LOS ANGELES–The ARF Western USA Central Committee organized an unforgettable evening on Sunday–June 3–in celebration of the 83rd anniversary of the May 28 Armenian Independence Day. The event–attended by over 1,500 community members–was held at the open-air John Anson Ford Amphitheater in Los Angeles.
A host of political leaders partook in the Independence Day celebration–including former California State Assembly speaker and current ANC-PAC endorsed candidate for LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa–LA City Councilman and ANC-PAC endorsed candidate for the office of LA City Attorney Mike Feuer–and District Director of Fresno Congressman George Radanovich–Steve Samuelian.
Guests included Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian of the Western Prelacy–Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian of the Western Diocese–Consul General Valery Mkrtoumian of the Republic of Armenia–and representatives of the Social Democratic Hunchakian party–the A.G.B.U.–the National Council–affiliated organizations–and compatriatic unions.
Speaking at the celebration were Master of Ceremonies Hovan Tashjian–Valery Mkrtoumian–Antonio Villaraigosa–Steve Samuelian–and Ani Garikian on behalf of the ARF Central Committee. All spoke of the significance of the May 28 independence as a precursor to the establishment of the present Republic of Armenia–and stressed the need to support Armenia–the struggle in Artsakh and to pursue international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
In his opening remarks–Master of Ceremonies Hovan Tashjian–cited the words of Minister Nigol Aghpalian–who described the generation responsible for establishing the Armenian Republic–as a generation which created a new Armenia out of ruin and famine.
"May 28 is the celebration of our homeland’s existence–a celebration marking Armenia’s place on the world of map," said Tashjian. He went on by presenting a brief overview of the events leading up to Armenia’s independence–in particular–the Turkish army’s advance into eastern Armenia–the return of Russian forces in the Transcaucasus–the famine and epidemics in Yerevan which became more problematic with the arrival of Genocide survivors and volunteer units from the west–and the responsibility assumed by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) in taking charge of its people’s and homeland’s destiny–under these difficult and chaotic circumstances.
Tashjian remembered Avedis Aharonian’s acknowledgment of Aram Manoukian’s role in preventing the depopulation of Yerevan.
Tashjian said that the re-independence of Armenia is based on the admirable and courageous acts of the generation of 1918. He said the movement for Karabakh’s right to self-determination–which began in 1988–took the 1918 experience as a model.
In his closing remarks–Tashjian touched upon the issues facing us today–including political and diplomatic means of safeguarding Armenia’s independence–the need to fight corruption in the homeland–and to prevent further emigration from the country.
Tashjian noted that Armenia’s leadership–along with all the political faces in the country–must take Aram Manoukian’s example–and make sure Yerevan is not depopulated.
Tashjian introduced the next speaker–Antonio Villaraigosa–who spoke of the necessity of remembering history. Villaraigosa acknowledged the important principles of independence and democracy–which are cherished by all individuals. He stressed the need to remember the past–without which it would be impossible to move forward.
Villaraigosa noted how the US is made up of people from different countries–who strive to preserve their national identity. The long-time friend of the Armenian-American community spoke of the need to properly affirm the Armenian Genocide–and informed of his efforts in this respect.
Villaraigosa expressed his appreciation for receiving the endorsement of the ANC-PAC–and promised to remain committed to the multi-ethnic needs of LA–once elected to office. In his closing remarks–Villaraigosa pledged to respect the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and defend the issues important to Armenian-Americans.
In his remarks–Steve Samuelian highly regarded the participation of Armenia’s in the political life of the US. He praised the fedayees of the past and present–who shed blood while defending the rights of their people–and devoted their lives to the struggle to liberate the homeland. Samuelian called on the new generation to continue these efforts–citing the example of the heroes of Artsakh.
Consul General of the Republic of Armenia Valery Mkrtoumian–noted the significance of May 28 for all Armenia’s since it established the first Armenian Republic–and served as the foundation for the establishment of the current Republic–and the rebirth of the Armenian nation. Mkrtoumian described the battle of Sardarabad as an example of Armenian unity–and "the Avarayr of the 20th century."The battle of Sardarabad and Pash Aparan’saved the Armenian nation from complete annihilation–and notified the world of the birth of the Armenian Republic," said Mkrtoumian.
The issues faced by the first republic’s government were touched upon by Mkrtoumian–who also described the efforts of the authorities in creating necessary state structures. The Consul General mentioned how the Republic of Armenia became a member of the international community in 1918. Mkrtoumian spoke of the democratic republic established by Armenia’s–and how its memory was kept alive during the Soviet era.
"Today’s issues faced by Armenia–are of a pan-Armenian nature–calling on all individuals and public and political organizations to help in resolving them. Our primary concern right now is the development of Armenia’s economy. Today–our success and pledge to strengthen Armenia–once again depends on our unity," concluded Mkrtoumian.
Ani Garikian spoke on behalf of the ARF Western USA Central Committee. In her opening remarks–Garikian noted how the May 28 celebration represents the desire of Armenia’s to live a free and independent life–with the right to choose their own destiny. "As we celebrate the spirit of the independent Armenian Republic of 1918–and the relentless men and women who fought–literally tooth and nail to make that dream a reality in the most dire of circumstances–it is important to focus on how we can apply that spirit to the reality of today–" said Garikian.
Garikian stated that although independence is probably the single most important cornerstone of our national aspirations–it is only the first step on the long and arduous road to freedom. " It is said that freedom is the struggle for dignity. As Armenia’s–our dignity is tied to our collective existence. As individuals–we cannot live a truly free and dignified life–unless we partake in the struggle to secure our national dignity which can only be accomplished by the strengthening and stabilization of the independent Republic of Armenia," added Garikian.
Armenia’s living in the Diaspora must decide what role they could play in helping Armenia enter a strong and stable era–said Garikian. She encouraged Armenia’s to engage in this struggle now so that the past can be honored–the present respected–and the future secured.
The opening flag-raising ceremony was performed by the Los Angeles chapter of Homenetmen. The Armenian and American national anthems were sung by Souren Hazarian of Alex Pilibos Armenian School –who was accompanied by pianist Levon Aprahamian. The cultural program featured Hamazkayin’s "Kousan" choir directed by Prof. Ara Manash–and Hamazkayin’s "Ani" dance group directed by Yeghia Hasholian and Suzy Parseghian-Tarpinian.
Popular singer Alla Levonyan–who had traveled from Yerevan–also performed a few songs. It should be noted that Levonyan will be in concert at the Alex Theater in Glendale on Friday–June 15.
The evening commenced with Harout Pamboukjian and Karnig Sarkissian performing patriotic songs.