Rise and RaiseLast Friday I attended, among other representative youth and Diocesan clergy, the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America’s annual General Assembly. Could I feel more at home in any other environment? Admittedly, however, it was a tiring day of Robert’s Rules and procedural matters, yet it had its share of flavor and invigoration. Invited to speak to us was an Armenian American diplomat of the United States of America. This diplomat breached many topics in his speech, from describing aspects of his work to sharing his sentiments about the Armenian Christian identity. What I took away most from his remarks, and from the weekend in general, were thoughts as to how we Armenians of America can contribute to American society. What have we, a small and under-represented minority? In many locations where Armenian communities have been established with both sacred and secular institutions, we have reached an unsurpassed degree of assimilation and it is becoming hard enough to keep our own people close to their Church and their culture. As a history major, I have studied other populations of peoples who have migrated to America and established themselves here. In immigrant communities, the trend of assimilation is inevitable and no one’s to say the Armenians are any more immune to this than the Italians or Irish, for example. But it is bittersweet to see 2,000 plus years of culture and language and 1,700 plus years of Christianity be engulfed in a matter of 2 or 3 generations. I believe what this diplomat had to say was that for us Armenians to preserve ourselves - and for any minority group for that matter - we must have positive impacts on our general society. No one can argue that we have not been successful thus far. There simply is more that can be done for the common good, and this country, the United States of America. It might be difficult to convince leaders of the Armenian American community that the emphasis must be placed here, on the needs of the universal community, rather than on issues strictly relevant to Armenians. We have entered an era when leaders of the Armenian Orthodox Church are rightly concerned with decreased weekly attendance, declining fluency in the Armenian language among the general population, and a sense of diluted heritage and culture in the new generations. Similarly, non-profit and grass-roots Armenian organizations struggle to expand their mailing list to include non-Armenians and to keep their interests alive. It is a challenge. Yet at some point, these commitments must be balanced as well as fortified. There are examples of Armenians who have given of themselves for the improvement of American and international society; keep your eyes open and you will notice countless universities and institutions that have had buildings donated by Armenians, philanthropic programs established, or physicians and educators who have had innumerable positive and transformative effects on others. But clearly, we can do more, as can any people. From the perspective of someone who’s only 20 years old but often thinks about these issues, the problem is that with each passing generation there is an added degree of comfort with the status quo when there should be an enduring feeling of needing to do more to mitigate the societal environment in the unique manner that one can. It’s not only the duty of the Armenians but also of all people in society to accept this notion of ceaseless contribution. Donating to charity once a year or protesting an unjust law when it only applies to you is limited self-giving. In his closing remarks, this diplomat quoted the message of one of our treasured Armenian poets, Vahan Tekeyan: “Partsratseer yev Partsratrsoor" or "Rise and Raise.” I think this excerpt sums up the essence of how to lead a fulfilling and lasting life.
Posted by: Maral | June 4, 2008 11:45 AM
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