On July 22, 2019, the Armenian Bar Association, like legion of admirers within and outside of the Armenian community, heard with deep sorrow and accepted with heavy heart the news of the passing of a bold and brave paragon of high moral character, Robert M. Morgenthau.
Mr. Morgenthau passed away 10 days short of his 100th birthday and will be remembered as an irreproachable public figure, most notably—for Americans – as New York’s long-serving district attorney and—for Armenians—as the grandson of U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau.
Knowing well that the Morgenthau family inhabits a hallowed sanctuary within the annals of American and Armenian history, separately and inter-connectedly, our leadership in New York immediately contacted the Foreign Minister of Armenia, Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.S., and Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, advising of the rueful report of Mr. Morgenthau’s passing and requesting a letter of condolence from Armenia’s Prime Minister. We also reached out to our spiritual leaders at the Diocese and the Prelacy, securing their representation at Mr. Morgenthau’s memorial service.
On the eve of the memorial service at the Frank Campbell Funeral Chapel, accompanied by U.N. Ambassador Mher Margaryan and with the facilitation of Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan, Armenian Bar Board member Souren Israelyan personally delivered Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s letter of condolence to the Morgenthau family in which the head of government conveyed the Armenian nation’s sympathies and gratitude. [See https://www.primeminister.am/en/condolence/item/2019/07/24/Nikol-Pashinyan-condolences/.]
On the morning of the memorial service, July 25, 2019, a delegation of Armenian Bar representatives assembled in homage to and honor of Mr. Morgenthau at Temple Emanu-El, Judaism’s largest house of worship in the world. The Morgenthau family envisioned the service as a celebration of Robert Morgenthau’s resplendent lights of life rather than as a mournful elegy of his demise. The temple teemed with thousands of devotees of the lasting legacy of Mr. Morgenthau. Prominent among the attendees were priests of the Armenian Church who, cloaked in our centuries-old religious vestments, greeted the family and represented our traditional faith and unifying ecumenicalism.
At the memorial service, Senior Rabbi Emeritus Ronald Sobel highlighted the transformational heritage of the Morgenthau family, starting with Henry Morgenthau, Sr., the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide, followed by Henry Morgenthau, Jr., the U.S. Secretary of Treasury during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, and then encapsulated by the dearly departed, Robert Morgenthau. Mr. Morgenthau’s children and close friends spoke about his incredible life and as an exemplar of an honest and high-minded individual who, through the gift of a long and distinguished life, pioneered many causes of justice, to the very last of his days.
In his eulogy, Bob Morgenthau, the eldest of Robert Morgenthau’s sons, remembered how his father cherished loyalty in general, and the allegiance of the Armenian community in particular. He noted that, while all of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide have passed away, the Armenian community’s bonds of respect and admiration for the Morgenthau family have never diminished. Speaking about that continuity of affinity, Bob Morgenthau pledged that the Morgenthau family’s deep and meaningful relationship with the Armenian community will remain vibrant for future generations.
While the Armenian Bar Association felt humbled last month to witness the truly moving ceremony of Robert Morgenthau’s final journey, just last year we had the good fortune of welcoming Mr. Morgenthau to our Public Servants Dinner at the Yale Club.
There, on April 26, 2018, on what have been the 162nd birthday of his grandfather Henry Morgenthau, Robert Morgenthau received one of the Armenian Bar Association’s highest honors. The magnificent gala dinner was attended by hundreds of judges, public officials, dignitaries and, of course, by members and friends of the Armenian Bar Association. Please see our reporting of the event and also for the text of Robert Morgenthau’s remarks as he accepted our Public Servants Award. [Video] [Speech]
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of its founding, the Armenian Bar Association returned to the place of its provenance, exhilarated with the energy and excitement of the Los Angeles metropolis, to convene its annual meeting on the weekend of June 28-30, 2019.
The conference showcased the Association’s enduring activism and valuable output in one of its seminal dimensions: the protection, respect and importance of the human and civil rights of Armenians around the world and, in particular, in our homelands of Armenia and Artsakh. The special guests from abroad were the Honorable Arman Tatoyan, Ombudsman and Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia, Artak Beglaryan, Ombudsman and Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Artsakh, and Robert Avetisyan, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Artsakh to the United States of America.
“We were incredibly honored that Dr. Tatoyan, Mr. Beglaryan and Mr. Avetisyan graciously accepted our invitation to attend and participate as our keynote speakers for our 30th annual meeting where our attendees learned of their outstanding and ground-breaking work in the field of human rights. A very special added bonus was the presence and participation throughout the weekend of our Association’s founding father, Raffi K. Hovannisian,” said Chairman Gerard V. Kassabian. [See Hovannisian video.]
The conference schedule began on Friday, June 28th, with a meeting of the 18-member Board of Governors, where the Association’s leadership rolled up their sleeves and examined, with an eye towards improvement and innovation, the work of its robust collection of committees. Following the Board meeting, members and guests were treated to a festive and entertaining reception under the Southern California’s shining stars at the finely-appointed outdoor deck of the luxurious Sheraton Grand Hotel. In a true reflection of the Association’s broad and all-embracing appeal, gathered together in the spirit of fun and fellowship were our founding members, judges, law professors, law students, friends and family. [See photos.]
The meeting on Saturday morning began with a plenary session where the multi-faceted workings of the Association’s affairs were shared and discussed. Reports were provided by Student Affairs Committee Co-Chairs Aleksan Giragosian and Zepur Simonian, Scholarship Committee member Saro Kerkonian, Armenian Rights Watch Committee and Artsakh Law Initiative Committee Co-Chair Karnig Kerkonian, Armenian Genocide Reparations Committee Chairman Armen K. Hovannisian, Pro Bono Committee member Lucy Varpetian. The Nominations Committee then presented the slate of recommended members to the Board of Governors. The nominees, two accomplished newcomers and four incumbents, were unanimously approved by the membership. [See photos.]
“We are thrilled that Deputy District Attorney Alex Hrag Bastian of San Francisco and esteemed civil litigator Souren Israelyan of New York City, along with a team of veteran members, were elected to three-year terms on the Board of Governors. They bring the passion and energy to carry forward the positive momentum that the Armenian Bar Association has developed in the past several years,” said Co-Vice Chairwoman Lucy Varpetian.
After the business portion of the meeting, the first signature panel discussion explored the plunder of historic Armenia’s native culture and civilization and an examined the legal opportunities and challenges in restoring some of what was wrongfully taken. Moderated by Board member Armen K. Hovannisian, the panel opened with a riveting visual presentation by attorney Matthew Karanian rooted in his monumental pictorial and documentary work of critical acclaim, “The Armenian Highland.” Mr. Karanian presented a photographic simulation of his travels through Western Armenia documenting the evidence of religious sites, cultural artifacts and the remains of the heart-breaking ruins throughout the region. [See Karanian video.] Then, in a most timely and illuminating presentation for the attendees, Thaddeus Stauber of Nixon Peabody, LLP spoke candidly about the often windy and uphill road to recover articles and areas of cultural heritage. His perspective was thought-provoking, sobering and constructive insofar as Mr. Stauber is known to represent successfully the world’s leading cultural institutions and foreign sovereigns in connection with Nazi looted art claims. His candid view from the other side of the litigation divide provided valuable lessons which will go a long way in informing future Armenian Genocide-related restitution efforts. [See Stauber video.]
The morning session was followed by a sumptuous luncheon where the guest speaker was the Honorable Gassia Apkarian, Judge of the Superior Court of California for the County of Orange. Following a light-hearted, engaging, and endearing introduction by Superior Court Judge Maria Daghlian-Hernandez, Judge Apkarian offered her personal and professional insights with respect to former governmental administrations of the Republic of Armenia and posed constructive critiques of the current state of the Republic’s judiciary.
After the luncheon, the nearly one hundred people in attendance listened and engaged with great interest the second signature panel moderated by Board member Garo B. Ghazarian. The audience heard of the extraordinary work of the Ombudsmen and Human Rights Defenders of the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh. Messrs. Tatoyan and Beglaryan each provided a comprehensive overview of the purpose of their offices and how they and their staff members go about achieving their institutional objectives. Both Ombudsmen emphasized that their positions are non-partisan and that they do not serve at the whim or direction of the government in power, but rather are independent investigatory and advocacy bodies. They also described how their professional independence is safeguarded by the fact that they are not subject to recall by any of the branches of government. [See video.]
The weekend ended with a big bang and beautiful tribute. A dazzling celebration of the monumental lifetime achievements of Judge Dickran Tevrizian took place at the magnificent California Club where more than three hundred guests came to honor the pioneering work and regal influence of Judge Tevrizian and to mark and revel in the Association’s thirty years of excellence and virtue. [See Tevrizian video.][See photos.]
From June 27 through July 3, 2019, Armenia and Artsakh were in Los Angeles. The Armenian Bar Association called, and the Hayrenik answered.
Armenia and Artsakh came to Los Angeles and headlined the Armenian Bar’s 30th Anniversary Conference in a panel entitled “What Is and What Is Not Today’s Republics of Armenia and Artsakh”. The countries joined friends and family of the Armenian Bar Association at its Gala Banquet honoring US District Judge Dickran Tevrizian, Ret. Representing Armenia was its celebrated Human Rights Defender, Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan, who also serves as an Ad Hoc Judge of European Court of Human Rights. Representing Artsakh, its fierce and inimitable Human Rights Ombudsman, Artak Beglaryan. For seven (7) consecutive days the Armenian Bar Association shared this unique dual presence of the human rights ombudsmen of Armenia and Artsakh with the Armenian community of Southern California.
A Week of Intense and Productive Meetings and Events
The working visit began with a dinner meeting with the Armenian Bar Board on June 27, followed by meetings with the UCLA’s Promise Institute in the morning of June 28th. In the afternoon on that same day, the Ombudsmen participated in the Board Meeting of the Armenian Bar Association at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Los Angeles. The event was capped by an al fresco cocktail reception on Friday evening.
Saturday, June 29th was spent in an all-day conference featuring our very own Matthew Karanian, Esq. who was joined by Thaddeus Stauber, Esq. in a presentation exploring “The Winding Roads of ‘Genocide Claims’ in the 21st Century.” The panel discussion was moderated by Armen K. Hovannisian, the Chairman of the Association’s Armenian Genocide Reparation Committee—AGRC. In the final segment of the Association’s conference on Saturday afternoon, the Ombudsmen presented their respective perspectives on the state of affairs in Armenia and Artsakh. [See video.] Serving as the moderator was Garo B. Ghazarian, Co-Chair of the Bar’s Armenian Rights Watch Committee—ARWC. That evening, and together with the human rights ombudsmen, the Association celebrated its 30th Anniversary Gala Banquet at the prestigious California Club in downtown Los Angeles.
On Sunday, June 30, and after a morning Board meeting, Ombudsmen Arman Tatoyan and Artak Beglaryan were accompanied by an Armenian Bar Association delegation to a meeting with California State Senator Anthony Portantino. Thereafter, they joined members of the Armenian Bar Association at the Homenetmen’s “Victory Ball” held in the Beverly Hilton Hotel where the ombudsmen were announced to a crowd of more than a thousand Armenians gathered in celebration of the 101 year tradition marked by the call Partsratsir yev Partsratsur.
Monday, July 1st began with a working meeting at the USC Institute for Armenian Studies. The afternoon brought meetings with the Southwestern Law School and Loyola Law School’s “Genocide Studies Center.” The early evening was time for a reception at the Republic of Armenia’s Consulate, co-hosted by the Honorable Dr. Armen Baibourtian, Consul General of the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Bar Association. That evening, the Armenian Bar took the Ombudsmen to an introductory visit to the Board of the Armenian National Committee of America, Western Region (ANCA-WR). Thereafter, Mr. Charlie Galian and the Homenetmen-Western Region Board hosted the Ombudsmen and the Armenian Bar delegation to a private dinner.
Tuesday, July 2nd, included a working visit by the Ombudsmen who accompanied the Armenian Bar delegation to Los Angeles City Hall for a discussion with the Hon. Paul Kerkorian, Council-Member, and Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles for International Affairs, Hon. Nina Hachigian. That same afternoon, the Armenian Bar Association delegation escorted the Ombudsmen to a meeting with the Armenian General Benevolent Union, Western Region Board (AGBU-WR). The evening closed with an an intimate supper at the home of Armenian Bar Association board member, Garo B. Ghazarian.
Finally, on Wednesday morning, prior to heading for the airport to board a flight back to Armenia, our Ombudsmen took in the final meeting of their trip. They sat down for a spirited discussion with Mr. Max Huntsman, Inspector General for the County of Los Angeles’ Sheriff Department. Our very own Chris Keosian, Esq. joined the Ombudsmen and Armenian Bar delegation.
From the moment the Ombudsmen arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), they were greeted by an Armenian Bar Board Representative and, throughout the seven (7) days, they were accompanied by an Armenian Bar Association delegation. The Ombudsmen were also accompanied throughout their trip to Los Angeles by the Ambassador of the Republic of Artsakh, the Honorable Robert Avetisyan, the Permanent Representative of Artsakh for the United States and Canada, based in Washington D.C. Ambassador Avetisyan remains very active with the Association’s Artsakh Legal Initiative Committee—ALIC, co-chaired by brothers Saro Kerkonian, Esq. and Karnig Kerkonian, Esq.
A Milestone Week Marking Substantive Progress and Unparalleled Camaraderie
Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan captured the meaningful bonds established over the intense seven days: “You’ve wholeheartedly embraced us and, with your embrace, you’ve enthralled us.” Artak Beglarian the Human Rights Ombudsman of Artsakh and the house-guest of Armenian Bar board member Armen Hovanissian’s family, noted the value of having the Armenian Bar Association delegation in step with them in this historic working visit: “The Human Rights Defenders of Armenia and Artsakh feel very well defended and protected by the Armenian Bar Association,” he said, describing as well they many doors opened and valuable connections made.
On July 3rd, back again at LAX, there were deep embraces but no goodbyes exchanged. Working delegations from Armenian Bar Association will return to Armenia and Artsakh—some later this month, some in the next month, and others in the months ahead, ensuring that the faithful bond between the Armenian Bar Association and the institutions of the ombudsmen in Armenia and Artsakh will remain firm and forever embracing, as no distance can keep apart those kindred spirits who are devoted to further the work of human rights in the homeland and, in doing so, fuel the Armenian nation and the Armenian people always toward the just and right.
The Armenian Bar Association mourns the loss of a renowned public servant and legal titan, Robert Morgenthau, who dedicated himself to a long and prominent life in public service. Scion of a family dedicated to public service and noted for its devotion to the Armenian people, Robert Morgenthau, distinguished himself for serving in the nation’s military, as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and most famously and prominently as the Manhattan District Attorney.
Robert Morgenthau and his family will forever be endeared in the hearts of Armenians everywhere for their unwavering support of the Armenian people during their darkest hours. His grandfather, Henry Morgenthau Sr., who served as the United States ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913-1916, was steadfast and resolute in drawing the world’s attention to the systematic atrocities, massacres and deportation marches committed by the Turkish government against Armenians in Turkey. Robert Morgenthau continued the work of his grandfather in never letting the world forget about Turkey’s systematic destruction of its Armenian population that became known as the Armenian genocide. In a more recent article in the January 18, 2018 issue of The Wall Street Journal, he asked the question “Will Trump Tell the Truth About the Armenian Genocide?”
At the end of that Wall Street Journal article, Robert Morgenthau eloquently argued and pled:
Every April, the president issues a proclamation recognizing the atrocity that was inflicted on the Armenian people. But bowing to Turkish pressure, that proclamation has never contained the word “genocide.” That must change.
I do not underestimate the concerns of those who say the wrath of Turkey may work against U.S. interests—as I do not dismiss those who say moving the embassy to Jerusalem may complicate peace negotiations. But a just and lasting world order cannot be built on falsehoods and equivocations. Let President Trump demonstrate that commitment once more by declaring the truth of the Armenian genocide. This would send clear message to the thugs in power around the world: Your criminal acts will not go unnoticed.
Because of his unwavering support of the Armenian people, The Armenian Bar Association honored Robert Morgenthau at its annual Public Servant’s Dinner in April 2018, where he gave a stirring and passionate speech. In what were probably his final words on the subject he said:
Today, I am told that I am in retirement. But my grandfather’s voice will not let me rest. For there is unfinished business before us. None of us can rest until there is universal acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide.
As Robert Morgenthau and his family have never forgotten the Armenians, the Armenians will never forget Robert Morgenthau and his family. Our deepest condolences go out to his family.
In the words of the venerable Armenian parable, three apples fell from heaven: one for the storyteller; one for the listener; and one for the story itself, Robert M. Morgenthau. Asdvatz hokin lusavore.
Funeral Services will be held on Thursday at Temple Emanu-El at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street, New York City, at 11:00 A.M.
Kerkonian Dajani LLC announces that U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan (Ret.) has joined the firm as of counsel alongside partners Karnig Kerkonian and Elizabeth Al-Dajani. Der-Yeghiayan most recently served as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois and brings his 40-year legal career and expertise to Kerkonian Dajani. Der-Yeghiayan is also honored as the first Armenian immigrant federal judge in the U.S.
“The breadth of legal knowledge and expertise that Judge Der-Yeghiayan offers our clients is truly impressive,” said Kerkonian. “We are thrilled to be working alongside Judge Der-Yeghiayan today and in years to come on all of our global legal matters.”
Der-Yeghiayan served as an immigration judge in the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review from 2000 to 2003. In 2003, he was nominated by President George W. Bush for the district court seat and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. He received his judicial commission in 2003 and served through February 2018. During his years on the federal bench, Der-Yeghiayan presided over many high-profile cases.
“Since I retired from the federal court, I wanted to remain active and continue to contribute to the legal profession in any capacity that I could,” said Der-Yeghiayan. “I joined Kerkonian Dajani because I am familiar with the outstanding legal work of the firm, know of the superb legal talents of its partners and appreciate the firm’s commitment to meaningful work along with its pro bono mission.”
For twenty consecutive years, Der-Yeghiayan received outstanding performance ratings as a U.S. Justice Department Attorney. Among his accolades are included the Frank J. McGarr Award of the Federal Bar Association as the outstanding federal government attorney in Chicago, the District Counsel of the Year Award from the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the attorney general of the United States.
“It truly is a privilege, both professionally and personally, to be joined by Judge Der-Yeghiayan,” said Al-Dajani, adding, “We are particularly excited that Judge Der-Yeghiayan’s professional and personal values complement our firm’s commitment to the pro bono initiatives we find so rewarding.”
Der-Yeghiayan received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Evangel University and his law degree from the Franklin Pierce Law Center (now known as the University of New Hampshire School of Law).
A special partnership between the Armenian Bar Association and BASIS.ed to develop Armenian Genocide-related educational studies in Arizona’s public schools climbed to new heights on April 29, 2019. With the 104th anniversary of the Genocide fresh in mind, approximately 50 social science teachers from the highest-ranked network of public charter schools in America gathered together to hear a unique and constructive message of how to incorporate lessons about the Genocide into their students’ broader understanding of world history.
The teacher-training program was held at the BASIS flagship campus in Phoenix and was masterfully led by pioneer educator Professor Richard G. Hovannisian. With deeply personal reflections about his own all-American upbringing in the San Joaquin Valley during the Great Depression – when the stories of the Armenian people’s terrible trauma went largely untold – Professor Hovannisian explained to the teachers that there are certain basic and broad themes of instruction into which the Armenian Genocide may comfortably be accommodated.
For example, whether drawing from his childhood memories about the isolation of his ethnic identity or tying together the demonization and dehumanization of various victim groups by their oppressors, Hovannisian made a compelling case of how much more alike, rather than dissimilar, the Armenian experience is to other crimes against humanity and recurring episodes of prejudice. With nodding heads and knowing eyes, the BASIS teachers and administrators absorbed his advice with appreciation and expressed their poise to take back to their classes the lessons they had learned.
Richard Hovannisian highlighted his presentation with attention-grabbing video clips of Genocide survivors which brought the immediacy of the subject matter into clear focus for the BASIS teachers. Nearly 50 years ago, Hovannisian initiated a ground-breaking oral history project aimed at capturing survivor testimonies and his collection of more than 1,000 accounts are now housed at U.S.C.’s Shoah Foundation where they are being digitized and studied, both in the context of Armenians’ unique experiences and also through the wider lens of shared experiences with other groups.
In a lively question-and-answer session which followed the program, the BASIS educators probed with interest and departed with an understanding of how to welcome the Armenian Genocide into the learning lives of their students. Thanks to Professor Hovannisian, every question was met with an uncomplicated and relatable answer.
Professor Hovannisian is widely known for his legacy of institutionalizing Armenian history and genocide scholarship at U.C.L.A. He has lectured in nearly 40 countries, more than 150 colleges and universities, and more than 1000 public lectures and forums on six continents. Hovannisian has served as a consultant to the California State Board of Education, authoring the chapter on the Armenian Genocide in the State’s Social Studies Model Curriculum on Human Rights and Genocide. He has also served as a consultant to the Facing History and Ourselves Organization, assisted in the preparation of its resource book on the Armenian Genocide, and introduced the subject in numerous teacher-training institutes and summer workshops.
“We often struggle with how best to teach our children about one of the darkest pages of our people’s history and its long-lasting consequences of trans-generational trauma and resilience,” said Lucy Varpetian, Co-Vice Chair of the Armenian Bar Association. “The survivors themselves may have been hesitant to share openly their stories as a guard against passing on the heavy burden of their Genocide memories. It’s important to forge these relationships with educational institutions like BASIS so that we can learn to impart information about the Genocide to our children in more inclusive and universal ways.”
For four years, the Armenian Bar and BASIS have worked together to open and broaden the avenues of Armenian Genocide instruction in many Arizona high schools and middle schools. Following the teachers’ workshop, a second Genocide commemoration program took place, drawing a more diverse audience of student families and members of the local Armenian community including Father Zacharia Saribekyan of Scottsdale’s St. Apkar Armenian Church, of Scottsdale’s St. Apkar Armenian Church.
New York—The Armenian Bar Association’s New York/New Jersey/Connecticut Chapter hosted its annual Public Servants Dinner at the Yale Club in midtown Manhattan on April 25, 2019, where it conferred its coveted Public Servant Award on two prominent public servants: Robert H. Tembeckjian, the Administrator & Counsel to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, and Rod J. Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice. The event, which was sold out well in advance, was attended by prominent members of the practicing Bar, over 70 judges of the appellate and trial courts, over 20 present and former federal and state prosecutors, and more than 25 other public servants at the international, national, state and local levels, including numerous bar association presidents.
“The Armenian Bar Association is committed to promoting public service, recognizing those who devote their professional lives to serving the public and embody the best qualities for such noble endeavor. Tonight, we acknowledge the distinguished lifetime achievements of two of our own, Robert H. Tembeckjian and Rod J. Rosenstein, as Public Servants of the Year for 2019. With the amazing co-chairs and committee members we look forward to carrying on this grand tradition in the years ahead,” said organizing committee co-chair Souren A. Israelyan.
The Public Servant Award was first conferred on Robert H. Tembeckjian, who has been a devoted public servant working at the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct since 1976, and since 2003 has been serving as the Commission’s Administrator & Counsel. With a Master of Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Mr. Tembeckjian was a Fulbright Scholar who went to Armenia in 1994. There, he taught constitutional law and ethics at the American University of Armenia and Yerevan State University. Both honorees of the evening delivered substantive, timely and groundbreaking speeches.
Mr. Tembeckjian called attention to the need of our country’s leadership to show compassion and empathy to the plight of refugees and immigrants, as he recalled how his grandparents, survivors of the Armenian Genocide, arrived in America as undocumented aliens. He described the circumstances by which his grandmother eventually was allowed to remain in the United States and become a United States citizen: “. . . my illegal immigrant grandmother was reprieved by a government that understood it could both uphold the law and postpone its consequences for humanitarian reasons; a government that took time to examine and differentiate among the many who sought its refuge, that did not invoke scripture to promote exclusion at the expense of decency or justice.” (Full speech here.)
The evening’s next featured Public Servant Award recipient was Rod J. Rosenstein, the 37th Deputy Attorney General of the United States. Mr. Rosenstein began his legal career by serving as a law clerk to Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He started his career at the Department of Justice at age 25. He also served as the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland from 2005 to 2017. As the second in command at the Department of Justice, Mr. Rosenstein advised and assisted the Attorney General in formulating and implementing the Department of Justice’s policies and programs and in providing overall supervision to all organizational units of the Department. Most recently, Mr. Rosenstein also oversaw the work of Special Counsel to the Justice Department, Robert S. Mueller III, as he investigated the question of Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election.
Mr. Rosenstein’s speech, which was covered by major news organizations, including CNN, the Washington Post, New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal, were his first public comments on the Mueller Report since it was published just days earlier. Mr. Rosenstein explained in detail his role and that of the Justice Department during the Mueller investigation. He stressed: “As acting Attorney General, it was my responsibility to make sure that the Department of Justice would do what the American people pay us to do: conduct an independent investigation; complete it expeditiously; hold perpetrators accountable if warranted; and work with partner agencies to counter foreign agents and deter crimes.” He emphasized that the Department of Justice “. . . stands for the principle that every American deserves the protection of the rule of law.” (Full speech here.)
Lisa Barsoomian, the wife of Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and a past executive committee board member of the Armenian Bar Association, was also in attendance. Mr. Rosenstein delighted the audience as he recounted his life as an ABC – Armenian By Choice – and described his trip to Armenia in 1994 with the Armenian Bar Association, where he presented lectures to law students at Yerevan State University.
NEW YORK – Not even the hovering grey clouds could dampen the spirit of the thousands gathered for the Armenian Genocide Commemoration in Times Square on Sunday, April 28, 2019, as the 104th anniversary of the massacres was memorialized in a monumental event sponsored by the Knights and Daughters of Vartan.
Relentless calls for recognition were made throughout the afternoon as speakers, guests and the general public paid homage to the holy martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. Over a century later, the vigor of the Armenian people was on full display as the program culminated in a symbolic shoorch bar inspired by the powerful singing of Elie Berberian as he performed the popular patriotic song “Kedashen” amid the backdrop of the city’s skyscrapers and the buzzing motion of Times Square, one of the busiest and iconic districts in the world.
While Armenian songs, dances and voices echoed throughout New York and into the world, top U.S. elected officials stood their ground in their unwavering support of Armenian Genocide recognition. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who appears at the commemoration year after year without fail, conveyed his fondness for the “wonderful and compassionate Armenian people” and appreciated their presence in the country, stating that “the more Armenians we have in America, the better America will be.”
Following a moment of silence for the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and their descendants, the senior senator urged the public to “call out evil.”
“A genocide that is not properly defined and remembered will certainly lead to another,” said Senator Schumer, who touched upon the Holocaust that succeeded the Armenian Genocide. “We have a moral obligation to always remember one of the most evil undertakings in the history of mankind, and that is the horrible Medz Yeghern.”
Turning to legislation in the United States, Senator Schumer expressed his disappointment that the leaders in the White House, both Republicans and Democrats, have not stepped up to officially acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. He said he refuses to accept the excuse of politics and emphasized that in the face of denial, people should “stand together and remember the genocide, the 1.5 million victims and what the Armenians went through.”
He made the salient point that the Turkish government did not succeed in its plans to exterminate the Armenian people, noting that now 1.5 million people of Armenian ancestry live in America.
“The Armenian nation has not just endured but it has prevailed,” said Senator Schumer, who is a co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 150 that calls for the U.S. to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance. “The three pashas are gone, the Ottoman Empire is gone, but the Armenian people live on and continue to inspire the world.”
A tireless advocate for the Armenians, senior Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who earlier this month admonished U.S. Ambassador to Turkey nominee David Satterfield for failing to refer to the 1915 atrocities as Genocide, stated that everyone has “come together in remembrance, in reflection and in solidarity.”
The Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who along with Senator Ted Cruz (R-T.X.) recently sponsored Senate Resolution 150, is ensuring that the foreign policy of the U.S. “reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning the Armenian Genocide.”
Countering the denialist history, Senator Menendez stated that the Turkish authorities began a systematic campaign to exterminate the Armenian population through “killings, starvation, forced deportation and untold brutality” and remarked that “such intentional horrific violence targeted towards one people has a name and one name only and that name is genocide.”
He acknowledged the 1.5 million victims who perished and also appreciated their contributions to the Armenian history and culture that “lives on today and there can be no denying them.”
Taking a stand “in support of the unshakable truth,” Senator Menendez outlined how the Turkish government has spent “countless millions of dollars on lobbyists willing to trumpet lies and make excuses for the atrocities that its predecessors committed.”
“Portraying the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians as nothing more than a consequence of World War I is a distortion of history at best and at worst a contrived excuse for an unthinkable crime against humanity,” he continued.
He spoke of the suppressive Turkish government that has “undermined the fundamental right of freedom of speech” and how the country’s leaders have initiated prosecutions, smear campaigns and even resorted to violence against historians and journalists who have studied the Turkish treatment of the Armenian community, remarking that “such actions are reprehensible and speak volumes both about the crime and the cover up.”
Recalling the words of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide, who described the Turkish authorities of deporting Armenians as a ‘death warrant’ to a whole race, Senator Menendez asserted that today’s diplomats should “not be any less frank when engaging with the Turkish government.”
“We refuse to see the truth suppressed, the facts denied and history revised,” said Senator Menendez. “We will not rest until it becomes the official policy of the U.S. government to recognize the Armenian Genocide here and any place else in the world.”
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), pledged that he will continue to push for recognition of the Armenian Genocide and reaffirmed that there has been “tremendous progress” around the world as 30 countries now officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, along with 49 out of 50 U.S. states.
“We will continue our efforts and demand that the Turkish government recognize the Armenian Genocide and pay reparations,” said Congressman Pallone, who also called for ongoing support of the Republic of Armenia as well as Artsakh. A longtime supporter, he has made trips to both Armenia and Artsakh, where he has advocated for the people’s right to self-determination.
He urged the public to persist in their fight and hold rallies such as the annual commemoration in Times Square in order to achieve official recognition.
“Please understand how important it is for you to be here today and how important it is for all of you to continue to support your Armenian advocates and Armenian organizations like the Knights and Daughters of Vartan because without your help, we wouldn’t be able to make progress on the issues you care so much about,” concluded Congressman Pallone.
New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), a member of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, remarked that the U.S. should “join the chorus of voices across the globe” and recognize the genocide and the calculating elimination of an entire population.
“We mourn the 1.5 million Armenians murdered by the government that was supposed to protect them,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “We must honor their memory and we must come to the day that Turkey’s President Erdogan recognizes the genocide instead of denying it.”
She said she is proud to support resolutions that recognize the “systematic plan to extinguish the ancient, dignified and accomplished Armenian people” and the lessons that must be learned in order to prevent future tragedies from occurring again.
“We must teach ourselves and our children the abuse of state power that allows these crimes to go unpunished,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “On this solemn day of remembrance our message remains united and clear: the U.S. and Turkish governments must formally acknowledge the terrible genocide that occured 104 years and I am with you as we keep fighting and pushing for recognition.”
Headlining the event with a special cultural performance was Elie Berberyan, who curated an artistic concert that included a rendition of “Ils Sont Tombes” (They Fell), by Charles Aznavour, the poetry of the Hovhannes Shiraz set to music “Intz Guh Moranam” (I Forget Myself) and “Dle Yaman” by Komitas.
“Even though many years have passed since the Armenian Genocide, it does not stop me from remembering it and instead it gives me more drive,” said Berberian. “We are paying tribute to the ultimate cause that concerns every Armenian in his or her heart.”
Grand Commander and Matron of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, Dr. Gary Zamanigian and Diana Tookmanian, respectively, elaborated on the significance of commemorating the Armenian Genocide. The Knights and Daughters of Vartan have sponsored the Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration since 1985. This year the event was co-chaired by Tigran Sahakyan and Ari Minnetyan, under the guidance of Chairman Emeritus Hirant Gulian.
Armen McOmber, Esq. and Professor Nvair Beylerian compellingly led the program. McOmber was recognized for his decade of service to the Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration and was presented with a special certificate of recognition and a Knights of Vartan medal.
The results of the 2019 Knights and Daughters of Vartan International Armenian Genocide Essay Contest were announced: first-place, Andrew Panosian of La Crescenta, California, who is a freshman at Glendale Community College; second-place, Garine Kamajian of Indian Shores, Florida, who is a junior at University of South Florida-Tampa; third-place Lilit Arsenyan of Yerevan, Armenia, who is a freshman at Yerevan Brusov State University of Languages and Social Sciences. This year’s question of how creative expression—literature, music, cinema, visual arts—has enhanced the students’ personal understanding of the Armenian Genocide, delivered thought-provoking responses from applicants who live around the world.
Astghikner Junior Ensemble of St. Gregory the Illuminator Mission Parish in Brooklyn sang the Armenian and American anthems and Hayr Mer, under the leadership of Maria Sahakyan as the students of the Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School of Bayside, NY and the Hovnanian Armenian Day School of New Milfold, NJ sang a medley of Armenian patriotic songs, under the guidance of their principals, Seta Tavitian Megherian and Shakeh Tashjian.The Yerevan Dance Ensemble of St. Gregory the Illuminator Mission Parish made a special appearance.
The opening remarks and prayer were made by Zaven Khanjian, Executive Director of the AMAA. The invocation and closing prayers were made by Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Primate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, Very Rev. representing the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, respectively. Other clergy in attendance included Nurhan Becidiyan, of the Roman Catholic Armenian Eparchy of America and Canada.
Statements were made by co-sponsoring organizations, including Christina Lalama (Armenian General Benevolent Union of America), Bryan Ardouny (Armenian Assembly of America), Dr. Vaghenag Tarpinian (Armenian Democratic League – Ramgavars), Ken Hachikian (Armenian National Committee America) and Gerard Kassabian, Esq. (Armenian Bar Association).
The Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey, led by director Vartan Abdo, streamed the event live in video format worldwide, reaching more than 50,000 viewers with the assistance of his dedicated volunteer staff. The 104th Armenian Genocide Commemoration in Times Square was organized by the Mid-Atlantic chapters of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan. Co-sponsors included the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian National Committee of America, the ADL-Ramgavars, and the Armenian Council of America. Participating organizations included the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), Prelacy of the Armenian Church, Armenian Missionary Association of America, Armenian Presbyterian Church, the Armenian Evangelical Church, the Armenian Catholic Eparchy for U.S. and Canada and numerous Armenian youth organizations, including the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America, the Armenian Network of America, the Armenian Youth Federation, Homenetmen Scouts, Hamazkayin Cultural Association, Tekeyan Cultural Association, Armenian Students Association, AGBU Young Professionals, Armenian-American Study Genocide (a UN NGO organization) and tri-state Armenian college and university clubs.
Founded in 1985 by the late Sam Azadian, a former Brooklyn, New York resident, who lost four siblings during the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian Genocide Commemoration at Times Square has honored the 1.5+ million Armenian lives lost during the horrific events of the 1915 Genocide of the Armenians by the Young Turk Government of the Ottoman Empire. This internationally-recognized annual event draws thousands of Armenians and non-Armenian participants to commemorate the solemn occasion. The event features speeches and tributes delivered by prominent political figures and civic leaders, officials of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, representatives of major Armenian-American organizations, and distinguished scholars and educators as well as high-ranking Armenian and non-Armenian clergy.
Representatives of the Board of Governors of the Armenian Bar Association, and Co-Chairs of its Armenian Rights Watch Committee, Garo B. Ghazarian and Karnig S. Kerkonian, today met with the General Secretary of the Republic of Armenia’s National Security Council, the Hon. Armen V. Grigoryan. The collaborative discussions examined a number of crucial legal issues in the national security sphere and underscored the critical role of marshaling legal expertise in advancing areas of Pan-Armenian interests.
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
Այսօր, 25 Ապրիլին, Ամերիկայի Հայկական Իրաւաբանական Միութեան Կառավարիչներու խորհուրդի ներկայացոցիչները եւ Հայկական Մարդկային Իրաւուքներու Յանձնախումբի համանախահները՝ Գառնիկ Քէրքոնեան եւ Կարօ Ղազարեան, հանդիպում մը ունեցան Հայաստանի Հանրապետութեան Ազգային Անվտանգութեան Խորհուրդի քարտուղար Արմէն Գրիգորեանի հետ։ Քննարկումները կեդրոնացան ազգային անվտանգութեան ոլորտին վերաբերող իրաւական հարցերու լայն շրջանակի վրայ եւ ընդգծեցին համահայկական շահերը միասնական ուժերու համախմբումով առաջ տանելու կարեւորութիւնը։