Advocacy Conference Begins With Call to Service

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A panel discussion on Monday that kicked off the conference included Dean Shahinian, Taniel Koushakjian and Gregory Aftandilian, student activist Jirair Ratevosian and Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan.

Karapetyan, pastor of St. Mary’ Armenian Church, encouraged young people to take a more active role in church life — saying many churches are having trouble filling out choirs and finding organists.

Shahinian outlined his view of leadership, and how a young person looking to get into public service could begin making an impact.

“There are two things a leader needs to have: time and access,” Shahinian said. “At your state in life, you may have a vision, but you need someone to empower you. At the same time, if the leaders won’t empower you, you’ve got to find another way.”

Building on Shahinian’s insight, Aftandilian stressed the importance of shifting away from the view that only careers in law, medicine or finance are worthwhile.

“I think there’s this old world mentality (among the diaspora). You have to educate your own parents about public sector careers.”

For his part, Ratevosian, who helps organize the Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur and is a field coordinator for the Health Action Aids Campaign at Physicians for Human Rights, said college students have the power to change the world.

“When government fails to act, students take matters into their own hands and turn ideas into reality,” he said.

(More coverage of the advocacy conference will be featured in next week’s issue of the Mirror-Spectator.)

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