Community Flocks to ARF Day Celebration; Hundreds turned away due to hall capacity; Organizers pledge a larger venue for future events
BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
GLENDALE—With a message highlighting the imperative for a national agenda to collectively elevate the Armenian Nation, a capacity crowd gathered at the Glendale High School Auditorium to celebrate the 123rd anniversary of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
Enumerating the many challenges facing the Armenian Nation today, Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee Chairman Dr. Viken Hovsepian in his keynote speech proposed a five-point plan for “national salvation” and heralding in a new era of collectively working toward the advancement of the Armenian Nation.
Citing the almost epidemic wave of emigration from Armenia, the continued usurpation of power by Armenia’s ruling elite as a result of which the basic needs of the population are ignored, as well as the worsening crisis in Syria and its impact and implication for the Armenian community there, Hovsepian called on each and every Armenian to take charge of the fate of the nation.
The proposed “National Salvation Program,” as put forth by Hovsepian envisions the prioritization of national ideology as the backbone to addressing all issues that impact the Armenian national security; granting of citizenship to every Armenian in the world prior to 2015; the immediate withdrawal of Armenian government’s signature from the dangerous Turkey-Armenia protocol; the convention of the a truly all-inclusive national conclave where each and every Armenian in represented; and the restructuring of Armenia’s government in a manner that ensures each Armenian is represented.
“These are unusual times fraught with danger that require abrupt and maximalist solutions,” said Hovsepian.
“We must understand that values and interests of the Nation are far above the individual interests” of the Homeland and Diaspora, said Hovsepian adding that the Armenian government cannot weaken one of the pillars of our National Ideology by, for example, “prioritizing the opening of the border over the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide and act shrewd by throwing the ‘Karabakh card.’” By the same token, Hovsepian said, Diaporan Armenians cannot compromise strengthening and advancement of Armenia under any circumstances.
Delivering the youth message was Armenian Youth Federation Central Executive member Sanan Shirinian, who recounted her experience as an AYF member and highlighted the organization’s input in advancing the Armenian Cause.
“As the youth wing of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the responsibility of ensuring the ARF is remain revolutionary falls upon us. We are the ones who can take advantage of being risk-takers, of being khents, unafraid of any uphill battle,” said Shirnian.
“The generations before us left an impressive legacy, and now the responsibility falls on us ..to take what we have learned from them, and raise the bar. To not rest, until we know our future successors will look back on us, and become inspired by the work we do,” added Shirinian. (See the complete text of Shirnian’s speech below)
The capacity crowd that attended the event forced Glendale city authorities to shutter the doors of the auditorium. As a result, unfortunately, hundreds of community members had to be turned away at the entrance because the hall was filled to capacity. Organizers issued an apology Monday, pledging that a larger venue would be secured for future such events.
The program began with the Homenetmen Scouts conducting an impressive flag ceremony, with the American national anthem being performed by Toukhman Khachadourian. Then the curtain was raised to reveal the hundred-strong AYF Junior Choir, which performed the Armenian and ARF anthems to the thunderous applause of the audience.
Masters of Ceremony Balabek Barsamyan and Palig Demirdjian provided welcoming remarks and guided the programs various facets, which included an “In Memoriam” video presentation that paid homage to ARF members from the Western Region who had died during the past year.
The vibrant cultural program included performances by Hamazkayin Ani and Nairi dance troupes; performances by Krisdapor Arabian; Harout Pamboukjian; Araksia Varterestian; the Chamlian Armenian School Chorus under the direction of Nora Roumian-Bairamian; and a unique recitation by Sona Madarian, Ara Yacoubian, Maral Varjabedian, Seda Martir and Ani Ghazarian.
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Sanan Shirinian’s Remarks
“Good Evening everyone, honored guests and friends,
The 123rd anniversary of the ARF is undoubtedly a moment of celebration and reflection for the AYF as well, for we are its future inheritors.
As the youth wing of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the responsibility of ensuring the ARF is remain revolutionary falls upon us. We are the ones who can take advantage of being risk-takers, of being khents, unafraid of any uphill battle.
There are truly no words I can use to describe the experience of living as an AYF member. No matter how descriptive or how convincing, the satisfaction can only be understood after you have been a part of it. After you’ve experienced your first seminar, your first marathon meeting, or your first completed project.
Despite these verbal limitations, I will try to demonstrate why the AYF, so many years after its establishment, remains one of the most relevant organizations in our daily lives.
We live in a time when education is highly valued, and nearly all of us have the opportunity to pursue as high a degree as we wish. It is extremely important for our youth to be educated, to be smart members of this society, so that they are heard and respected. However, the AYF is where we go from being just smart, to being wise. The AYF is where Armenian youth become thinkers; it is what gives us the opportunity to get up close and personal with the truths learned in our textbooks. It allows us to live out loud, and value real human interactions.
The facts and histories may be what make us smart, but its all of those complimentary experiences that make us wise.
The AYF strives to advance the goals of a free, independent and united Armenia. Toward that end, it is dedicated to the principles of freedom, democracy, self-determination, and economic and social justice. To stay focused what it has set out to do, the AYF cannot allow either praise or blame to distract us. Roadblocks greet us at every corner, some even put up by ourselves, questioning how we can make a real difference, especially in American society; in a foreign system that is so deeply embedded in individual success, leaving hardly any room for collective social responsibility.
We easily forget, that it was not too long ago the frustrated youth in this country severely disrupted the status quo. Their disobedience changed the world of art, music, politics, racial and gender roles… Therefore, we too have the ability to live and work as progressives concerned with our national wellbeing, even in this American reality. In fact, the very privileged circumstances under which we live allow us to explore increased opportunities.
Whether our actions are contained or transgressive, whether they are labeled as successes or failures, they have an impact on us all. They set in motion a direction for the future of Armenian youth. Therefore, the obstacles we face along the way can at most be momentary distractions, because we can only move ahead, beating the most unbeatable odds.
It may sometimes feel as though the commitment, drudgery and intensity of the endless work we are up against, is bound to weaken us. But quite the opposite; its brings out of us our greatest strengths. It helps us identify our greatest skills, all of which become transferable to the world around us.
The projects set forth by the AYF can at times be very intimidating, and there are moments before embarking upon each endeavor that many of us doubt our own capabilities. In 2005, the year I joined the AYF, that challenge was a 215-mile march from Fresno to Sacramento, an opportunity a 16 year old could find no where else. This year, the challenge was directing volunteers and hundreds of local children In Armenia for our Youth Corps program.
With each projects end, upon coming face to face with the challenging work we may feel unprepared for, we all inch closer to being wiser, more conscious and we gain the experience needed to take on more. As my last year in the AYF approaches, I come to realize that we are the youth of the ARF, and that is one of our greatest challenges.
To give a brief insight of our work during this fiscal year, over the past five months the AYF has organized an educational seminar with over 100 participants, published an issue of Haytoug dedicated to different social and political movements, launched a community basketball program for special needs kids, participated in a global AYF conference in Armenia, and opened a new chapter in the North Valley region. We have welcomed over 30 new members, and many more are in the process of joining. By no means are we satisfied with these accomplishments, as they are merely small steps… part of the long journey toward an ideal end. We are dedicated to serving our local communities, and to ensuring the continued development of our homeland, but most importantly, we are dedicated to disintegrating the division amongst the two. Yet we need a more empowered effort, we need our youth to be convinced of their capabilities to create something positive for the Armenian nation. We need them to be convinced of their potential to be leaders and thus servants of a people.
At 16 when you first join the AYF, it’s like stepping into a world of possibilities; the work you do is not measured by success, you accept the risk of failure, so long as the activities planned cause some sort of excitement. These early years are valuable, because it is when our eyes are opened to the social and political Armenian realities, and we experience the potential of collective organizing.
As you mature into the organization you find yourself becoming more critical and cautious of the work you undertake. These later years can be the most prolific. At the ages of 24 25, you can act upon your youthful rebellious instincts, while employing a wider worldview and thoughtful perceptive. These are the years when you are caught in the crossfires of thinking and feeling.
And Throughout all the ten years spent growing up in the AYF, more than family, more than school, the AYF becomes the major agent of our political socialization.
The AYF is where passion translates into action. And the actions we take, lead us to become meaningful members of the Armenian community. To have political value that allows us to belong as more than just spectators of the Armenian world.
When I look back and reflect on the heroisms in ARF and AYF history, of the ones who gave their lives, the ones who governed a republic, who built communities, I’m inspired beyond comprehension. The generations before us left an impressive legacy, and now the responsibility falls on us… to take what we have learned from them, and raise the bar. To not rest, until we know our future successors will look back on us, and become inspired by the work we do.”