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Bay Area ANC Welcomes Khandjian and Morgenthau

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  • 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