BY HAGOP HOUSBIAN
University of La Verne – Class of 2018
2017 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Intern
It was the 18th of June, 2017 when I was sitting in Terminal 6 at LAX anxiously waiting to board the plane to head out to Washington, D.C. for my first time. I could not wait to experience the capital of the free world, let alone to get started and meet my fellow interns at the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship and Capital Gateway Program. About fifteen minutes before boarding, it was announced that the flight had been delayed for an hour. Subsequently, I resorted to reading my book, but my excitement would not allow me to continue reading for longer than a couple of minutes. And so I put my book down, set aside my phone, and sat back and reflected upon a variety of prominent things – my trip to D.C., the internship program, and Father’s Day -until it finally hit me. It all made perfect sense. I suddenly realized that on this Father’s Day, I was heading out to D.C. to contribute to my fatherland.
I continued to ruminate even further and the more I contemplated the more vividly it became to me that despite its fortuitous occurrence, the fact that it had coincided with Father’s Day had to have a significant meaning born within it. Մեր Հայրենիք (Mer Hayrenik), our national anthem, literally translates to Our Fatherland. Never had it been so symbolic and significant. Simultaneously, I reflected upon the sheer sentimental value of my lifelong objective in working for the Hai Tahd (Armenian Cause) – one that was indelibly instilled in me since the day I was born by my own father, hence its underlying lifelong nature. I recalled at that moment more than ever as to how he would tell me that we are the future generation of the Armenian Cause, and that pragmatic involvement would be the ideal way of engaging our youth to further our shared action toward justice and peace as a people. Explicably, it all became clear that at this particular Father’s Day, I would embark on an unparalleled journey to contribute to my Hayrenik – an ambition engendered from the amalgamation of all the patriotic and just values I have learned and inherited from my father throughout the years.
With that in mind, the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship has been nothing short of spectacular. The inner workings of Hai Tahd had always been among my most anxiously awaited initiatives, and to finally be able to directly contribute is indeed quite the milestone. My fellow interns’ diligence, intellect, and passion for the common cause of justice and freedom make it all the more inspiring and motivating. It truly is a joy when our work becomes something we want to do as opposed to something we have to do because of the overarching perseverance and heart that we all share. As the weeks go by, I get to learn and understand more about the importance of lobbying and delegation by taking part in the practical side of things. A few of the most impactful initiatives we have partaken in include calling district representatives to urge them into signing on to certain letters and amendments that directly help our cause, contacting constituents to do the same in advocating for justice and participation, and accumulating as many people as possible to sign up to our Rapid Responder Program which enables us to send emails to representatives on their behalf upon the most prominent issues that face the Armenian-American community. Earlier in the internship, during one of my calls to representatives, I was fortunate enough to get in contact directly with a congressman. I would consider this a paradigm of grassroots lobbying – one phone call that went straight to the congressman, ensuring that he had heard our concerns and acted upon it. Though a chance occurrence, it felt extremely impactful to have had communicated with a congressman firsthand in addressing an Armenian-American issue.
It also goes without saying as to how indispensable it is to note that the ANCA LSI takes place at the heart of it all – as an International Studies student, being in Washington D.C. has undoubtedly been the most insightful, rewarding, and strategic experience, especially in the context of the contemporary political climate in this day and age. What is most astounding is that I write this only halfway through the entire eight weeks’ worth of our stay in the capital. Through all of the remarkable people we have met thus far, the tireless work we have put into the Armenian Cause, and the unforgettable experiences we have shared in the city, I look ahead with great eagerness as I know the best is yet to come. We all find ourselves here in the ANCA headquarters, coming from different corners of the world, for the purpose of achieving our mutual responsibility: To continue and preserve the work of our fathers and forefathers for a free and independent Armenia.
Մեր Հայրենիք, ազատ անկախ,
Որ ապրել է դարէդար:
Our Fatherland, free, independent,
That has for centuries lived.