BY VICTORIA MESSIKIAN
Fordham University, Class of 2020
ANCA Leo Sarkisian Class of 2018
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when arriving at the ANCA’s Aramian House to participate in the Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship (LSI) Program in Washington, DC. I knew I would be living in a house with my fellow interns and that I would be working in an office every day on issues that impact our community and cause. Hai Tahd (Armenian Cause) has been close to my heart for as long as I can remember, and finally having the opportunity to do my part and give back to a community through the ANCA was an incredible feeling.
And so, I decided to keep a journal to document the journey my fellow interns and I would make over the following 8 weeks – and share some of the memories which meant the most to me.
June 24, 2018: It’s the end of week one, and the interns headed to Richmond, VA for the annual the ANCA picnic. Although the community is not as large as the one I’m used to back-home in New Jersey, their sense of Armenian pride and care to share our culture was inspiring. The rest of the LSI’s and I were welcomed with open arms by one of the warmest Armenian community’s I have ever encountered. We were immediately invited to eat our portions of freshly grilled kebab and pilaf, and the famous Richmond ‘Hye Burgers,’ in usual Armenian fashion.
While we were eating, we were greeted by Rose Soghoian, bearing a large bag with eight books, one for each intern, titled “Portrait of a Survivor” by Florence M. Soghoian. Florence, her sister who had recently passed away, had detailed her family’s story of Armenian Genocide survival in the hopes that it would inspire future generations to remember the past and take action for a better future. Rose’s thoughtful and generous gesture accurately exemplified the attitude of the Richmond Armenian community. They wanted to learn about our stories while simultaneously sharing theirs.
Several shourch bars (circle dance) later, we started our trek back to DC – a 90-minute journey which took twice that, reminiscing about the friends we made, anxious to see what week two would bring.
June 26, 2018: The arrival of Armenia President Armen Sarkissian brought a whirlwind of events and activities to the nation’s capital. The LSI interns were support staff for the “Capital Hill Celebration of a Century of U.S.-Armenia Relations” – which meant doing everything from following up on Congressional invitations to ensuring that the event itself ran smoothly.
Welcoming and speaking to the leader of a nation – of my nation – and helping during his first trip to D.C. was something that I had never imagined I would have the opportunity to do.
In his speech, President Sarkissian emphasized the importance of Diasporan Armenians and the role we play in furthering our cause. “Maybe the state is small, but we are a global nation. We are everywhere from Russia to Paris, from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires, to Sydney to Hong Kong,” stated President Sarkissian, and he continued: “The 21st century, is going to be our century. The time when the world was run by interest in energy, oil, natural resources, is gradually declining. The new era is the time when human values, the brain, hard work, honesty, and talent will be driving the world.”
Inspired, we all headed back to the ANCA offices to make sure this message of hope and progress is shared as broadly as possible with both our worldwide community and Congress. It was a late night – filled with transcribing and video editing and pizza – worth every minute (and calorie) of it.
July 27, 2018: Our LSI Director Tereza Yerimyan had scheduled us to visit with Aregnazan Manucharyan at the International Monetary Fund and Politico’s Senior Politics Editor Charlie Mahtesian to get a sense of a “day-in-the-life” of these two team leaders and explore potential career paths. Both were captivating in their presentations, but my interests gravitated to the world of modern coverage of politics – a direction that I had never imagined for myself before. My passion for politics, journalism, and media was packed into one place. And, with two more years to go to complete my Bachelors in International Relations, I have plenty of time to explore a journalism minor.
Each of these three vignettes embodies what it means to be a Leo Sarkisian Intern. From Rose in Richmond to President Sarkissian from Yerevan, Aregnazan at the IMF to Charlie at Politico – the LSI interns learned what it takes to excel in your chosen field, and advance Armenian American priorities in their own way. As President Sarkissian said, “The 21st century, is going to be our century,” if we, collectively, make it so.