A Tribute to Hirair Hovnanian

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 By Nubar Dorian

Imagination, dreams, wishes, success, wealth and power are cheap commodities that clutter the human mind and separate us from birds, insects, plants and trees and all creatures of God who do not know Sunday from Monday. In this confusing world we live, very few among us add passion, mission and action to the mix and become leaders to be admired, respected and loved.

One such leader is Hirair Hovnanian. He is involved in all phases of our community, with exemplary caring, attention, devotion and largesse. Hrair is extraordinary and unique in the sense that all worthy causes are embraced by him. Partisanship is alien to him. His name appears as donor, supporter or participant in just about all Armenian causes, without regard to party or group affiliation. This is, indeed, the hallmark of true leadership.

Obviously, Hirair is best known throughout the Armenian world as the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Armenian Assembly of America, which he, along with long-remembered Mr. Mugar, a wonderful memory, established in Washington, DC, decades ago.

Without doubt, question or hesitation, this organization presently is the best loved, most admired and most envied in terms of furthering the Armenian Cause. The White House, the Senate and the House in Washington, as well as Armenia and Europe, consider the Armenian Assembly the best source and the most powerful advocate in pursuit of justice for the Armenian Cause.

It is a little ironic, though, that the Armenian Assembly is not fully appreciated in some quarters. It is worth reminding us that from the very inception of the Assembly, it insisted that the organization shall be an advocate for us all by having representation from the Armenian Diocese, the Armenian Prelacy, the Armenian Protestant community, along with two major Armenian political parties. It started with 21 members on its board of directors, with three co-chairpersons, and Hirair Hovnanian as the president of the Board of Trustees.

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There is unanimous agreement that the Armenian Assembly has had, and continues to have, remarkable success, and for those who may not be too familiar, below is a short list of accomplishments to make every Armenian’s heart rejoice:

 • Established a well-staffed and prestigious office in the heart of Washington, DC, with professionals at the helm;

• Helped lift up the indifference of our community towards US politics from fewer than a dozen congressmen who supported the Armenian Cause. We are grateful to the Assembly for raising this number to more than 170 congressmen throughout the states. There is no question that this number will grow and our Genocide will be recognized officially by the US government;

• Acquired funds from the National Endowment Fund for Humanities and succeeded in preparing the best Oral History Project to record, for posterity, eyewitness stories of the Armenian Genocide;

• For the first time ever, established Summer Internship Program for young, deserving college students to come to Washington during summer and intern with various government and private organizations to prepare them for their future success. This program has been such a great success that the Diocese, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and other organizations have started their own internship programs;

• Presented expert witnesses to congressional committees to secure grants for various Armenian causes, including funds for independent Armenia and Karabagh;

• Established an office in California to better coordinate all efforts regarding Armenian needs and requests;

• Conceived and carried on a huge project to establish an Armenian Genocide Museum in Washington, DC. As most of us know, the land has been purchased only three short blocks from the White House and the project is on the way to fruition and

• Recently opened an office in Yerevan, Armenia, to better coordinate all efforts with independent Armenia and Karabagh.

 

One of Hirair’s remarkable accomplishments is his ability to instill love, caring and involvement towards all Armenian affairs here in America, as well as in the homeland. Armenian language, history, music and song are all found in the Hovnanian home. It is a joy to note that every member of Hirair’s family is engaged in some Armenian project. Needless to say, every member of his family is loved and admired here in the homeland. It is fair to state that in the diasporan history, we never had a forum to examine, debate and arrive at consensus.

Consequently, we could not achieve our full potential. Hirair Hovnanian changed that and was able, at least in terms of Armenian politics, to eliminate entrenched power, disunity and discord. In fact, he succeeded in wiping off the cobwebs of the past and establishing the dignity of dialogue, the effectiveness of collective analysis and the blessings of united actions.

It is unfortunate that we have a number of leaders who deserve public acclaim and honor. Not at a pricy, formal banquet with black tie, cocktails and foreign-sounding entrees, in a prestigious hotel. Instead, let’s celebrate Hovnanian Day in a large banquet hall with entrance fee to cover the rental and with the participation of the best artists and performers who would be delighted to be part of the program. The Board of Directors  of the Armenian Assembly could easily organize such an event in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. Armenian Americans of all walks of life would be delighted to show their respect and admiration to the Hovnanian family. Furthermore, the hope is that similar events will follow to honor other deserving leaders before God takes them to their Heaven.

(Nubar Dorian was a former co-chair of the Armenian Assembly.)

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