Sargisian, who seemed to drink in the adulation of the crowd, said that the last time he had been in the United States was a year ago. The thrust of his speech was the interconnected needs of Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora.
Feeling upbeat and full of promise regarding the young republic, Sargisian said, “For the Armenian people, it is time to celebrate new victories. The independent republic is rising.”
He praised the diversity of the Armenian people around the world and said that those differences ought to be a cause for celebration, not concern. He praised the “multi-faceted and multi-lingual” diaspora.
“Our diaspora needs encouragement,” he said, so that they can continue helping the “revived Armenian Republic” which in turn would help them stay Armenian through the generations. “Otherwise, it would disappear,” he said.
Sargisian also explained that earlier this month, the government of Armenia was in a difficult state, with war on its borders, between Georgia and Russia, which compounded its other closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan.
He then put into context the “football diplomacy” he practiced with Turkey, in which he extended an olive branch to his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, and invited him to visit Armenia, since he explained, he wanted to “solve” the questions facing Armenia and Turkey, and “not leave them for the next generation to deal with.” He praised Gul for having that “readiness” to deal with the issues driving a wedge between the two nations and visiting Armenia.
“Our home is the world,” Sargisian said, noting, “Whether different in language, religion or anything else, they’re still Armenian. Catholic, Protestant, Apostolic and Moslem, Socialist, etc.,” they’re all Armenian, he said. “The key to Armenian continuity is its diversity.”
He then introduced Hranush Hakobyan, who is going to head the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, a sort of go-between for the diaspora and Armenia.
He closed his comments by reiterating that all Armenians need to do their best for the Republic of Armenia, and praised a few that he could see in the crowd that night.
Delivering the introductory speech was Ambassador Edward Djerejian. Djerejian repeatedly hammered on the theme of “democracy” and “transparency,” repeating the US State Department’s criticism of the elections in Armenia.
He stressed that Armenia, once it attains that level of democracy the US considers appropriate, can be a cultural, economic, scientific and democratic center in the Caucasus, and “bridge east and west, north and south.”
He added, “Open borders with [its] neighbors will bring peace and prosperity,” with regard to the recent overtures from Yerevan toward Ankara.
“It was a brilliant gesture [by Sargisian] and a major move in diplomacy,” Djerejian said.
Added Djerejian, “Washington appreciates Armenia’s support, especially in Iraq.”
As Ambassador Markarian noted, the lavish reception was sponsored by Hrair Hovnanian, Richard Manoogian and his sister, Louise Manoogian Simone, Hratch Kaprielian and Nazar Nazarian.
The master of ceremonies for the program was Chahe Agopian.
Among the guests were Chairman of ADL Press Committee Hagop Vartivarian. Also representing the ADL were ADL District Committee Co-Chair Edmond Azadian, New York/New Jersey Chapter Chairman Krikor Salbashian, member Vartan Ilandjian and Executive Secretary Kevork Marashlian.
Among the leaders of other organizations were Louise Manoogian Simone of the AGBU; Hrair Hovnanian of the Armenian Assembly of America; Aram Hamparian of the Armenian National Committee of America; Noubar Afeyan of Armenia 20/20; Raffi Festekjian of Armenia Fund Eastern US; Edward Torikian of the Armenian Missionary Association of America; Harut Sassounian of United Armenian Fund and Lincy Foundation and Haig Deranian Avak commander , representing the Knights of Vartan.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) delivered the invocation, and Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate, Prelacy of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), delivered the closing prayers.