Bay Area Armenian National Committee

The Bay Area Armenian National Committee (ANC-SF) is a grassroots public affairs organization serving to inform, educate, and act on a wide range of issues concerning Armenian Americans throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. More

 

 

March 19, 2004

Bay Area ANC Welcomes Khandjian and Morgenthau

Actress Arsinée Khandjian and Dr. Henry Morgenthau IV discuss Hai Tad Prof. Stephan Astourian and Prof. Armen Der Kiureghian Honored

San Francisco, March 6, 2004 -- Actress Arsinée Khandjian was the special guest at the annual Bay Area Armenian National Committee’s "Hai Tad Evening," along with pediatrician Henry "Ben" Morgenthau IV, great-grandson of the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey in 1915. The evening also highlighted the Bay Area ANC’s accomplishments of the past year, and honored two Bay Area professors, Stephan Astourian and Armen Der Kiureghian as "local heroes."

Famed Canadian-Armenian actress Arsinée Khandjian spoke about the artist’s role in Hai Tad, the Armenian Cause. Khandjian, who has acted extensively in feature films, on stage and television, and has received many awards, including the Genie award (the Canadian Academy Award), used her experience in the feature film "ARARAT," to speak about her role and the film’s role in Hai Tad. She said that historically, artwork which runs counter to the accepted political ideology is often labeled as "propaganda." In discussions with her husband, film director Atom Egoyan, about how to approach the subject of the Armenian Genocide on film, Khandjian said they were faced with the question of "how to remember" the story of the Genocide. She said that for some people, merely the step of making the film was a political act. "They felt that not only had we decided to remember the Genocide, but we were also suggesting how to remember it," said Khandjian.


(L to R) Bay Area ANC Representative Roxanne Makasdjian, Actress Arsinée Khandjian, Professor Stephan Astourian, Dr. Henry Morgenthau IV, and Professor Armen Der Kiureghian

Khandjian said "ARARAT" was first and foremost a work of art, but she quoted from Egoyan words to illustrate all the issues he wanted to address in the film. "…the screenplay had to tell the story of what happened, why it happened, why it’s denied, why it continues to happen, and what happens when you continue to deny." Khandjian said that the filmmaker did not feel the need to prove the Genocide happened. "The only concern was to find a way to give voice to a true history, to retrieve it from oblivion and make the viewers ask themselves why they have never heard of it. These were the obligations felt by the filmmaker."

Khandjian recognized that the film "ARARAT" has become a political instrument, supported or rejected because of its subject matter. She said she regarded these reactions as inevitable, but that they do "…suggest that as artists, we, nonetheless, have to be prepared to enter into political discourse and sometimes directly so."

As an example, Khandjian discussed the political maneuverings surrounding the possibility of "ARARAT"s screening in Turkey. She described how the Turkish Minister of Culture had announced that the film would be screened in Turkey, but that shortly after, "Turkey’s Nationalist Action Party had said that any individual choosing to attend screenings of the film would suffer the consequences of the decision to shame Turkey by paying dearly with his or her life." This latter development (which resulted in the cancellation of the film’s release in Turkey), was not reported in the press, while the former announcement by the Minister of Culture had been widely reported through the Associated Press. Khandjian saw this as yet another boost for the deception by the Turkish government, which deserved to be exposed to the International community.

After many attempts to capture the attention of various Armenian organizations and individuals, Khandjian said it was only the Toronto ANC’s Aris Babikian who took the issue on. "He was the one person who listened carefully to what I was proposing as an opportunity and as an approach to turn the situation around in our interest. I am thankful and humbled by his generosity to commit the time and effort to this cause." Khandjian said that after Babikian contacted every Toronto newspaper editor, journalists began taking an interest. | Khandjian quoted Canada’s top newspaper, The Globe and Mail, which wrote under the headline "Blocking ARARAT," "The movie provides a test of the country’s political maturity at a time when Turkey is pressing to join the European Union. Turkey is failing the test." Soon after, the ANCA Washington headquarters and Western Region offices took it upon themselves to alert the American press, said Khandjian, after which both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times reported on the blocking of the film in Turkey.

Stressing that the purpose in making "ARARAT" for Khandjian and Egoyan was to explore "the very essence of what we have to carry on as an identity in our lives," Khandjian recognized "the power of art to reach the heart and the mind of humanity. If we played a role in Hai Tad, it was only because we first and foremost believed in the need to tell our story as we know it." Khandjian called on Armenian institutions and artists to recognize and validate each other’s contributions and strengthen communication between them.

Henry Morgenthau IV also addressed the crowd at "Hai Tad" evening, saying that his family was always around Armenians while he was growing up in Boston. "At my Bar Mitzvah there were Armenians, and at April 24th, there were Morgenthaus," said Morgenthau IV, who has earned a BS degree from Yale, a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Pennsylvania, his medical credentials from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and is presently practicing pediatrics for the sickest children in San Francisco hospitals. He has also produced films, campaigned for congressional candidates and has worked in organizations promoting health care reform and low-income housing.

Morgenthau IV spoke about the history of the Morgenthau family, which achieved great political and financial success, after many booms and busts in the business world. He described his great-grandfather as outwardly very jovial and cheerful, but very disciplined in his private life. "Financial success should not be a goal in itself," was one of Morgenthau’s maxims, he said, which drove his great-grandfather’s purpose to do good in the world. He spoke of the elder Morgenthau’s permanent legacy of adhering to principles, which gave him the courage to stand up for the Armenians.

Speaking about his trip to Armenia with his father in April, 1999 at the invitation of the Armenian National Institute, Morgenthau said, "It was the spontaneous outpouring of affection from the Armenian people which still stays with me from that trip. My father writes that he felt almost as though he were the ambassador during that trip."

"These experiences have instilled in me a desire to continue Ambassador Morgenthau’s legacy…" said Morgenthau IV. He said that if his great-grandfather were alive today, he knows he would continue to fight for official recognition of the Armenian Genocide, but that he would also "be quick to recognize the vulnerability" of Armenia at present, and would see new opportunities for Armenia.

In his introduction to Morgenthau IV, Bay Area ANC member Mark Markarian said that Morgenthau’s grandfather, Henry Morgenthau Jr. was U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during WWI, during which time he worked on behalf of the Jews facing the Holocaust. Morgenthau Jr. initiated a U.S. Treasury program which funded Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg’s trip to Budapest, where he saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews. Ironically, those rescued Jews included Bay Area Congressman Tom Lantos, one of the most vociferous opponents of Armenian Genocide recognition in Congress.

Honored as "local heroes" at the event were Professor Stephan Astourian, the Executive Director of the Armenian Studies Program at U.C. Berkeley, and U.C. Berkeley Engineering Professor Armen Der Kiureghian. Introducing Prof. Astourian, ANC member and U.C. Berkeley Armenian Students Association co-president Hasmig Tatiossian introduced her professor as someone who had helped instill in her a keen interest in Armenian history and politics. Astourian arrived at U.C. Berkeley as a visiting professor six years ago and was able to swiftly raise the status of Armenian Studies at the university to a full-fledged program, integrating it into the broader university and linking it with other departments on campus. His courses are praised for their rigor and content, and Astourian has volunteered his time to provide community lectures and testify before the government bodies on issues of history and Armenian Genocide education. Tatiossian praised Astourian on behalf of the ANC as someone whose presence, scholarship, and service in the academic arena is making strong, enduring contributions to the Armenian Cause.

Introducing Professor Armen Der Kiureghian, ANC member and American University of Armenia staff member Gohar Momjian, described Der Kiureghian’s many contributions to the Bay Area community and to Armenia. Der Kiureghian was the initiator and founding member of the American University of Armenia, and using his expertise in civil engineering and seismic safety, he helped Armenia greatly after its devastating 1988 earthquake, and established AUA’s Engineering Research Center, acquiring funding for the research work of more than 100 scientists in Armenia. Der Kuireghian was instrumental in establishing the Armenian Studies Program at U.C. Berkeley, and has spearheaded efforts to prevent Armenian Genocide denial on campus. For these major contributions and the many more ways Professor Der Kiureghian has been involved in the preservation and vibrancy of the Armenian community here and abroad, the Bay Area ANC presented him with its "local hero" award.

Speaking on behalf of the Bay Area ANC, Roxanne Makasdjian outlined the committee’s key initiatives of the past year. Describing the various actions taken to achieve recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Makasdjian said, "With the atmosphere of terrorism which surrounds us today, our message becomes clearer than ever before: that when the U.S. covers up for the faults of its friends, it is seen by the rest of the world as hypocritical, selfish, and fraudulent – and its message of human rights, democracy, and justice for all is looked upon as a sham, which sews hatred and resentment among those it says it seeks to save." Makasdjian listed the various Bay Area genocide resolutions the ANC helped pass, the Armenian Genocide film screening it organized, the publicity it helped generate around the book "Burning Tigris" and film "ARARAT," relationships with local press surrounding their coverage of the Genocide, and the progress of the Bay Area ANC’s Genocide Education Project. Makasdjian presented the Project’s newly published lesson plans, "Human Rights and Genocide: A Case Study of the First Genocide of the 20th Century," and discussed the success of new educational website, "TeachGenocide.org"

Makasdjian also updated those present on ANC’s local political advocacy efforts, including its Mayoral Candidates Forum, and the committee’s outreach to university students. She also spoke of the newest problem to arise on the federal level – the Bush administration’s proposal to increase military aid to Azerbaijan, giving it approximately three-times the amount offered to Armenia. Makasdjian urged the audience to support the ANC’s efforts to persuade Congress against making such unbalanced appropriations which dangerously effect Armenia’s national security.

Of special note at "Hai Tad Evening" was the attendance of former California Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian. Makasdjian noted that this Spring, Arabian will be awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, as someone from an immigrant community who has achieved so much. Also recognized for their generosity were the many Bay Area Armenian-American community members who have contributed financially to the committee’s ongoing activities.

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Full Speech by Arsinée Khandjian at Bay Area ANC "Hai Tad Evening"

 

 

 

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