Matching Our Civic Voice to Our Economic Muscle

BY VARANT MELKONIAN and ROBERT H. SETRAKIAN

group-small

Armenian-Americans commemorate the 94th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide at the Montebello Genocide Memorial on April 24, 2009.

We have, as a community of Americans of Armenian heritage, done great things.

We have survived genocide, crossed the ocean, and settled here on America’s shores.

With the blessings of American liberty and opportunity, first, second, third, fourth, and now even fifth generation Armenians have prospered and contributed to nearly every sphere of American life: business, medicine, education, and the arts.

Our level of achievement is matched only by our ambition to accomplish, strive, and succeed at all we set our minds to. Few can match us.

We have also made our voice heard loud and clear in the civic arena, but not yet, we must admit, at a level truly commensurate with our community’s social and financial success.

It’s true that we have, through decades of hard work, earned a reputation as the powerful “Armenian lobby,” tackling some of the toughest interests in Washington. We have organized ourselves effectively in Washington, DC and as a far-reaching public policy network.

Each November, we are courted for our votes and campaign support.

But, as we saw in April, even after all we have accomplished, we are still a community that can be crossed, a constituency that can be sacrificed to foreign and financial pressures.

Why?

The easy answer is because our system of government, with all its profound strengths, is sometimes slow and not always fair. As American history has shown repeatedly, it often takes considerable time and effort to align our public policies with our values as a nation. All true, but that’s only part of the answer.

The tougher answer and the one that matters to us is that we simply need to grow stronger.

Our civic voice must match our economic muscle.

As has been noted by the ANCA before, if the Armenian American community were a corporation, the annual revenue we generate would rank us #65 on the Fortune 500. This is a point of great pride for a community that only a short while ago was largely made up of penniless refugees who dreamed of something better for themselves and the Armenian nation.

We can realize this dream by beginning to harness the vast wealth amassed by generations of Armenian families to the noble cause of strengthening our rightful role as full citizen stakeholders in shaping America’s policies at home and abroad.

These resources will take us to a new level in terms of influence and impact in the halls of power and beyond, forcing our elected officials to deliver real results and raising awareness of our cause far beyond the Capital Beltway, in communities, schoolrooms, and civic arenas across America.

To get this job done, we’ll need to start by helping hundreds of young Armenian Americans find government, media, and public policy jobs in Washington, DC, and we’ll have to dramatically expand our outreach to U.S. and international media, especially television, a time-consuming but essential effort that delivers a tremendous return on investment. Out in the field, new funding will allow us to send fieldworkers to communities and campuses to train activists to be effective advocates for the Armenian Cause. Where that’s not possible, we need to use cutting edge remote-learning and other technology-based programs to provide local leaders with powerful tools of civic activism. And this is just the start.

We need to do all this, and more, but we can only grow with the support of our community.

Only with this support will we have the power, respect, and influence to never be crossed again.

Let us all do our part to make this a reality by spreading the word to family and friends about the ANCA Telethon on May 31st: www.2009telethon.org

Editor’s Note: Varant Melkonian is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Closet World, Inc.; Robert H. Setrakian is Managing Director of the The Helios Group.

Authors

Discussion Policy

Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Though you are fully responsible for the content you post, comments that include profanity, personal attacks or other inappropriate material will not be permitted. Asbarez reserves the right to block users who violate any of our posting standards and policies.

12 Comments

  1. Hermine said:

    Our worst characteristic line is that we have a short memory, never learning lessons from our long history. That is why we cannot analyse the main purposes which we must fulfill.
    ALWAYS remember Khrimyan Hayrik’s words:”if you want get your part from international saucepan, you must have a spoon made of metal and not of paper”. This is valid for all the times and for all the nations.
    Many of our communities are strong in all over the world and help Armenia, but from inside Republic of Armenia is still very weak economicly, financely and militarly. So we are still without metal spoon. And it is out of sense to hope that somebody will respect us, if we are still almost no one in the world…
    What do you think, why USA helps always Turkey, now also Azerbaijan – becuase US has interests there. What is Armenia for US? Ask yourself this question? We had and still have opportunity to become a country like Israel, but do you see smth growing in Armenia? No industry, no agriculture, no turism…ect. If this situation will go on still for other 10 years I am afraid that we shall lose everything. No need to be offended from the other countries , every country thinks for its interests. And Armenia? For whose interests thinks Armenia?

  2. Rouben said:

    Now this sounds promissing but I can’t get a hold of Closet World’s link…
    Although just words, this is dynamic thinking!
    I’d like to read more

  3. Smbat said:

    Can someone clarify what the ANCA is and what exactly it does? We keep hearing about the ANCA, ANC PAC, ANCA Endowment Fund. What’s the difference???

    To be honest, I read Asbarez every day but I have no idea what the ANC’s history is and what they are doing now, except “genocide recognition”, which leaves a lot to the imagination. I want genocide recognition badly but I want to know what the ANCA is doing to achieve that before I donate. I ask my friends and none of them either knows what the ANCA really does.

    I work with stocks and when I’m trying to decide what to buy, I look at what the company has done and what it looks like it will do in the future. I stay away from the ones that have little information on them. I like to know what I’m putting my money into and I think if the ANCA was clearer about what they’ve done and what they plan to do, it will help raise more money.

    p.s. I read the website and it’s not enough information.

  4. Allen Yekikan said:

    Smbat, the ANCA has a long and storied history, dating as far back as 1918.

    In that year, while Armenian volunteers were rallying at the gates of Sardarabad to hold off the advancing Turkish armies, an Armenian lawyer by the name of Vahan Cardashian was recruiting American public support for the Armenian cause and fighting for congressional support for the independence of Armenia.

    This can be considered the beginning of the ANCA’s long history.

    Working alongside Armenia’s ambassador, Armen Garo, Cardashian rallied countless prominent American officials and public figures in support of the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia. The ACIA’s efforts led to an official recognition of the Armenian Republic by the United States in 1919 and secured President Woodrow Wilson’s support for a viable Armenian state as outlined in the Treaty of Sevres.

    Cardashian dedicated his life to the Armenian Cause. Although he was ultimately unable to prevent US collaboration with Kemalist Turkey, his sacrifices paved the way for the future efforts of Armenian advocacy in the United States.

    The Armenian National Committee of America was born in the late 1960s and built primarily on Cardashian’s legacy. Its founding mission was (and continues to be) to harness the budding influence of the maturing Armenian-American community.

    Its advocacy also seeks to promote, protect and advance Armenian-American interests; foster and strengthen US-Armenia relations; gain recognition and justice for the crime of the Armenian Genocide; and of course, provide Armenian-Americans with opportunities to get involved in politics and government in the United States.

    Simply put, the ANCA relies on grassroots empowerment to represent, defend and promote the interests of the Armenian American community in the United States.

    Relying on the strength of local chapters, spread throughout the country, the ANCA works today to “secure justice for the Armenian Genocide, insure the survival of the Republic of Armenia, protect the right to self-determination for Artsakh, and ensure that our Diaspora institutions–our schools, our community centers, our churches–all improve and grow as vital components of the Armenian nation.

    Today, the ANCA oversees a network of more than 50 chapters throughout the United States all working, individually and in coordination, to promote Armenian-American issues in local, state, and federal government.

    There is also international network of ANC’s throughout South America, Europe, and the Middle East. Each ANC works in their respective country to consolidate the political capital of the Armenian diaspora in support of issues of interest to those communities.

  5. Smbat said:

    Thank you, Allen, for the intro.

    Would it be possible to get either Aram Hamparian or another person from the ANCA to write an article on this? Since they are the ones actually doing the work, it would be good to see it coming from them. I don’t think many people will have read this comment page but they will no doubt read an article.

    By the way, great job to you and Asbarez for the new site!

  6. Anna said:

    Liovin hamamit em Herminei het.
    Aysor hamayn Hayutyan tiv 1 kndire petk e lini Hayastani hzoratsume. Bolor jankere petk e ughghvats linen dran!
    Ishkhanutiunnerin sirum enk te voch, da eakan che, drank antsoghik en. Karevore Hayots petakanutiunn e, vore 20 tari araj karogh er hrashk hamarvel. Aysor menk aid hrashkn unenk, yekek ais angam el aiyn dzerknerits bats chtoghnenk, da arden verje klini. Aidpisi hnaravorutiun el chenk unena.
    Unenk HZOR SPYURK, vorov hpartanum enk, bayts amenakarevore, petq e unenank HZOR HAYASTAN!!!

  7. Berj Kassabian said:

    I would like to add two more weaknesses to Hermine’s list , Moral Fortitude and National Unity. Unfortunately we lack these two very sorely.

  8. Arto said:

    Don’t agree with you Berj, the whole Karabagh war was won because of self-less volunteers who gave all for their nation, and if another war breaks out, there will be others amongst us who would do the same. We do have strong national unity and moral fortitude compared with other nations (especially those bordering Armenia). The only problem is that as a state, we are weak, landlocked, economically depressed and under seige. If we had our own land access to the sea, things would have been tremendously different. As the economy improves, so will the national self-esteem and the national unity and all other things which we are incorrectly labelled with.

  9. Zaven said:

    Good Answer, Arto

    ANCA and all the other Armenian Organizations need to work together, one voice and one goal in mind. All Armenian Organizations need to plan and organize a rally of 1.5 million Armenian and Friends in Washington DC; On Saturday and Sunday April 24th and 25th 2010. The 85th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. This rally will boost the self-confidence of all the Armenian people in U.S.A., Armenia and everywhere. Most importantly it will raise awareness of the on-going Turkish denial of their criminal history. We need to start planning now for next year. We are ready !!!
    Some years ago, the rally of one million men in Washington DC worked well for the African Americans!

  10. Haro said:

    While I agree fully with Hermine’s comments, and of course Khrimian Hayrig could be my great grandfather. Today, we indeed have an iron spoon, but unfortunately, now we have forgotten how to eat. Not only our memory is so short, but all we are supposed to remember is to shout Genocide, Genocide, Genocide… And what is more ironic than this, is that as soon as an Armenian intellectual opens her/his mouth, we close our ears, so that we can only concentrate on shouting “Genocide!”. Never mind that we are being committed to yet another more deadly kind of extermination, both in Diaspora and Armenia. Yes, I mean “ASSIMILATION”…
    These days, some of our so called community leaders are making more critical mistakes. Here is their statement “… in US we must have more Armenians in governmental positions…”. Will this truly resolve our problem, not at all, because we had high ranking politicians, and guess what? They were just like other politicians. No, this is not a solution at all. In fact, it is a diversion of the Armenian people, and it will retard the Armenian development and mobilization processes even further. We do not need more politicians. We need an army of “Armenian” intellectuals, “Armenian” scientists, “Armenian” artists, “Armenian” teachers, “Armenian” musicians, etc. Note that I have the word Armenian in quotes, because most Armenian (i.e. by blood) intellectuals today are sadly not so much “Armenian”, the same goes for scientists, artists, musicians, to name a few.
    The only good and strong things that we have today are the things that most Armenians are claiming that we don’t have. For example, they say that we don’t have strong military, this is false, we indeed do, if you compare to the proportion of population that we have today. They claim that we do not have strong government, well this is not true either, indeed we do have strong government.
    But the brains are twisted, the culture is being wiped out by assimilation, the intellectuals are being crucified by financial deprivation. Academies are being closed. All these, while the Western junk is being fed to us, both in diaspora and even in Armenia.
    Why Arzakh is not being fully populated, why are we spending millions on Las Vegas gambling, while our brethren are in grave need for our help. Why the Armenian intellectuals still have no alternative but to sell lolig in Yerevan to survive, can’t anyone observe these realities…
    Where is the concept of strength that St. Mesrop Mashtoz gave us? We are 6 million among more than a billion enemies, how can we survive and win? Obviously not only with military weapons, we will need smarter weapons. Guess what, history has already equipped us with such smart weapons, but we don’t like to use them, because we have been so much assimilated that we have forgotten who we were. We can only remember that we are Armenians a few hours on April 24, and that’s about it.
    WAKE UP ARMENIANS….

  11. Manooshag said:

    Hye, as an Armenian grandmother, having read the letters above, I behooves me to offer the following
    suggestion for those who apparently lack, yet seek knowledge of our Armenian history/nation. Books.

    To assist those of our community who have not been exposed or aware of such books, I am asking
    those in our Armenian community, to volunteer to take on such an undertaking, to join together (via Email) to establish a listing of books for varying ages to read……

    To offer to those who, for many and diverse reasons, were not seeking, not needing. But today – they want to know and are seeking and are needing….. Perhaps a website on the internet…. Medz Myrig, Manooshag

*

Top