GLENDALE—“If any Armenian—individual, political party, organization—is ready to serve the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora, we are going to work with them.” This clear and loud message was delivered by Mkhitar Hayrapetyan, Armenia’s Diaspora Minister on Monday during a community town hall meeting at the Pacific Community Center, where a capacity crowd turned out to greet the young minister on his first official visit to Los Angeles since being appointed to that position.
“For me, as a government official, but one who in spirit and ideology is a revolutionary, it would be indulgent to separate and classify the chosen ones from the rejected, as it has been done before,” said Hayrapetyan who reiterated his and his ministry’s willingness to work with any Armenian who is willing to selflessly devote his/her energy toward the advancement of the homeland, Artsakh and Diaspora, without any preconditions.
Hayrapetyan also said that the time had come for Armenia to view the Diaspora in a new light—as an equal partner in the effort to strengthen Armenia. He said that he was there to serve the Diaspora and its needs.
He said that thus far during his visit to Los Angeles he had the opportunity for meet with myriad individuals, organizations and political parties, which had served as an important lesson in understanding the complex issues and challenges that especially the Los Angeles community is facing and confronting.
Organized by the Ministry of Diaspora of Armenia and the Consulate General of Armenia in Los Angeles and hosted by the city of Glendale and its mayor Zareh Sianyan, the town hall was kicked off by Sinanyan who welcomed the minister to the city of Glendale. He pointed to the exuberant audience and emphasized the thirst the diaspora has in enhancing relations with the homeland. He then introduced the evening’s moderator Gev Iskajyan to begin the program.
As Iskajyan thanked the attendees and invited Hayrapetyan to make his welcoming remarks, the minister requested that all cameras be turned off during the first portion of his remarks.
Iskajyan then provided a brief background on the Diaspora Minister and explained some of the works that Hayrapetyan had been involved with.
“Mkhitar Hayrapetyan was recently appointed as the Minister of Diaspora following the Velvet Revolution in May 2018. Hayrapetyan is an Orientalist who has worked at several media organizations including Armnews, AraratNews and 1in.am as an analyst. He was recently appointed as the Minister of Diaspora following the Velvet Revolution and has recently served as Coordinator of Diaspora Affairs for the Civil Contract Party and as Nor Nork’s regional chairman of the Civil Contract Party,” said Iskajyan.
At the beginning of the discussion Hayreptyan conveyed his impressions of the Los Angeles community, noting that the positive energy had made him forget that he had a fever. He added that after meeting with members and various organizations of the community, he is hopeful for what is yet to come.
Among some of the topics addressed were the situation of various diasporan communities around the world, youth in general, and some of the new programs being implemented by the ministry like Neruzh.
Hayrapetyan emphasized that most members of the new government are young, however, they are gaining more and more experience every day. He added that many participants of the Velvet Revolution were also young and were able to have a huge impact on the society. Hayrapetyan assured the audience that they will never be arrogant.
“There will always be people that have their doubts and worries, but we will have a chance to prove all of those people wrong with our readiness, our professionalism, and our work,” said Hayrapetyan.
The Minister went on to explain that education is most essential in all their policies and initiatives. He added that, whether the discussion revolves around schools in Armenia or the diaspora or combating assimilation and asking for various professions to come to Armenia, it’s all tied to education.
“The Republic of Armenia has to change how it treats the Diaspora. We have to take care of the Diaspora,” said Hayrapetyan. “The Diaspora is standing strong with us and we have to create a government that is standing strong with the Diaspora.”
Following the discussion, members of the audience had the opportunity to ask questions from the minister.
In attendance were Western Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Western Diocese; Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian; a representative of the Catholic Eparchy; and a representative of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America. Also present were California State Senator Anthony Portantino, Glendale City Mayor Zareh Sinanyan, along with Councilmembers Vartan Gharpetian, Ara Najarian, Paula Devine and Vrej Agajanian. Representatives from the offices of Congressman Adam Schiff, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, and Adrin Nazarian were also present as well as GUSD Superintendent Winfred B. Roberson, GCC Board of Trustees Member Dr. Armine Hacopian, GUSD Board of Education Members Dr. Armine Gharpetian, Nayiri Nahabedian and Shant Sahakian, and BUSD Board of Education member Dr. Armond Aghakhanian. Also attending were Glendale City Manager Yasmin Beers and Chief of Police Carl Povilaitis. Representatives and leaders from several dozen cultural, philanthropic, educational and youth-oriented community based organizations were also in attendance.