ANC-WR 2009 Banquet: Vicken Sonentz Papazian Reflects on the Dreams of a Generation

Words Spoken at the 2009 ANC-WR Banquet


Less than a century ago, the Armenian nation was pushed to the brink of extinction. We know this to be true because we have mothers and fathers, and grandmothers and grandfathers, who can, with great pain, attest to the unspeakable horrors of the century past.  

We often refer to that generation as “the survivors” – – they should more rightfully be called the dreamers.   Dreamers who had the audacity to dream long after the rest of the world had written their obituary.  

Naturally, the dreams of that fading generation, our finest generation, were far more modest than those we have today.  For the mother who marched with her child through the choking heat of the Syrian dessert, her parting dream was simply that her child, live to remember his name, and remember that he is Armenian.  

And the child, who somehow emerged from the death march through the dessert, did indeed remember his name and that he is Armenian and all that meant, and in doing so kept his and every Armenian mother’s dream alive.  

And that dwindling generation of dreamers, some of whom reside in your homes, took their parents humble dream and built a vision around it for themselves and their nation.

Today, less than a century later, it is that same vision, and that same audacious dream that has spurred two Armenian states to emerge, supported by a thriving and prosperous diaspora.  

And how is such an improbable rebirth of the Armenian nation possible? The Answer is simple — Look around you, seated at every table here tonight is an individual success, borne out of hard work and talent, certainly, but most of all borne out of an ambition  – – a vision of him or herself that is greater than anyone would have thought.  A living embodiment of what Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

You, my friends, are living proof that success all begins with a vision of that success.

From its inception, the goal of the Armenian National Committee has been to take that individual talent and transform it into collective success.  And to do that we need to share a common vision, to strive for a common purpose.  Recent events, culminating in the signing of this ill advised protocol, prove that we have much work ahead of us.

I venture to say that if you each were tasked with drafting the provisions of a treaty with Turkey no one here tonight would prepare a document, like this protocol. A document that, by its very inclusion of a commission to study the events of 1915, casts doubt about the truth of the Armenian Genocide, and that opens the door to relinquishing our rightful claims to reparations and restitution.

Why then, must we – – a nation built on vision and dreams embrace a document so rooted in desperation and so devoid of vision and hope?   A document that is wholly inconsistent with the aspirations that, more than anything else, have allowed us to sit here today, as individual successes and as builders and shareholders in two Armenian states.

The successes of the last 90 years are conclusive proof that the Armenian Nation can rightfully be optimistic about the future.  Hard work, sacrifice and vision have made the Armenian Cause well known to friend and foe alike. Let us never forget that it is the persistence of our dreams that has served as the inspiration for brave Turkish intellectuals, who at great personal risk challenge the government’s wisdom of denial and cover-up and effect real grassroots change.  

This ill advised document effectively renders that work obsolete, since the very important process of Turkish self examination will now be tasked to government selected representatives, who will follow the dictates of a Turkish government that continues to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every month to deny and cover-up the Armenian Genocide. This document, and the lack of vision that allowed it to spawn, is a serious obstacle to the Armenian dream.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today, our challenge is not to divide the nation – – – or denigrate our brethren – – as wrong as we believe they may be – – but rather to engage in a healthy and vigorous dialogue, to alert our misguided brothers and sisters of the errors of their ways and to build a better nation and a greater collective vision, a vision befitting the lofty ambitions we hold for ourselves and our loved ones.

We are a nation descended from the footsteps of beleaguered children, crossing a vast dessert. Those children, now elderly and infirm, pass on the dream given to them to continue the struggle, to build the consensus and vision and continue our march forward – to be another step forward toward the culmination of the Armenian miracle.

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