BY PAUL TERNAMIAN
Being outnumbered six to one is never a good position to be in-or so I thought. For this year’s ANCA Leo Sarkisian internship, I found myself as the lone Canadian intern from Toronto who made the trip to Washington D.C. for the summer. Having lived in Canada, this trip was going to be a great experience to learn, first hand, the inner workings of the Congress as a legislative body of the American government. Completing the team were the six other homegrown interns from various parts of the United States, including California, Michigan and New Jersey, representing the youth of their respective American Armenian communities. Nevertheless, as a Canadian citizen and active member of the ANC Toronto chapter, I was keen to begin working side by side with members of my fellow ANC sister chapters in the U.S.
Interestingly, towards the end of the first week in the nation’s capital, I received some reassuring news from our government north of the border. As we worked diligently here in the U.S. to gain Congressional support for Armenian Genocide legislation (H. Res. 106), news broke that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reaffirmed his position properly acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. As a proud Canadian, I ran down the stairs and announced the fact to the office and joked that Canada was ahead of the U.S. on this issue. The Canadian Senate had adopted the Armenian Genocide resolution in 2002, the House of Commons in 2004 and the Prime Minister had properly commemorated the Armenian Genocide in 2006 and 2007. Nothing like injecting some friendly country-to-country competition into the equation to motivate our intern team to work even harder in the effort to secure a House vote on H.Res.106.
Having lived in Canada all my life, the Leo Sarkisian internship has been a unique learning experience which has not only granted me first hand knowledge of the inner workings of Congress as a legislative body of the American government but also provided me with a better understanding of grassroots strategies of community activism.
One of the most memorable events we attended in D.C. was the annual Congressional Baseball game between Republicans and Democrats. As we entered the overpowering grey corridor just outside RFK Stadium, home of the Washington Nationals baseball team, our clever signs supporting our favored members of congress drew the attention of many local fans. Examples include, “Weiner is a Winner” and “ANCA loves Joe Baca” The highlight of the night was when the interns met and took a picture with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of our way out of the stadium. The level of excitement and enthusiasm from cheering fans during the Congressional Baseball game between two teams on opposite sides of the political spectrum rivaled that of many Toronto Blue Jay home games.
However after the 2nd inning of play, I couldn’t help but wonder about the possibility of creating a Canadian version of the Congressional Baseball game with a different twist. How would Canadians react to Liberal MP’s facing-off against Conservative MP’s in a Parliamentarian Hockey game live on Hockey Night in Canada? This would surely help promote political awareness amongst the general public to potentially increase voting numbers, not to mention the possibility of raising significant monies for charity.
This summer marked the first time that I celebrated Canadian Independence Day outside of Canada and American Independence Day in the United States. Following the July 1st and July 4th celebrations, I learned two very important lessons. Firstly, it is not where everyone came from that is most important but what he or she came here to learn and what they will have to offer and give back to the community upon their return. The fact is that we came from different parts of North America to help advance our communities’ collective Cause from the nation’s power center and to hone in on new strategies of community activism.
The second lesson was summed up in a story relayed by ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian during his opening address to the interns. A man, when asked what he wishes for, replied by saying, “Peace in my time.” The great western philosopher Thomas Paine, replied, “If there must be trouble let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” It is our responsibility, as future leaders of various Armenian communities to not only continue to fight on behalf of our Cause but compel future generations to realize their obligations towards this Cause. It is this consistent and diligent effort from all members of the community in tandem with effective leadership demonstrated by organizations like the ANCA that will support a free, united and independent Armenia.