BY GREGORY MIKHANJIAN
It didn’t really dawn on me that I was going to be on my own for the first time until I was flying over Oklahoma. I had left my home in sunny California and was on my way to the nations’ capital, only having a slight grasp on the type of work I was going to be involved in.
In the first week, we hit the ground running. Rather than a formal orientation into what our summer was going to look like, we were put right to work to ensure that two pro-Armenia amendments passed in Congress. Visiting every congressional office and speaking with staff about why they should support the amendments initially felt like an overwhelming task, but with each visit my confidence flourished.
One of the most exciting and enjoyable parts of the internship has been the crazy schedule. For the first amendment that we passed, I loved how we waited in the office watching the vote, waiting to see if we were going to harvest the fruits of our labor. What I loved even more than that was, after a brief celebration, our thoughts immediately turned to “what’s next.” We are always looking to achieve the next goal. It’s a “vazni vaz” job and I couldn’t be happier.
To put this experience into a single word, I would say that it was my dream. A dream that was defined by two exclusive criteria: being active in Washington, D.C. and incorporating myself into the work of Hai Tahd. Political work has always intrigued me, and while I have been active in my own state, I had always dreamed of working in D.C. As for my involvement with Hai Tahd, I have had the good fortune of being in the AYF for almost ten years. It was in that membership where I first learned about Artsakh, and I was ecstatic to be a part of the two pro-Artsakh amendments that also passed recently.
Perhaps some of the more profound moments for me have been in personally meeting with senators and Members of Congress. Seeing Senator Feinstein being receptive to our issues and casually exchanging jokes with her afterward was particularly memorable, because of how the tone of the meeting shifted so quickly; sometimes we forget they’re human too. Hearing Congressman Bilirakis call us his “Armenian cousins,” having a heartfelt conversation with Congresswoman Eshoo about the Armenian struggle, and hearing Congressman Sherman testify that Artsakh is historically Armenian were life-changing moments for me.
I had grown up always hearing about how Armenians had gotten the short end of the stick in so many different ways. So many failures and injustices committed against our people, it was no wonder that my view of American politics towards Armenia was negative. However, I came to this internship only to discover that the Armenian community possesses many friends in Washington. I was also reminded that incrementalism is a very real aspect of the political world. Change is agonizingly slow, almost to the point that it feels like regression, but this summer is proof that with tenacity and perseverance progress can be achieved.
Of the plethora of memories this internship has already given me, the most lasting will be the friendships that I have forged. Within the first week, it felt like we had already been living together for months. We can be arguing in one moment and laughing together in the next, and then a moment later we’re cooking and eating dinner together. It truly feels like a home away from home.
Earlier I mentioned that this internship was my first time living alone, but that wasn’t really true. This internship has done nothing but solidify my belief that William Saroyan was right when he said, “For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” That’s why I believe in Hai Tahd and the work that the ANCA does. I will never really be on my own as long as I have a fellow Armenian by my side. If there should be none around me, I’ll still always have Armenia in my heart and Hai Tahd on my mind.
Gregory Mikhanjian is a 2019 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Intern who attends Cal State University, Fullerton.