Tufts University Hosts Genocide Commemoration

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By Thomas C . Nash
Special to the Mirror-Spectator

 

MEDFORD, Mass. — Around 100 gathered in Tufts University’s Goddard Chapel last Tuesday for a presentation by author Michael Bobelian in commemoration of the 96th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

The commemoration, organized by Ina Baghdiantz McCabe, Darakjian and Jafarian Chair in Armenian History, began with a presentation from Bobelian titled “America and the Armenian Genocide: The Quest for Justice from Wilson to Obama.”

Bobelian’s lecture drew on his 2009 book, Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide, and The Century-Long Struggle for Justice, which features interviews with many of the decision makers in Washington who have played a role in the decades of advocacy for recognition. It also features an analysis of how the first major worldwide aid effort became forgotten — including the country that spearheaded the effort.

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“This relationship shows America both at its best and at its worst,” Bobelian said. “There was no precedent or apparatus for this kind of effort. The US was at the forefront.”

Bobelian traced the history from the start of the Genocide and aid campaign in 1915 to 50 years later, highlighting that what had been front-page news in the New York Times as it was happening had faded from the public’s memory.

A precise way of measuring that memory, Bobelian noted, is analyzing the press coverage in the major newspapers following the initial reports of massacres. Before efforts for recognition took hold, he noted that only 30 mentions of the word genocide or massacres could be found in the nearly 12,0000 stories mentioning Armenia or Armenians.

“Armenians were incapable of sustaining the memory of this event with the outside world,” Bobelian said of the period between World War II and 1965, when the first public commemorations took place. “These protests created a campaign for justice that has existed until today.”

Bobelian outlined the struggle faced by Armenian Americans in getting both presidential and congressional recognition for the Genocide, highlighting moments ranging from the 1985 letter signed by 69 scholars disputing that the Genocide is settled history to former Sen. Bob Dole’s showdown with President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

Following Bobelian’s presentation, attendees filed out of the chapel with roses to place on a memorial plaque next to the chapel. A reception at Ballou Hall followed.

 

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