Washington D.C.
However, that day something very powerful and symbolic really dawned on all of us. The work we put in wasn’t only based on political interest. The fact that we had an organization, which allowed all of us young Armenians to come together and work towards something culturally advantageous, really showed me why we have such a proud core within our blood.
Amid our disappointment, I realized a few things. The first was that the true core of the ANCA wasn’t about just passing a political resolution, it was about bringing our people together, to work hand in hand towards something that would allow our legacy and our heritage to truly live on. The second was that my disappointment didn’t lie in President Obama’s lack of acknowledgment. My heart broke for all the Armenian men, women and youth that had spent years and generations working toward a strong closure and acceptance. Yet they still faced the repercussions of denial until this very day. After all the last stage of genocide is denial and with that kind of adversity against our people it made me so incredibly proud to see everyone come together once again and strive hard to keep getting our message across. Thirdly, I realized we all have a responsibility. We owe it to our ancestors who sacrificed their lives and lands to hold on to their ethnicity, culture and religion. We have a responsibility to those who work hard everyday at making our communities here stay strong and who work at making sure that year after year we never give up fighting for what we truly believe in. As I heard Elizabeth Chouldjian once say, “Mer askayeen bardaganootyoun neh.” It is for our future generations, for our ancestors and for our families who dedicated time, money, strength, but above all, heart.
I’m sure you are familiar with the writer William Saroyan and his famous quote about Armenians. He wrote, “I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race; this small tribe of unimportant people whose history is ended, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, whose literature is unread, whose music is unheard, whose prayers are no longer uttered. Go ahead, destroy this race. Let us say that it is again 1915 there is war in the world. Destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them from their homes into the desert. Let them have neither bread nor water. Burn their houses and their churches. See if they will not live again. See if they will not laugh again. See if you can stop them from mocking the big ideas of the world. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” That is exactly what the Armenian National Committee has done; it has created a new Armenia for Armenian Americans.
When you take a look at the reality of our daily lives, we see all the work that piles up on our desk, the daily correspondence we have to attend to, the children we have to take to school, pick up, help with homework, etc… We see the situation of our economy and the pressures that come along with all the responsibility we take on. I know it is unrealistic to expect everyone to drop everything and get involved in activism and lobbying efforts; however your efforts are not in vain. You can make a huge change today by donating to a great cause.
I ask you to please contribute to an organization and a cause that will be around to nurture and nourish our young Armenian American adolescents for all the years to come. I ask you to fulfill the cultural responsibility that has been instilled within us for all our lives and make sure that we stay involved in whatever way we can to make sure that our efforts prove fruitful in providing a strong acceptance and closure for an issue that has impacted our lives on such an enormous level. Realize that just one bit of effort can really make a difference in the futures of us all as a minority. Whether you want to give one major donation or split it in two, please consider the difference you will be making. I appreciate your time and consideration of this matter. Your tax-deductible contributions should be made payable to Armenian National Committee Endowment Fund. Let’s work together to make this year’s ANCA Endowment Fund telethon a great success on May 31, 2009!
I would like to leave you with one last quote to think about. William Saroyan wrote, “A man’s ethnic identity has more to do with a personal awareness than with geography.”