BOSTON, Mass.—Governor Charlie Baker was inside his element Friday. And it wasn’t even an election year.
In addressing a crowd of 275 at the Massachusetts Statehouse, he reached out to an assembly of children seated up front, encouraging them to learn their history.
He then left the podium and proceeded to give each child a high-five and a fist bump in embracing the lot. The youngsters were there from St. Stephen’s Elementary School and the Zankagner Performing Arts Ensemble.
“Pay attention to your history,” he pointed out. “Learn from it and pass it along to others. There are folks around us who refuse to acknowledge history and it brings us harm.”
The governor spoke of President Serge Sarkisian’s “rock ‘n roll” visit to Boston and how the statehouse laid out a red carpet for the visiting dignitary.
“You could just see the warmth,” he said. “He felt this was home to him. We shared our common values and our faith and hope for the future. We are truly grateful for everything the Greater Boston Armenian community has done—and we will always welcome you back to the statehouse.”
The governor then made his exit, but not before stopping short in his tracks and personally greeting 106-year-old genocide survivor Asdghig (Tetezian) Alemian whose smile remained firm. It was later noted that the governor spoke of family and survival with Alemian, who is reportedly the state’s oldest survivor.
She was joined at the gathering by two sons, Alan and Stephan, along with two daughters, Claire and Susan. Alemian is known for her intricate needlepoint and lace after emigrating here from Keghi, where she was born in 1910. She bore seven children in all and helped with the family business in addition to raising her family.
“My mother is always proud whenever she attends these commemorations,” said son Stephan. “As long as her health holds up, she’ll be counted among the rest. She owes her longevity to her rich heritage and to God for keeping her blessed.”
The events were also highlighted by the presentation of three Governor’s Proclamations by Committee Chairwoman Ladling Musserian. Recipients were:
– Boston’s Conventures with Dusty Rhodes and her staff, an event planning company.
– Knights of Vartan Ararat Lodge No. 1, for its extreme service at genocide commemorations and other areas.
– Armenian Genocide Education Committee of Merrimack Valley for promoting human rights and genocide curriculum throughout public schools over the past seven years.
Dusty Rhodes and her staff have been virtually relentless when it comes to event planning. They worked tirelessly with the Armenian Centennial Commemoration Committee while planning and implementing a series of events for 2015. Conventures made substantial contributions to the centennial, designing and coordinating the commemoration to reflect the strengths of the Commonwealth’s Armenian community.
The Knights from Lodge 1 have undertaken numerous activities for the betterment of the Armenian Republic world-wide. They’ve harbored the initiative to ensure success at Armenian Heritage Park, underwritten the expense of transportation costs to ensure attendance for Statehouse events, and volunteer as ushers, marshals and support staff, not to mention scholarships and medical supplies to Armenia. Suffice it to say they personify the complete package.
Accepting the award were Haig Deranian, former national chairman, and Armen Bogossian, commander.
The Merrimack Valley Education Committee has focused its energy upon educating students on the Armenian Genocide and its effects upon our culture and society, in addition to providing panel discussions on comparative genocides over the past 100 years.
They’ve provided ongoing resources for schools toward classroom use, donated books, rallied students into ambassadors and encouraged them to intermingle with legislators. Over these seven years, they’ve built up a repository of 15 school districts and some 6,000 students.
Accepting the tribute were Chairman Dro Kanayan, Tom Vartabedian and Dr. Ara Jeknavorian. They are joined by Gregory Minasian.
When the earthquake took place in Armenia during that fatal year of 1988, few government officials reached out more than Boston Mayor Ray Flynn. He helped raise awareness, collecting millions of dollars in relief aid and personally delivered the resources to the devastated lands.
Following his tenure as a three-term mayor (1984-1993), he was appointed the United States Ambassador to the Vatican, but never lost sight of Armenia, now serving as a political diplomat.
“I was an Irish Catholic in Boston who grew to know the Armenian community very well,” said Flynn. “The survivors especially communicated with me as a voice that was truly united and potent. What’s happening in Nagorno-Karabagh is genocide, too, and we must put a stop to it. The challenges rest with the rest of the world to make this happen.”
Flynn concluded his impromptu talk by encouraging Armenians to stay organized and serve effectively as ambassadors of their own.
“Use yourselves as champions of your own cause,” he emphasized.
United States Senator Edward Markey reiterated the comments made by Pope Francis in recognizing the genocide and took a critical look at President Barack Obama for backing down on his promises.
“We must heed the Pope’s words to tell the truth about the evil that’s been perpetrated since 1915,” he said. “Seven years have passed in this administration and still no spoken word of genocide in any concept. I urge the President to seize his final opportunity before leaving office to recognize what happened to the Armenians as genocide.”
Senator Markey also voiced his concern over the turmoil in Nagorno-Karabagh and remained firm in his mission to get proper legislation passed in Congress.
“Armenia is right and Turkey is wrong,” the Senator added. “And we must continue to lend our resources to help make Armenia a solvent nation.”
House Speaker Robert DeLeo pointed to the Armenian Heritage Park as a reflection of how unity and resolve can create a better society. He noted the thousands who visit the park annually and take notice of the memorial.
“Human spirit outshines inhumanity,” he maintained.
Other messages were brought forth by Representative Jonathan Hecht as master of ceremonies; Jack Keverian, in reflecting about his late brother George, who launched these Statehouse observances 31 years ago as House Speaker; Representative David Muradian, the lone Armenian in the House, along with Representative James Miceli and Senator Will Brownsberger.
Schoolchildren from St. Stephen’s Elementary School sang the National Anthems while the Homenetmen Scouts provided the color guard.
An inspiring performance by the Zankagner Arts Ensemble brought the crowd to its feet. The group was led by artistic director Hasmik Konjoyan.
Also providing a musical interlude was the duo of Jasmin Atabekyan (piano) and Emily Gasparyan (violin) who teamed up to perform an exciting rendition of Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance.”
Prayers were offered by Rev. Msgr Andon Atamian, pastor, Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church, and Rev. Fr. Mikael Der Kosrofian, pastor, Soorp Asdvadzadzin Armenian Apostolic Church.
An informal reception followed at the Grand Staircase, provided by Ani Catering of Belmont, and a video especially created by film-maker Roger Hagopian about Armenia and the survival of a nation.
Special thanks was given to Lalig Musserlian and her committee for organizing yet another eclectic commemoration.
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West