AGBU President Berge Setrakian’s New Year’s Message
we embark on a new year, we proudly look back on the last twelve months as ones which marked significant moments in our national history while undoubtedly cementing our place in world history. With a succession of important milestones, groundbreaking turning points and strategic partnerships, 2018 shaped up to be what few could have predicted even a year ago.
The highlight was Armenia’s Velvet Revolution, where our nation’s citizens demonstrated what non-violent revolution looks like. Just weeks ago, the second phase of this peaceful transfer of power was manifested in free and fair parliamentary elections, which resulted in a sweeping majority of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s My Step Alliance.
This watershed event begged an important question: how could the diaspora make a meaningful difference in fulfilling the promise of the New Armenia and realize the concept of “a small republic that is a global nation.” This theme, coined by President Armen Sarkissian earlier in the year, coincides perfectly with AGBU’s commitment to creating “global Armenians,” a concept we have been promoting for several years. So during a year when AGBU saw significant growth across a number of areas, our organization was well positioned to help explore that question in constructive and concrete ways.
Among our efforts was facilitating substantive one-on-one conversations between members of our community and newly-appointed ministers from Armenia shortly after the May revolution. Much was learned on both sides about the vision for a New Armenia, defined by inclusion of the diaspora to help spur economic growth and build an effective civil society.
Worth mentioning are a number of major successes we realized on the global level, as well as many notable activities across our regions and through our chapters:
We elevated our partnership with The Smithsonian Institution, supporting its Folk Life Festival on the Great Lawn in Washington DC this past summer. We not only contributed to the sponsorship of displays of authentic experiences during the festival weekends, but we also worked with Armenia’s Tourism Board to host a series of presentations for tourism specialists in Boston, New York and Washington DC.
New York was also the site of the groundbreaking Armenia! exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which placed Armenian Medieval Art center stage as an influential shaper of ancient civilization. To help sustain the momentum, AGBU sponsored a series of theme-related events at the Met, from performances to children’s activities to Christmas concerts. We also featured curators of Armenia! on AGBU WebTalks, which also appeared on the Met’s own website.
AGBU London organized a gala fundraiser for TUMO x AGBU with special guest footballer Henrikh Mikhitaryan, while AGBU Europe, in support of the AGBU Children’s Centers in Armenia, presented a “Musical Weekend in Brussels,” featuring rising Armenian musical talents. AGBU New England celebrated its 110th Anniversary, raising more than $2 million for local and global youth programs; a significant portion of these funds came from the generosity of Armenian-American World War II veterans. Meanwhile, our Young Professionals continued to impress with their activities adding new groups, notably one in South Korea marking an official entry of the network into Asia.
Also breaking ground in 2018 were two AGBU signature programs that foster collaborative Armenian-Diaspora relations: the AGBU Women’s Empowerment Program and Bridge for CSO’s, a partnership with the Council of Europe. Managed by AGBU, both these pilot programs hinge largely on a diasporan component in the form of mentors, ambassadors and industry experts. In addition, our teams in Armenia, Canada and France worked together to build new alliances during the Francophonie Summit in October where heads of state and delegations from across the French-speaking world converged in Yerevan for policy talks and cultural exchange.
This was also the year of milestone commemorations. Armenians worldwide, along with the people of France, mourned the loss of Charles Aznavour, one of the brightest luminaries in the world of entertainment. Little did we know during our exclusive interview with this cultural icon one month prior that his own words about working till his last breath would be so prophetic.
We observed anniversaries of triumphs and losses from the 100th anniversaries of the Battle of Sardarabad and the First Armenian Republic, to the 30th anniversary of the Artsakh Liberation Movement and the Spitak earthquake. Each of these was marked with thoughtful reverence and educational outreach. Furthermore, to continue reaching our goal of helping Artsakh build its own sustainable growth economy, we established the AGBU Fund for Artsakh.
As always, we thank our membership, staff and volunteers for their continued dedication and tireless efforts to achieve our vast mission. We are grateful to our benefactors, donors and supporters without whom none of our successes could be achieved.
I am confident in saying that 2018 will long be remembered as a banner year for Armenians and AGBU in our newfound role as global citizens. We look forward to 2019 with high hopes for Armenia and Artsakh, and with a steadfast commitment to all our constituents, beneficiaries and partners who count on us to lay the foundations for the prosperity and well-being of all Armenians.
In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a healthy, prosperous and blessed New Year.
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