WASHINGTON–The Embassy of Armenia hosted a reception on Nov. 16 in honor of prominent Armenian-American author and educator Peter Balakian, on the occasion of presenting to him the Armenian Medal of Movses Khorenatsi. The medal was awaded to Professor Balakian by President of Armenia Robert Kocharian. Established in 1993, this high government award is presented to individuals for “for their prominent contributions in the fields of culture, arts, literature, education, and humanities.”
Presenting the Movses Khorenatsi Medal to Professor Balakian, Ambassador Tatoul Markarian lauded Prof. Balakian’s literary accomplishmen’s, his active position and leadership on the Armenian issues, including the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. “Professor Peter Balakian is more than worthy of this award, for his books preserve for us and the entire humanity the record of the tragedies, the challenges, and the perseverance of the Armenian people in the most tragic chapter of our millenniums-old history,” noted the Ambassador.
In his remarks, Prof. Balakian noted the new “era of the Armenian narrative, a narrative that is founded on solid scholarship, literature, art, film, and other forms of expression, and on good teaching, and pedagogy, on the hard work of the classroom.” He urged the Armenia’s to support cultural life with their resources and to work together across their differences.
The reception was attended by leaders of the Armenian-American organizations, members of the Armenian-American community, academics and former diplomats.
Balakian thanked President Kocharian and Ambassador Markarian and in his remarks discussed the remarkable resilience of Armenia and the Armenian people:
“I don’t need to summarize the struggles and tragic events our culture has endured over the past 120 years, but one can say that few cultures in the West have endured what Armenia endured in the twentieth century: survivors of the first modern genocide, survivors of Stalin’s purges, the 1988 earthquake, blockades from Turkey and Azerbaijan, war in Karabakh, the struggle of new nationhood. If many of us in this room had told our grandparents 30 or 40 years ago that there would be an independent Armenia–a real country on the map–at the end of the twentieth century, they would have told us we were crazy. My daughter often reminds me that she and her generation are the first generation to experience the birth of an independent Armenia as a part of their coming of age,” said Balakian
He also noted that the impact of the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath on world politics, opinion, and ethics is extraordinary and is a sign of Armenian culture’s presence on the planet. “The events of this Fall and the extraordinary national and international coverage that H. Res. 106–the Armenian Genocide resolution–received–is a sign of how vital and dynamic our culture is.”
He stressed that education and the production of culture are the key to all of this progress.
“It is gratifying to be able to say in 2007 that we have educated significant hunks of Europe and North America and the Middle East about who we are and what our history has entailed. If you had asked Armenia’s in 1970 if we would have transmitted our history into popular consciousness, into the curriculum, into news of the day, I think they would have dismissed you as a dreamer. We have opened up an era of the Armenian narrative, a narrative that is founded on solid scholarship, literature, art, film, and other forms of expression, and on good teaching, and pedagogy, on the hard work of the classroom,” added Balakian
He closed by urging Armenia’s to support cultural life with their resources and to work together across their differences.
“Our obligation must be to fuel that cultural process, to see it as the source of change and growth; our talented politicians, administrators, organizers, philanthropists, professionals, can only move forward with the Armenian project if there is a rich intellectual and cultural foundation at the source,” he said.
“We must put our money and energy there. I hope we will also always pledge to work together, across our historical and political disagreemen’s, and across ego-obstacles, we must affirm the strength and achievement that comes from unity– and the ability to find the common ground we live on and hope to enlarge, as our work grows and continues,” commented Balakian.