Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan

Pashinyan Uses Charm Offensive in Historic LA Address

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LOS ANGELES — Thanking the Diaspora and encouraging closer ties between Armenia and the diaspora formed the core of the message Sunday, September 22, in Grand Park as up to 15,000 supporters gathered to witness the historic first visit of the Republic of Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, to Los Angeles, home to the largest Armenian community outside the homeland.

Pashinyan, who has promised to lead the Republic in a new — and transparent — direction, was met with great fanfare as he addressed the enthusiastic crowd in a symbolic location on the steps of City Hall. Following a cultural performance including patriotic dances and songs, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, flanked by elected local, state and county officials, shared his reflections on the momentous trip and on the strong presence of the 200,000-plus Armenian-Americans in Los Angeles and the adjacent San Fernando Valley.

In his keynote address, Pashinyan expressed his gratitude to the Armenian Diaspora for all its support to help bolster the Republic of Armenia and the role they played in ushering in a more optimistic future for the country.

Throngs greeted Prime Minister Pashinyan.

“You weren’t there physically but all of us were there together in spirit during those days of protests and we felt your strong presence,” he said. “That victory showed that one country and one people that is ready for change can achieve that.”

He reflected on the difficult times in Armenia following its independence 30 years ago when hundreds of thousands left the country to search for economic opportunities outside of their homeland, “not because they wanted to but because they had to work in order to live.”

He acknowledged the significant role the Diaspora played in helping Armenia survive during those days of hardship, helping create “vast improvement” in Armenia. He cited the Tumo centers and smart centers that were established in Armenia through the investments provided by the Diaspora.

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Pashinyan spoke of the significant ties between the diaspora and Armenia and how they have created vast improvement in helping modernize Armenia, including the early economic assistance of Kirk Kerkorian and the Lincy Foundation that rebuilt the roads and enhanced transportation in the country. He singled out ”the evidence of Tumo centers and smart centers which were created in Armenia through the investments provided by the Diaspora. I cite this example of the dynamic relationship to show that our gathering today is another manifestation of this new stage where Armenia is no longer seen as an object of humanitarian assistance because today in Armenia there’s a republic that has been established and the proud citizens are the ones who now govern. Now it is not just to survive through the humanitarian assistance but to build up his or her abilities through the sweat of their brow and his or her enthusiasm.”

He added, “The time has come that the diaspora investors take another step and think about making economic and financial investments in the Republic of Armenia, to make wealth in Armenia and make Armenia wealthy. And I hope that this day will signify that change. We have the right to be counted among the leaders of the democratic movements in the world as a result of the Velvet Revolution and just as the diaspora stood shoulder to shoulder in the revolution that happened in Armenia, the diaspora will also stand by the economic revolution happening in Armenia.”

The prime minister and his delegation greet the crowds.

He invited more investment from the diaspora in Armenia, reassuring them that they won’t “encounter the same corruption” since “it has been rooted out.”

He encouraged all to collaborate to help Armenia. “Let’s work for the benefit of Armenia and Artsakh build friendly relations with neighbors.

He also said that the country needs to make more of an effort to make inroads to entice investments from around the world. He said that all 10 million people of Armenian background around the world can help develop the country. In the wake of the Velvet Revolution, Pashinyan added, the country’s profile has somewhat been raised.

“I’ve been told there is more interest in Armenia now since the revolution and we have developed this new slogan, dear compatriots, that it’s cool to be Armenian and together we have to make it even more interesting and even cooler to be Armenian,” Pashinyan added.

“Armenians have a great history, a great past, and a great present,” said Pashinyan, who reiterated the words of Barouyr Sevag in his poem, “We Are Few But We Are Called Armenians.”

LA, State Officials Join Pashinyan

“We are proud to have Armenian men and women scholars, cultural and political leaders,” said Garcetti, alluding to his own ethnic background, born to a Mexican father and great-grandparents who were Russian-Jewish immigrants. “You made Los Angeles what it truly is, a City of Angels, because in times of division and hatred, everyone belongs here and every Armenian feels Los Angeles is their second home because you belong to this state.”

Garcetti reaffirmed his support not only of Armenian-Americans but for recognition of the Armenian Genocide that is widely commemorated throughout California and particularly Los Angeles, as thousands “walk arm in arm to say never again and make sure that every lie is met with truth when we gather on the streets to speak the truth.”

“We will always defend you here in Los Angeles,” said Garcetti.

He touched upon solidarity between the United States and Armenia and the new opportunities in Armenia thanks to the election of Pashinyan.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

“With this prime minister, a new day of sunshine, democracy and openness has come to Armenia,” said Garcetti. “It’s time for us in Los Angeles to visit, invest and support the new Armenia so it rises into a new era of progress under the leadership of this prime minister.”

In his reflections, Los Angeles Councilman Paul Krekorian, the first Armenian-American elected to the Council in 2010, and who spearheaded the Prime Minister’s visit, along with Los Angeles County Supervisors Kathryn Barger, remarked that independence, freedom and democracy cannot be achieved overnight and is an “ongoing struggle that all of us must continue to fight.”

“The velvet revolution led by His Excellency was one of the brightest, most optimistic most exciting moments in that long struggle and it not only transformed Armenia but inspired everyone around the world who strives for democratic governance,” said Krekorian, asserting the importance of carrying on an ancient culture and history. “Our nation’s survival has depended on millions of ordinary Armenians who have passed onto each generation a national identity, commitment and a profound faith and culture that has enriched the world since before the Egyptians built their first pyramid.”

Krekorian stated that Pashinyan understood the power of the Armenian nation and those “unsung heroes” of the past and those of today, who together achieved this new dawn in Armenia’s democratic governance.

Rep. Adam Schiff highlighted that Los Angeles is the capital of the Armenian Diaspora and he is “proud of the strong relationship between the United States and Armenia.”

“I have watched with enormous interest and hope the democratic revival Armenia has experienced from the Velvet Revolution and the peaceful transition of power and free and fair elections that show the strength and resilience of Armenia’s democracy,” said Schiff, who reaffirmed his commitment to “advocate” for Armenia and to ensure its security and prosperity.

Schiff acknowledged the 28th anniversary of the Republic of Armenia’s independence and its successes while also recognizing the “ever-present threat” from the bordering countries of Azerbaijan and Turkey.

“I’m confident the strength and determination of the Armenian people, who have survived and thrived across centuries,” he concluded.

The American and Armenian National Anthems were performed by The Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School choir. Clergy in attendance included Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Primate of the Western Prelacy, and Rev. Berdj Djambazian of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North, said the Invocation of the event.

There was some opposition to Pashinyan’s presence, including protestors of the Amulsar project, green-lit by the government of Armenia that permits its largest foreign investor, Lydian, to begin development of the gold mine despite the potential environment and health impacts. Azerbaijan, which had earlier protested Pashinyan’s scheduled speech in Grand Park, may be tied to airplanes that flew above the rally with anti-Armenian banners in relation to Karabakh.

 

 

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