The Truth Will Set You Free: Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

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Yesterday, Armenians around the world commemorated the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, when 1.5 million Armenians were systematically murdered by the Ottoman Turkish Empire for refusing to renounce their Christian faith and Armenian culture.

There were marches of 100,000+ people over the weekend; performances of new music, films and plays; peaceful demonstrations at memorial monuments, lectures and sacred services; and a shining new tribute: the recently inaugurated Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, co-developed by Armenian and non-Armenian philanthropists, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and George and Amal Clooney — “On behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors” — and awarded “to an individual whose actions have had an exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes.” The award was announced yesterday in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital (click here for announcement), and will be announced there each year.

These forward-looking, inspiring events help show that the Turks and their Genocide of Armenians did not succeed in eliminating Armenians — they show that the world is starting to understand and embrace the truth of our history. But whether the world ever fully accepts it or not, Armenians are stronger and freer than ever by faith in God, and by perseverance to the values that matter most: love, compassion, dignity, spiritual commitment, regardless of what lies or horrors swarm around us. Although Turkey’s recogition would go a long way in healing many hearts and souls, Armenians don’t have to wait for that reluctant recognition to accomplish all they were put on this earth to do.

But genocides continue, as we see in today’s news. Christians and other groups keep getting persecuted for their beliefs, particularly in the Muslim world. And countries, because of their power, allies or strategic connections and resources, continue to literally get away with murder. Even today, Turkey denies carrying out the Armenian Genocide 100 years ago.

On the PR battlefront, the current Turkish goverment is also trying to murder the truth of history by funding full-page ads in the New York Times and Washington Post, buying up billboards near Genocide recogition event sites, and even creating websites claiming to seek truth and peace about the 1915 genocide yet which only deny its realities.

So the fight continues to advocate for full recognition, to tell our own true stories, and to sustain our heritage, culture and faith in new ways. One theater organization, the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance (ADAA), accomplishes this mission by encouraging Armenian stories and wider human-rights stories to be told onstage via playwriting contests and readings. As ADAA’s slogan reads: “It’s Time Our Stories Were Told.” We can never stop telling them.

For my husband and me, our day took place at the 31st Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration in New York, co-sponsored by the Armenian fraternal and charitable organizations we are deeply involved in, The Knights and Daughters of Vartan.

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More than 3,000 people congregated in Times Square, to hear politicians, academics, advocates, clergy and community leaders (including my husband) speak the truth and to urge everyone to participate in local advocacy as much as possible — calling your congressman to get an Armenian Genocide resolution passed; writing your State Assemblyman to get the Armenian Genocide taught in the schools, building relationships and telling our stories as much as possible to raise awareness. It was an inspiring event.

And yet, just two days before, a pro-Turkish group hired a plane to skywrite messages of Armenian Genocide denial high in the New York skies, also paying a troupe of people to dance below as the messages appeared.

Really?

The mere presence of denial and antagonism does not mean that truth-tellers should stop telling the truth, or stop advocating for it. In fact, the presence of opposition affirms our need to get the truth out there even more. Not with hatred or closedmindedness, but with an honest view toward recognition, repararation and perhaps, even reconciliation. And I think only God can change people’s hearts, if they are open to it.

But even if those things never occur, the victory is won. We were not wiped out. We are still here. And as voices young and old rang out to the heavens yesterday, our sainted ancestors heard and smiled in glory.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:38

Onward.

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For more information:

About the Armenian Genocide:

http://www.armenian-genocide.org/

http://www.armeniangenocidemuseum.org/#home

http://armeniangenocide100.org/en/

About The Aurora Prize: https://auroraprize.com/en/prize

About the Knights and Daughters of Vartan: www.kofv.org

About the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance: www.armeniandrama.org

What Leadership Is – and Isn’t

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Coming out of a special two-year leadership experience I just completed, I continue to reflect on what leadership is – and isn’t. Here are ten things leadership is, and five things it isn’t:

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The Voice of Victory

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Yesterday, April 26, 2015, I had the privilege of speaking in Times Square for the 100th Armenian Genocide Commemoration – a call to remember the 1.5 million Armenians massacred by Ottoman Turkey seeking to ethnically cleanse its country (a good portion of which used to be ancient Armenia).

Among writers and scholars far more qualified than I to speak on the subject, I was honored to be there because of service, because I currently chair a national Armenian women’s organization dedicated to serving our people around the world.

Sometimes when we serve, we go on unexpected journeys, learning unexpected lessons and benefiting from unexpected opportunities. Yesterday’s was the largest crowd I had ever given a speech to, and perhaps ignorance is bliss: I later learned that there were 15,000 people in the crowd, which might have been a knee-freezer had I known earlier!

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“Let Me Build Altars Out of Words…”

My father in law passed away this week at the blessed age of 91. He was a strong Armenian man devoted to his family and his heritage, and he encouraged me in many ways as a writer and family member.

So in this special week of remembrance, I thought I would share a few translated poems by one of his favorite Armenian poets, Missak Medzarents.

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My Worst Trip Ever and Why I Loved It

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I currently chair a national Armenian women’s organization that helps sustain our cultural heritage, develop Armenian women leaders and support Armenian families around the world.  Some would call it a sorority, but I consider it much deeper and stronger than that. However, one similarity is that fellow members call each other ‘sisters.’

And let’s just say that my fellow ‘sisters’ and I had an interesting travel adventure this past week, to say the least. As I write, we national officers are on the final leg of a very long trip across multiple cities and airlines.

In two weeks, we visited five chapters of our organization across the east and midwest. On our most recent trip, we had to travel through seven cities to visit three chapters. We missed two flights due to weather and plane delays. We were twice told the planes would be held for us, only to see the plane slowly back away from the gate the minute we got there, after we ran — yes, ran — through multiple terminals.

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The gate agent on one end said, “Oh yes, we called already; they’re holding the flight for you; go, go, go!”

The gate agent on the other end said, “We never got a call…”

These and other snafus resulted in two unexpected overnight stays in two different, non-visitation cities.

“But you can get your luggage at Terminal E….” And a half hour later:

“Oh, no your luggage isn’t at Terminal E; it’s at Terminal C, and you can’t access it until tomorrow.”

Then we were delayed 2.5 hrs on another flight because the pilot never showed up and the airline had to search for another pilot last minute.

In another case, our flight was delayed 4.5 hours because Vice President Joe Biden was landing at the airport on Air Force Two for a last minute visit, grounding all scheduled flights for the entire morning.

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Sometimes, our luggage made it to our destinations when we did; in other cases it did not. At one point, we got our luggage after being redirected multiple times, only to open two suitcases to find the contents soaking wet — apparently left out in the thunderous New England rain. Two of my officers caught colds and also injured their back and shoulder. And I’m not sure we ever slept more than 4 hours on any given night — and not always in a bed.

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Those who have seen the film, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, about a frazzled father and his unexpected friend, overcoming hurdle after hurdle, trying to make it home for Thanksgiving, will certainly understand the frustrations we felt.

But we love our ‘sisters.’

That’s what kept coming back to our minds.

But we love our sisters, our fellow members. And we did not want anything to get in the way of our visiting them, after they had been planning and preparing for weeks with warm anticipation.

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Sure enough, the visits to the gals of Worcester, Providence, Boston, Milwaukee and Chicago, were some of the loveliest, laughter-filled times we’ve ever had in the organization. Truly, we will never forget them. Those loving times of warm welcome and fellowship, celebration of common history, partnership in a shared vision — and laughter about all our craziness, into the wee hours — are what our organization is all about. They are what service and friendship are all about.

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When our relationships, life situations, or writing projects take us on all sorts of unexpected delays, detours, or outright stoppages, we have to remember:

But this is who I love; this is what I love; this is why and how I love.

And that sense of love-centered purpose is what enables us to keep going, to see the journey through to completion — and to be grateful, especially as Thanksgiving nears. The pockets of love that we open along the way of a disjointed journey are worth all the headaches. Most of the time.

But don’t get me wrong: I’m still writing a few letters to United Airlines and US Airways. Soon as I finish this blog. They’re gonna have to show me some love too.

Onward!

P.S. My book BRAVURA is out on Kindle — the first in the “The Music We Made” series about a group of classical musicians in 1960’s London.  You can order it here. Downloads are free through 10/20!!

Mom’s Job

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My younger daughter’s pre-school teacher told me at one afternoon pickup, early in the school year, that she had asked my daughter if I worked. My then-four-year-old promptly had answered:

 

“Oh, no. My mom doesn’t work. She’s Mommy. She just writes plays.”

 

I laughed. I liked that my girl saw my being her mommy as my main ‘job’ — because it absolutely is, first and foremost. And I’m grateful to my husband that I don’t need to work for financial reasons.

 

But it was also interesting that my daughter didn’t see my creative writing or speaking work as work, like Daddy’s ‘work’. And while that bothered me at first, I eventually decided I liked her response.

 

Because my writing is not work, or a burden, or a requirement. It is a passion I am blessed to choose with joy.  And my girls need to see that such joy in their ‘work’ is possible.

 

Even when the writing/creative work doesn’t always bring joy, it is still my thing. And every woman needs to have something that is ‘her thing.’

 

My daughters have seen some of my plays (not the most ‘grown-up’ ones, they know to say), and they have even appeared in a couple of them. They’ve seen me speak about my work in public. They know all of it as being something I love to do and must do. But they now see that it takes time and effort, just like any other ‘work’ would.

 

Sometimes I tell them about my stories; sometimes I tell them that they’ll find out when they’re older.  Just like I ask them about what excites them, they do the same to me.

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