Former Massachusetts Senate Majority Leader Linda Melconian Speaks at AIWA Conference

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melconian_lindaBy Aram Arkun

Mirror-Spectator Staff

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – There were so many interesting and talented Armenian women at the AIWA conference that it was not possible to cover all their talks or interview them. Three, however, were briefly interviewed, including this week’s focus, Armenian-American politician Linda Melconian. Last week’s issue of the Mirror contains an article on Sona Movsesian, and a piece on Selina Dogan will be forthcoming.

Linda Melconian, the first woman Majority Leader in the history of the Massachusetts Senate, is well known in Armenian circles not just for her own successful career in American politics, but for her role in getting a resolution on the Armenian Genocide passed in the US House of Representatives. She was serving at the time as Assistant Counsel to Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr., the Speaker of the House of Representatives. She said, “I was the staff person responsible for making House Resolution 148.” The Turkish ambassador tried to dissuade the American legislators, but O’Neill, traveling in Israel at the time, asked Melconian’s opinion, and after a conference call with all the political leaders, went ahead with it.

She recalled meeting with Armenian legislators in the past. She said, “We had delegations from Armenia and other delegations from countries of the former Soviet Union that came to the Massachusetts Senate in that period of transition, in the early 1990s. They wanted to see a democratic constitution in their countries, and they wanted to model their constitution after the Massachusetts constitution because this constitution has the strongest declaration of rights of any state constitution in the United States – and it is even stronger than the federal Bill of Rights.”

Melconian has also participated in previous AIWA conferences. In 2000, she was a keynote speaker at the Yerevan conference while she was still Massachusetts Senate Majority Leader. She said, “I have not been to Armenia since 2000, so I am looking forward to going again and seeing what changes have taken place. I am so inspired by the young people from Armenia that are here that are so engaged and eager. They are no different from what I was as a 22-year-old kid working for Tip O’Neill. I think Armenian women like all women have to overcome the barriers within. I think that is more of an issue than the barriers without, like the structural barriers. …They need to think of themselves as unlimited …and aim for the stars, aim for the top.”

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Melconian often gets requests from Armenian Americans for advice and mentorship, especially from those who aspire to enter public life, and she is happy to oblige. On the broader topic of change for women, she said that if we elect a woman as president of the US, that will affect the whole world, including no doubt Armenia. Amazingly, only 8 women right now are heads of state in the world.