Bay Area ANC Welcomes Khandjian and Morgenthau

Armenian National Committee
San Francisco – Bay Area
51 Commonwealth Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118
Tel: (415) 387-3433
Fax: (415) 751-0617
[email protected]

Contact: Roxanne Makasdjian (415) 641-0525

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.

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, `’

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.


Full Speech by Arsinée Khandjian at Bay Area ANC `Hai Tad Evening’:

Left to right: Bay Area ANC Representative Roxanne Makasdjian, Actress
Arsinée Khandjian, Professor Stephan Astourian, Dr. Henry Morgenthau IV, and
Professor Armen Der Kiureghian