LARA SETRAKIAN'S SPEECH AT THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE CENTENNIAL COMMEMORATION IN WASHINGTON (VIDEO MATERIAL)

Your Holiness Karekin the Second, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians,
Your Holiness Aram the first, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia,
Your Excellency Hranoush Hagopian,
Honorable Guests, Dear Friends and Fellow Armenians,
It is wonderful to be together.
I am honored to be here tonight, speaking to you about the future.

The future is the gift our ancestors gave us by making it out alive. Their survival, their faith in an almighty power made the future possible. Now, with love and gratitude to those who came before us, we hold the power to shape the future, together. We now know, from our own direct experience, that this world contains a light that overcomes the deepest darkness. We came under attack by the strongest evils in the human heart: hatred, greed, the impulse for exploitation and extinction of life. Our survival proves that there is something greater than all of those evils, that we are part of something that is stronger than them all. Our survival means that everything is possible. So what will we make of it? We have honored our lost ones, we sainted those who suffered and perished. They are now our patron saints, watching over us now, looking to us as the ones who carry their lives forward. We can use this moment to write the greatest chapter of our history. Our future is one of infinite possibility. In Yerevan, after the cold and rainy day of April 24, we went to sleep and woke up to a sunny, bright, beautiful sky. I stood in the sunshine, watching Mount Ararat, and I realized we were having the best first day of the next hundred years. That day, April 25th, I was at the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies, surrounded by the bright, smiling faces of Armenia’s tech startup scene. They were eager, talented, and ready to create something new. Their future is full of infinite possibility. Earlier that week I met Father Mesrop Aramian, the founder of the new Ayb High School in Yerevan. He’s transforming education with a culture of excellence, deeply rooted in our humane values. The students' average scores on the SAT II subject exam: just above 760, out of a total of 800. At Ayb, their future is full of infinite possibility. A short drive away in the green hills of Dilijan, kids from all over the world are going to high school in the United World Colleges' Armenia campus. And on that gleaming campus much of the town of Dilijan is going to work -- at the new jobs they found when the school opened. They are the changemakers shaping our shared future. Each of them alone, and all of them together, are fundamentally rewiring Armenia – rewriting the code of how things have always been done. Keeping what’s made us great and adapting what needs to be changed to better serve the future. It's a massive task. I asked Father Mesrop: How does he do it? How do we do it? "Faith," he said. "Faith is what allows the future to unfold.” For a century, we lived with a constant layer of sadness – a burden of knowing that our people, our culture, were terminally – and almost fatally wounded. 1.5 million people. Did anyone remember? Did anyone care? We never have to ask those questions again. We have our answer. We are cared for. We are loved. On the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide we were all one big Armenian family – embraced by a greater human family. The world stood in sympathy with our history of painful distress and miraculous survival. They showed us that truth does prevail, even if it takes a hundred years. That layer of sadness within us can now begin to dissolve. We have a motto for this season: we remember and demand. But demand what? Our land? Our homes? Our overdue apology? We each have our own response to what is a deeply personal question. That’s just a fact of our community – with 10 Armenians, we’ll have 15 answers. But since I have the privilege of sharing this speech with you tonight, I’ll give you my answer. We remember, and we demand the best of ourselves, a higher version of what we’ve always been. Partzratzeer, Partzratzoor. We rise up and we lift others up with us. We cherish life and protect it, however we can. We demand of ourselves...our better selves. We keep what’s made us great and adapt what we choose to change for the future. We demand a rethink of how we work as a community, as one Armenian family – celebrating our diverse opinions, never again letting them tear us apart. The next generation doesn't care about political divisions. We don't want to see Barskahye-Bolsahye-Beirutsihye. We just want to see each other, and want to be together. We lost 1.5 million people - but look around you. Menk Mezi Enk. This is what we got to keep. We got to keep each other. In the future, we soften our hearts toward each other and celebrate that we’re all here. In the future we repay the people who helped us, like the Syrian people. They took is in a hundred years ago and are suffering so much today. What will we do for them in the future? Some 600 Armenian kids are struggling to go to school every day, in Aleppo. In the future, will you help them? They’re waiting for you, wondering what's taking us so long, wondering if we remember they're still there. In the future we reconsider how we see the Turkish people. Their ancestors were not all evil and they did not all do us harm. Celal Bey, the governor of Konya, saved thousands of Armenian lives – as many as he could. In my own Setrakian family, our Turkish neighbors loved us, and we loved them. They cried when we left and helped us rebuild our lives in Lebanon. And there are Turks now – the people, still not the state – who say I’m sorry and want to welcome us home. In the words of our beloved Hrant Dink, we must talk to them, we must get together and tell our stories. When we do, it will be end of exile – the thing that heals us, by connecting human hearts. In the future, we'll stand a little taller, a little straighter, and be a little less sad. We will bring the best of who we are to the rest of the world – our Armenian culture, strength, and resilience, as an offering and a contribution to the betterment of humanity. We will empower our community leaders – men and women – playing an active role as equal partners in our families and in shaping Armenian life. The Anatolian woman – in all her strength and beauty – sharing her talents with the new world in a new century. Our women our amazing. They should be empowered to reach their fullest potential, for the rest of time. In my life one woman has been a special inspiration: Rita Balian has always been a role model to me, alongside many women in and outside my family. Rita showed us that it could all be done, in any generation. In the future we will embrace diversity among us. We'll celebrate the new Armenians: the odar spouses and friends, who join our community and help make it complete. And don't worry. In the future we will still speak Armenian. Abakayeen, ter hayaren beedee khosink. We will live and work in a continuous cycle, between Hayastan and Spiurk – Armenia and the diaspora – the country and its people blooming and communities around the world thriving. Each side renewing and supporting the other. In the future we will no longer live in exile. We will go home to the places we’re from, touch the soil we’re made of, and come back to our lives around the world. I am an American, but I know exactly where I’m from: Aintab, Kilis, Yozghat, and Dortyol. And my future children, God willing, will know it too. Half a century ago at the fiftieth anniversary of the Genocide, my father was a teenage boy scout, standing in salute and listening to his uncle Hratchya Setrakian serve as one of three speakers of the day. Now my father is here, listening to me. It's already the future. And it's already alright. Faith has made the future unfold, and there is nothing to fear. Life has given us this moment of infinite possibility to cherish, together.

 

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