Eastern Diocese Names Gov. Deval Patrick ‘Friend of Armenians’ for 2011



NEW YORK — For his support of the Armenian-American community, the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America has named Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick as its “Friend of the Armenians” for 2011. The award will be officially bestowed during the annual Diocesan Assembly, meeting this year in Boston, April 28-May 1.

“We are what we are because of our willingness to face horrors like the Armenian Genocide — and to use them as reminders of the best of what we are. And the best of what we want to be is founded in tolerance and understanding.”

The words were those of Patrick at the ceremonial groundbreaking and blessing of “Armenian Heritage Park” along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, on September 9, 2010.

More than 1,000 people — Armenians from the Greater Boston area, leaders of the Armenian Church and national Armenian organizations, distinguished civic and municipal figures and elected officers — had turned out for the ceremony.

Patrick stood alongside the visiting Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, referring to the gathered crowd as his “brothers and sisters,” as he offered his universal vision of human excellence grounded in tolerance and understanding.

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“Let this park be a permanent tribute to that,” Patrick concluded.

The applause thundering from the crowd was more than a response to noble sentiments: it was an indication of the depth of respect and friendship that had blossomed between the Armenian community and the dynamic Massachusetts governor.

Patrick was re-elected to a second term as governor in November 2010. Prior to that, his life had charted a path from the South Side of Chicago to the US Justice Department, Fortune 500 boardrooms and the Massachusetts State House.

In each of these capacities, Patrick has been guided by advice his grandmother once gave him: Hope for the best — and work for it.

He came to Massachusetts at the age of 14: a motivated student who had overcome difficult circumstances in Chicago to earn a scholarship to the prestigious Milton Academy. The young Deval Patrick saw the scholarship as an opportunity to excel, and he has viewed his subsequent public service as repayment for the opportunities he received.

He became the first in his family to attend college — Harvard — and went on to its Law School. A clerkship for a federal judge led to his career as an attorney and business executive, rising to senior positions at Texaco and Coca-Cola. In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Patrick as assistant attorney general for civil rights, the nation’s top civil rights post. He and his wife, Diane, have been married for more than 25 years, and have two grown daughters.

In 2006 came his election as Massachusetts governor, and Patrick again overcame obstacles — political and economic — to make his strong positive mark on the Commonwealth’s educational and scientific establishments, while accomplishing major reforms that had eluded elected leaders for decades.

For the local Armenian community, Patrick emerged as an insightful and courageous supporter and as an outspoken advocate for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

When plans for Armenian Heritage Park were met with political opposition, Patrick’s support was instrumental in moving the project forward. Often working behind the scenes and at some political risk, the governor helped the park project overcome negative voices — and realize a vision of the park as refuge for all people.

In his interactions with the community, Patrick frequently draws on his own background of hardship, opportunity and achievement to convey his solidarity with Armenians.

“I stand with you as family,” he told a large gathering at Watertown’s St. James Church last spring. Having toured the church, which was built in the hard times of the Depression, he reflected that it stood as a symbol of “the tenacity of the Armenian community;…proof of what the human spirit is capable of, under the most difficult circumstances.”

The same chords of personal solidarity and universal value provided the key signature in his remarks at the Armenian Heritage Park groundbreaking.

“I am so proud to stand with you today,” he said, “to pay tribute to human perseverance. Because that is what this park represents. Yes, it is an acknowledgment of an historic fact: that the Armenian Genocide is real. It happened. It must be acknowledged. It cannot be denied.”

“But,” he continued, “it has value and importance well beyond even that tragedy in human history. Because as long as there has been human history, there has also been human tragedy. And it is absolutely essential that we take occasion to pay tribute to the perseverance of the human spirit — wherever it shows itself.”

The 109th Diocesan Assembly will be hosted by the Holy Trinity parish of Cambridge. For information on the banquet and this year’s Diocesan Assembly, visit www.htaac.org.

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