BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
On this visit, Marie Yovanovitch didn’t quite earn the article-title I heard peeved her— Yavan-oghloo. Perhaps her warm-up-the-audience bit about her name being the same as Richard Hovanissian’s (both rooted in the name John in different languages) was designed to prevent such a repeat appellation.
Her presentation, as perhaps couldn’t be otherwise, consisted of facts and figures about U.S. supported activities in Armenia. Informative, but hardly inspiring, and close to insipid (yavan).
Once again, I’m left wondering why they (the State Department) bother with this ambassadorial touring. Despite her claims in a RFE/RL interview that it’s important to reach out to Armenians who live in the U.S. for input and insights because of our involvement in Armenia, this visit, at least in LA, did not serve the stated purpose. About sixty people attended her presentation in a hall that could’ve easily held quadruple that. As I stated there- how embarrassing! The location, UCLA, and time, 7:00 pm on a weeknight, rendered it a virtual certainty precious few people could or would attend. When asked about this, she claimed that her last tour went through Armenian community institutions. This time, they wanted to try academic locations. I looked up, on the embassy’s website, where she’d spoken. Of the four cities, only two of the community forums were held on campuses, the other two at Marriot hotels. I suppose she’d argue “well, we had meetings with campus student groups at Berkeley and UCLA”. But those are akin to the meetings with various organizations’ representatives that she held in Philadelphia, Detroit, San Francisco, and LA. Why she felt the need to be deceptive is beyond me.
This evasiveness persisted in the Q & A part of the program, too. Most of the queries received “It’s not for me to say” type answers or talking without saying much other than generalities. Even when she did directly and well answer a question, a queasy feeling persisted.
At least on this tour, they had the decency to hide the thugs, er “security” people behind the curtains of the stage, visible only from an extreme angle. They must’ve realized out how inappropriate it was to ban the recording of her words, this time simply requesting that her words not be publicized until after her full was complete.
Once again, this was a disappointment. Let’s see what happens when she next makes the rounds in another 16 months. If you’ve got suggestions, let the public relations geniuses at the State Department know.