Message delivered by AGBU Young Professionals of Greater New York Committee Member Natalie Gabrelian (pictured above)
April 26, 2009 — 94th Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, Times Square, New York, NY
“Ninety four years ago, one of the great atrocities of the 20th century began. Each year, we pause to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were subsequently massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The Meds Yeghern must live on in our memories, just as it lives on in the hearts of the Armenian people.” – US President Barack Obama
Some ninety-four plus days ago, one of the most historic presidential terms began.
As a Senator and presidential candidate, Barack Obama pledged repeatedly to recognize the Armenian Genocide, even going so far as a U.S. Senator to criticize the U.S. State Department’s aversion to the word. On Friday, April 24th, 2009, so began President Barack Obama’s powerful White House statement on Armenian Remembrance Day. While using the Armenian term meds yeghern to further display empathy to the “great calamity” that befell Armenians at the turn of the century, regretfully, much like his predecessors, the first African-American president of the United States failed to properly recognize the first genocide of the 20th century.
“Each year, we pause to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were subsequently massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The Meds Yeghern must live on in our memories, just as it lives on in the hearts of the Armenian people,” the President said in his speech. That once a year brief moment of remembrance might be true for the United States…but for the children of the Armenian Genocide, like all of us here today, each minute of each hour of each day for 94 years has been unforgettably stained with the blood of our ancestors who suffered this inhumane crime and perished at the hands of the Turkish perpetrators. For this great calamity to be a mere memory would be injustice, as it not only lives on in our hearts, but has defined Armenians’ story of continuous struggle to survive. It is what has molded our identity, which for over 100 years, AGBU and its brother and sister organizations here today and around the world, hold steadfast to their missions to preserve through cultural, educational, political, and philanthropic programs.
“History, unresolved, can be a heavy weight.” Very true, Mr. President, but history, unrecognized, is subject to be forgotten. And something forgotten does not alleviate this burden, for they say those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The unresolved tragic history, the “forgotten genocide” of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish government has brought forth 20th and 21st centuries that have born the heavy weight of similar genocides by the governments of Germany, Rwanda and presently Sudan. April 24th was declared a National Day of Remembrance for the Armenian Genocide by a joint declaration of Congress in 1975, and the president of the United States is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation. Since then, no US president, except for Ronald Reagan in 1981, has used the term genocide. Remove this nearly century-old weight from the shoulders of your Armenian citizens and help put an end to this vicious cycle around the world by recognizing the Genocide.
“Nothing can bring back those who were lost in the Meds Yeghern. But the contributions that Armenians have made over the last ninety-four years stand as a testament to the talent, dynamism and resilience of the Armenian people, and as the ultimate rebuke to those who tried to destroy them. The United States of America is a far richer country because of the many Americans of Armenian descent who have contributed to our society, many of whom immigrated to this country in the aftermath of 1915,” the President praised.
“Ninety four years ago, one of the great atrocities of the 20th century began. The time has come to put an end to this crime. “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides.” You intended to be that President. Make us proud to be the contributing citizens of this great country that you so eloquently praised. Deliver due justice to the memory of the over 1.5 million lives lost.