FAR Executive Director Delivers Sts. Vartanantz Day Keynote Speech i


Fund for Armenian Relief
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Edina N. G. Bobelian
Tel: (212) 889-5150; Fax: (212) 889-4849
E-mail: [email protected]

February 9, 2005

The following is the address delivered by Mr. Garnik Nanagoulian,
Executive Director of the Fund for Armenian Relief, on the occasion of
the Vartanantz Day commemoration at St. Vartan Cathedral in New York, NY
on February 3, 2005.

It is a privilege to speak to you today, on this special day, when we
celebrate the life of one of the most legendary Armenians, Vartan
Sparabet, and his valiant warriors, who stood up to an overwhelmingly
superior army of the Persian Empire. They faced the battle with courage,
and conviction, and dignity because they were defending the right of the
Armenian people to worship as they had chosen, to protect their
Christianity. In effect, to protect the very existence of the Armenian

Vartanantz has since become a symbol of Armenian national aspiration, a
source of spiritual strength and resilience that has proven to be so
vital in confronting the numerous challenges that our nation has faced
for the centuries thereafter.

We celebrate a heroic event of the history of our nation, and we
celebrate it at the Armenian House of worship that proudly holds the
name of St. Vartan. Every morning crossing Second Avenue at 34th Street
I never stop admiring the beauty and majesty of this Armenian House of
worship. It proudly stands right in the middle of one of the most
powerful centers of the World. Busy with our daily routines we very
often take it for granted.

For me the St. Vartan Cathedral is not just a monument to one of
Armenia’s martyrs, it is yet another testimony to the fact that the holy
right and heritage of the Armenian people has been preserved through the
centuries. It is a testament to the continuing legacy of Vartanantz.

The spirit of Vartan lives today with the Knights and Daughters of
Vartan, an organization that is so proudly represented here tonight. An
organization that was established by visionary Armenians to preserve the
national, religious, and cultural heritage of the Armenian people.

Every period in Armenia’s history brought new challenges to our people,
and through it all, the spirit of Vartan persevered:

The spirit of Vartan remained alive with all those who came together to
help our fellow countrymen and women during the tragic days of the
earthquake in Gyumri and Spitak in 1988, as well as to support
Hayasdantsis in their struggle for an independent Armenia.

The spirit of Vartan remained alive with our brothers and sisters who
made the ultimate sacrifice to liberate Artsakh for all Armenians.

This year, in 2005, we are going to commemorate the 90th anniversary of
the Armenian Genocide. We come together as a nation to remind the world
that we never forget. We will make our voice louder and louder, stronger
and stronger until justice prevails.

Whenever we celebrate a glorious event in Armenia’s history, an event of
the past, it gives us the opportunity to reflect, to think about the
challenges of today and of the future.

It is amazing to me how we, Armenians will unite anywhere in the world
and in the homeland when we commemorate our past, or when we face an
imminent threat. However, as ironical as it may sound, the PRESENT, the
time we are living through NOW, does not seem to inspire us, does not
seem to ignite our will, does not seem to unite us in dealing with the
routine and day-to-day challenges of nation-building.

In the battle of Avarayr in the 5th century, the spirit of Vartan could
express itself only in two ways – live or die. In the end, the Armenians
chose to die rather than give up their holy rights, the essence of their

Today the spirit of Vartan could be expressed in many ways.

I am honored to be here tonight representing the preeminent Armenian
charitable organizations, the Fund for Armenian Relief, where each day I
witness different manifestations of the Vartanantz spirit.

The members of the FAR family have chosen to become soldiers for a new
Armenia by supporting an orphan in Gyumri, helping a single mother in
Syunik, giving hope to an elderly woman in Vanadzor, creating an
opportunity for young people, and in many, many other ways. What better
cause to fight for today than building an Armenia of our dreams!

Let me tell you about a shared philosophy within FAR’s family or donor
community – something I have learned and believe in. It is as simple as
it is powerful:
We are all Armenians. Whether in the Diaspora or in the homeland, we
are all Armenians. We have a common faith, a common culture, a common
history. Through all the generations, perhaps there are other
influences, but what unites us all, is our shared heritage. And we are
all proud to be Armenian. We are all deeply connected, as Armenians, we
are family. And as an Armenian family, we have a duty to help the
members of our family in the struggling homeland. It is a duty, an
obligation. An obligation as a choice, a choice you make for the people
you love.

Think about this: for almost 7 centuries, 700 years, Armenians did not
even have a chance to be responsible for their lives. Except for a
brief period after the World War I, almost 28 (28!) generations of
Armenians never had the luxury of self-rule, of self-government.

And guess what? We are the lucky ones. We, who simply happen to live
at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, we
received a gift from God – an independent homeland. What a historic
opportunity for all of us to make that country the most envious place in
the World!

And we CAN make it happen. There is nothing that could prevent us. We
are a great nation, a great people: not only we have defeated all the
threats, not only we have preserved our national, religious and cultural
heritage, but we, Armenians – have been making the entire world
profitable by contributing generously to almost any advancement in the
history of mankind. There is nothing we can not do. We must believe

In 1952, in his state of the Union speech, President Truman appealed for
unity and told the nation, this nation: “The only thing that can defeat
us is our state of mind. We can lose if we falter”

I believe, the same applies to Armenians today – the only thing that
could defeat us is our own state of mind. And nothing could defeat us,
if we try to illuminate the little Vartan in each of us. He is always
there with us: we just need to call on him more often.

I believe, the legacy of Vartanantz continues to teach us today, like
never before, to stay vigilant, not to allow to be overwhelmed by the
virus of apathy and complacency.

Today like never before, when most of the visible threats seemed to be
diminished, we have to find strength and inspiration from the Vartanantz
legacy and come together as a nation with our Church to double – triple
our efforts in strengthening our communities in the Diaspora, and more
importantly, to empower Armenians in Armenia to build a vital homeland.

I was on a plane returning from Armenia on my recent visit as the new
Executive Director of the Fund for Armenian Relief. An elegant, aged
lady was sitting next to me deeply submerged into her own thoughts. I
asked her if she was leaving Armenia, or just on a visit to see her
loved ones in the U.S. She said, she had left Armenia in 1985, and this
was her first trip to her homeland after it became independent. I asked
for her impressions. She sighed, and lowering her voice down said sadly:
“Well, it’s bad, pretty bad. Our poor people are suffering a lot.”

Then she paused, and continued:
“But you know what – we’ll do it, we’ve been there. It just requires
time, patience, and hard work. I have patience,” she continued, “never
shied away from hard work; as for my time – it’s in God’s hands.”

When we said good-bye at London’s Heathrow airport (she was heading to
LA, I was taking a flight to New York City), she said:
“I am afraid that we in the Diaspora sometimes lose heart over the
political disappointments in Armenia. But we can not do that, we are in
this for a long haul in Armenia. And, more importantly, that’s really
the only choice we’ve got, because Armenia is the only homeland we’ve

What a remarkable woman! What a bright spirit!

We, at the Fund for Armenian Relief, have been in Armenia for more than
16 years. We have implemented a wide range of humanitarian and
development programs there. Looking back we can proudly say – we have
accomplished a lot. Many of you are FAR family members and are fully
aware of the good work of FAR. We have channeled more than $250 million
dollars of assistance to Armenians, touched the lives of almost every
family in Armenia. And we do see the difference: perhaps not as big as
we want, maybe not as quickly as we want, sometimes with unnecessary
complications and problems, you know. But we know where we are heading.
And when you know your destination it makes it easier to overcome
today’s minor or even big problems.

Because our FAR family members know – we are still at the very beginning
in Armenia’s struggle to build a vital country, a coherent citizenry. We
just help them, we are working hard to empower them with hope and
opportunity to build the foundations for the new Armenia. And we know
these foundations are still being built.

As the old lady in the airplane said – we are in this for a long haul in

Today the stakes of the battle in Armenia are still high. They remind us
of the importance of the continuing resilience and long-term commitment
in helping our brothers and sisters there. That would be in the spirit
of Vartanantz, because it is there, in Armenia, where our future is.
Because it is there, where our roots are. Because this is the land of
Vartan. This is the land I’ve come from. This is the land we have ALL
come from.

We know the challenges are becoming more complex, and we are getting
prepared to meet them with the help of our FAR family – committed and
dedicated Armenians. We get our strength and encouragement from them.

Our members believe in FAR, they are proud of FAR. They know FAR has
proven many times that we accomplish our goals lawfully, transparently
and reliably.

Not only do we help people in need, but many of our social, educational
and healthcare programs contribute to a social ethos of trust, which is
so essential for a productive society.

We contribute to a practical sense of hope and opportunity among
Armenia’s people. Our work tells them that their individual lives mean
something, that in new Armenia every human being counts.

We do not simply free people from their anxieties over meeting their
daily needs. Our work also helps them to become free spiritually, a
critically important thing if we dream to eventually achieve in Armenia
the kind of society that is free, productive, consensual, and humane.

We at FAR, realize how fortunate we are to have a unique chance in our
lifetime to see and know an independent Armenia. This is our chance. It
is time to cast our vote for the future of all Armenians drawing the
lessons from our past.

In fact, it is the only vote we have as Armenians, here, in Diaspora.

By giving our time, donating money, volunteering our services – we cast
our vote for the future of Armenia, for our future, for the future of
generations of Armenians to come.

And maybe our descendants will celebrate us as warmheartedly in the
future as we today celebrate St. Vartan and his valiant warriors.

Thank you very much.
May God bless Armenia and Armenians.