The State House Commemoration (Jirair Hovsepian photo)

Massachusetts State House Hosts Armenian Genocide Commemoration with AG Healey

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BOSTON – The Armenian community of greater Boston put together a solemn commemoration of the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 21 at the Massachusetts State House, with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey the keynote speaker.

Massachusetts State Representative David Muradian served as master of ceremonies. The commemoration began, as always, with a procession of the sergeant-at-arms, Massachusetts elected officials and clergy, led by the Homenetmen Scouts. Pastor Joseph Garabedian of the First Armenian Evangelical Church of Greater Boston (in Belmont) gave a powerful and eloquent invocation, calling for justice as well as recognition of the Genocide.

After the American Pledge of Allegiance, led by State Rep. Dave Rogers, the American and Armenian national anthems were sung by the children of St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School of Watertown.

Massachusetts Speaker Robert A. DeLeo welcomed the audience to the State House. He recalled learning about the Armenian Genocide and the Armenian heritage from former Speaker George Keverian, and later on American humanitarian intervention from Peter Balakian’s books. DeLeo expressed the hope that the Genocide would receive wide formal acknowledgment, but that even afterwards, “we must vow to carry on their legacy [that of the victims], to ensure that the world never forgets.”

Attorney General Healey spoke of the importance of calling crimes what they are and holding perpetrators accountable. She said, “It is why it is so shameful for anyone or any country to refuse to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and it is why we must continue the work and go forward today.”

Healey spoke of the disheartening recent vote in Turkey, and the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Syria, and called on Americans to work for peace, justice and an end to oppression.

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She praised the contributions of Armenian Americans, and Massachusetts Armenians in particular to the rule of law, including her partner Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court Gabrielle Wolohojian, declaring, “I am continually heartened and inspired by your achievements, what you have passed on generation to generation.” She emphasized that “you are a people with much to be proud of.”

Healey announced proudly that her office was directly supporting Armenia. Two prosecutors, members of her office, will soon travel there on a State Department funded trip to work and train local Armenian law enforcement officials and prosecutors on how to review and handle cases.

State Sen. Will Brownsberger spoke of the injustices he encountered as a criminal defense attorney in the courts, and how as a legislator he worked to remedy injustice and advance the cause of liberty. He also learned more about the rich culture of his childhood Armenian peers from Watertown, and declared that it is fitting to commemorate annually the great injustice and tragedy visited upon the Armenian people.

Muradian read a proclamation by Gov. Charles Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito decreeing April 24, 2017 as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day in Massachusetts.

Lalig J. Musserian, chairman of the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee of Greater Boston, presented Joint Senate and House resolutions recognizing Ambassador to the Vatican and former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn, as well as Anthony Barsamian, James Kalustian and Dr. Ara Nazarian, co-chairs of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemoration Committee.

Amb. Flynn helped raise millions of dollars of aid for Armenian earthquake victims at the end of the 1980s while mayor of Boston, and at that time traveled to Armenia. Flynn said that after learning about the history of the Armenian people, and the Genocide, “I was committed to do all that I could to shed light, to bring public attention to the injustice that took place in 1915 in Armenia.” As an American, he felt that Americans had to be “advocates and spokespeople for justice, and against persecution and discrimination.” He also noted that the Armenian people have played a major role in world history, and thanked them for “all that the Armenian community has done and continues to do in America and across the world.”

The three co-chairs of the Genocide Centennial committee gracefully received their award, and Barsamian called on continuing to work “for justice and human rights for all.” In reference to the recent genocide movie, he called on the audience to “keep the promise.”

State Rep. James Miceli, Armenian on his mother’s side, reminisced about his heritage, and introduced the musical program. John Baboian, guitarist, composer and educator on the faculty of the Berklee College of Music in Boston since 1980, said prior to performing two pieces that he played in the East Watertown Junior High School band with Miceli years ago, and was with Flynn in Russia in 1990 with the Waltham American Legion Band. Young vocalist Mary Galstian sang Armenian patriotic songs and, perhaps a first for the State House Armenian commemorations, danced.

Niairi Keverian, great-niece of George Keverian, declared that the former speaker lived for helping others, and announced that the Keverian family has created the George Keverian Public Service Scholarship in order to preserve his memory and values, and inspire young Armenians.

Among Massachusetts officials in the audience were Debra Goldberg, treasurer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, state Rep. Joseph W. McGonagle, Jr., and Governor’s Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney from Watertown.

Muradian recognized various other special guests, including 107-year-old Genocide survivor Asdghig “Starrie” Alemian, and the support of several consul generals. He thanked Ararat Lodge No. 1 of the Knights of Vartan for funding buses to the State House event from Watertown, as they always have done, and state Rep. Jonathan Hecht, in China on a family trip, for his years of leadership of the event. He also recalled the memory of Tom Vartabedian, who passed away last November, for his tireless efforts as a journalist and activist in the Armenian community.

After Rev. Antranig Baljian of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church delivered a benediction and closing prayers, a reception was held downstairs at the Great Hall of Flags. Baker briefly visited there and spoke with guests.

 

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