Noubar Afeyan offers his closing remarks (photo Candid Memories Studio)

Mirror-Spectator 90th Anniversary Gala Is a Smashing Success

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BURLINGTON, Mass. — The 90th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator culminated on Saturday, October 28 in a sold-out gala at the Boston Burlington Marriott, featuring celebrity comedian Sona Movsesian as master of ceremonies, and talks by four nationally prominent journalists, as well as entrepreneur and philanthropist Noubar Afeyan. The a cappella trio Zulal leavened the evening’s talks with the dulcet sounds of traditional Armenian music, while money was raised not only to support the Mirror-Spectator but to aid Artsakh Armenians. Awards were presented in recognition of decades of service and excellence.

Sona Movsesian (photo Candid Memories Studio)
Zulal (photo Candid Memories Studio)

Armenians from New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, the Mid-West, Washington, and further afield, including leaders of various Armenian organizations, an honorary consul of Armenia, guests who were the third generation of faithful readers of the Mirror-Spectator, and others who were new readers of the paper in its online or mobile app versions, first gathered at a reception which included guitar music.

Nicole Babikian Hajjar, left, and Sona Movsesian share a light moment (photo Candid Memories Studio)

After the Mirror-Spectator’s 90th Anniversary Gala Committee Chair Nicole Babikian Hajjar welcomed the guests in the main hall, four Armenian clergymen from all three Christian denominations, Fr. Arakel Aljalian, Fr. Ghazar Bedrossian, Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, and Rev. Dikran Youmshakian, began the evening’s formal program with prayers in Armenian and English dedicated to the Armenians of Artsakh and said grace. Hajjar expressed deep appreciation to the Afeyan Family Foundation for its leadership role as the Benefactor Host for the gala as well as two of the Event Patrons – the Vahe Fattal Foundation, and Carolyn Mugar.

The opening prayers (photo Candid Memories Studio)

Hajjar introduced Movsesian, who immediately lived up to her reputation by Barbara relating several witty anecdotes. Movsesian also confessed that articles about her in the Mirror-Spectator are the only ones that her mother will proudly post on Facebook.

Appreciation

Aram Arkun holding the certificate of recognition to the Armenian Mirror-Spectator from Sheriff Peter Koutoujian (photo Candid Memories Studio)

Mirror-Spectator Managing Editor Aram Arkun announced that though Sheriff Peter Koutoujian of Middlesex County could not be present in person that evening, the sheriff had sent a special framed certificate in recognition of the 90th anniversary of the Mirror-Spectator. Arkun went on to present Alin K. Gregorian, Mirror-Spectator editor for nearly a quarter of a century, with an award for excellence in journalism, praising her steadfastness in maintaining journalistic standards, consistent sympathy for the underdog, as and wicked sense of humor. After some remarks of appreciation, Gregorian spoke about the work of Armenian newspapers, so important in the current climate after the 2020 Artsakh war and the recent capitulation of Artsakh.

Alin K. Gregorian (photo Candid Memories Studio)

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She then spoke about the role of Prof. Elisha Chrakian, Barbara Tellalian’s father, as founding editor of the Mirror-Spectator, as well as Tellalian’s own decades of support of the paper, not to mention her significance in her own right as a prominent community leader, including in the establishment of the Armenian Heritage Park. Gregorian invited Tellalian to take the stage, where the latter spoke about the role of the newspaper in keeping the Armenian community connected and informed, and then surprised her with an award for community leadership. Both Gregorian and Tellalian received beautiful, inscribed creations from award-winning artist Michael Aram.

Barbara Tellalian with Alin K. Gregorian (photo Candid Memories Studio)

Arkun returned to the stage to present Mirror-Spectator Art Director Mark McKertich an award for excellence in design. He observed that McKertich had been with the newspaper for over four decades, making him the most senior of the Mirror-Spectator team, and attested that McKertich adds visual beauty to anything he touches. McKertich recalled his family’s connection of many years with Baikar and the Mirror-Spectator and concisely expressed his thanks.

 

Mark McKertich (photo Candid Memories Studio)

Arkun then introduced a video in memory of Mirror-Spectator Senior Editorial Columnist and Armenian Democratic Liberal Party and Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) leader Edmond Y. Azadian, prepared by Mirror-Spectator Video Correspondent Haykaram Nahapetyan and narrated by Raffi Arkun.

Aram Arkun, left, with Kevork Marashlian and the gift to the latter from the Mirror-Spectator Anniversary Committee (photo Candid Memories Studio)

After the video screened, Arkun announced another surprise award, this time for Kevork Marashlian. In addition to being the chairman of the Eastern District Committee of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party and Vice President of the Central Board of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada, and playing an important role in Armenian community life, Marashlian is chairman of the Baikar Association, which is the publisher of the Mirror-Spectator. He has supported the work of the paper for decades. Arkun remarked that Marashlian was very modest and usually shied away from the limelight, but today the Mirror-Spectator team wanted to shine some light on his kind heart and dedicated service.

The stunning metal print inscribed to Marashlian, with a view of Mt. Ararat and Khor Virap, was designed by McKertich. Marashlian thanked many important past and present supporters of the Mirror-Spectator.

Journalists

At this point, Movsesian returned to the stage to thank the Hajjar Family Fund, not mentioned earlier due to the modesty of the Gala Committee chair, for serving as one of the event patrons, and one by one introduced three of the four journalists who took part in the Mirror-Spectator’s panel discussion on October 27 at Tufts University [See accompanying article in this issue], as well as special guest David Ignatius.

Ken Dilanian, who covers the Justice Department at NBC News, declared that his colleagues in London who work in the international field affirmed that the story of the Armenians is being eclipsed by other conflagrations, and they don’t expect that to change in the near future, though journalists do follow what is happening and continue to ask questions at the regular press briefings of the US State Department. Consequently, Dilanian said: “I think it is important that all of you keep doing the great work that you are doing and keep trying to make your voices heard on behalf of Armenia.”

Ken Dilanian (photo Candid Memories Studio)

Carla Garapedian, filmmaker, director, writer and broadcaster, quoted Turkish-Armenian lawmaker Garo Paylan as asking Armenians in America to mobilize and unite to support Armenia, facing an existential crisis, whatever they may think of the current government. An invasion of Armenia is looming, so American Armenians must act now and pressure Washington, Garapedian said, just as Armenians took to the streets in 2015.

Carla Garapedian (photo Candid Memories Studio)

Eric Hacopian of CivilNet in Yerevan said he wanted to “speak a bit from the heart” and described his reaction to the news the week of the Azerbaijani final takeover of Artsakh, including his realization that you are not dealing with political issues but “radical evil” which cannot really be understood in a normal political calculus. Armenia wasted several decades when it needed to build a proper state and governing system so it would not be poor, isolated or weak. Instead, Armenians for the second time in a century were subject to genocide. Yet, he said he believed Armenia would survive and thrive, and agreed with Garapedian that Armenians in the US should “go out there and raise hell.”

Eric Hacopian at the podium (photo Candid Memories Studio)

Finally, David Ignatius, the renowned Washington Post foreign affairs journalist and novelist, spoke about his commitment to the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative. He said he found its motto of “gratitude in action” to be very inspiring, for Armenians as a strong people now should celebrate the work of humanitarians throughout the world. He prayed for the release of Ruben Vardanyan, one of the cofounders of Aurora, who remained imprisoned in Azerbaijan along with other leaders of the Artsakh Armenians.

David Ignatius approaches the podium (photo Candid Memories Studio)

Ignatius had some kind words to say about the Mirror-Spectator. Going over the variety of articles in a current issue, he declared, “These articles don’t tell you what to think. They inform you so that you can think.”  He proclaimed, “I am a newspaper man and an Armenian-American, so I love the Mirror-Spectator twice over. The Mirror-Spectator survives because it is like the Armenian community. It serves, it is smart about how it does that, it is driven by fact, it embraces its community, it knows what it stands for, and it never gives up.”

Closing the Evening

Philanthropist and entrepreneur Dr. Noubar Afeyan, cofounder of the biotech company Moderna through his venture capital firm Flagship Pioneering, was the final speaker of the evening. Cofounder of the Future Armenian, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and many other projects for Armenia and the Armenians, Afeyan first noted that his wife and life partner Anna’s support of Armenian activities was much greater than his own, before confessing his special connection to the Mirror-Spectator.

He congratulated the newspaper on its anniversary and looked forward to its centennial, just around the corner. He said, “Throughout the four decades [he has lived in Boston], I have read the Mirror-Spectator, remarkably, and I can tell you it is probably the only newspaper that I read.” He reminisced about coverage of the Sayat Nova Dance Company, in which he was a dancer some decades ago, in the paper, and later commented that the newspaper’s coverage in general allows for “a moment of Armenianness in an otherwise sea of ‘otherness’ (the Armenian word is odar-ness). That should cause us to feel a special bond, and that special bond is the beginning of our comeback.”

Afeyan turned his attention for much of his talk to current events, especially the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh. Like Ignatius, Afeyan expressed his concern for the fate of the illegally detained Artsakh leaders, as well as the displaced refugees.

Dr. Noubar Afeyan (photo Candid Memories Studio)

About Ruben Vardanyan, his close friend and collaborator in Armenian affairs for several decades, he said: “The former Artsakh state minister Ruben was detained by force, in my view, for one simple reason — that he is the most renowned Armenian citizen on the planet. Just ask yourself who is more renowned than Ruben? Who has been on the BBC, who has been in the Financial Times, who has met with state leaders? … It’s Ruben. They have basically seized the head representative of the Armenian national population, the citizenry, and they will do with him what they would rather do with all of us, which is the reason why we have to fight back, as though it were us.”

He declared that everyone was trying their best, including, he believed, the Armenian government, to handle this difficult situation carefully.

Afeyan spoke about internal Armenian divisions. He said he wanted to coin a new word, “knnatadaran,” for a court of mutual criticism that is always in session for Armenians, and instead suggested, “If Artsakh is sending us one message…it is that we have to unite…As a small global nation in a world increasingly hostile, or indifferent, to our existence, this is the only tool we have.”

He proffered a forward-thinking approach: “We have to start looking to the future. Armenians are very proud of our history…and our present is kind of troubling – troubled, you know. We have some things to be proud of and some things to be ashamed of, but our future is completely unwritten.” He urged Armenians to cultivate patience to listen and the faith that engaging in civil debate is worth the time, urging them to look for the good in one another.

He concluded, “So we can just choose our future to be our best moments. I really would invite us to think about this call to action of a shared future. How do we create this shared future, how do we create a vision for this future?” Quoting William Saroyan’s message in his 1935 story, “The Armenian and the Armenian,” Afeyan said he believed that the Armenians will once again come back even stronger despite current difficulties and build a more secure and prosperous future in Armenia.

Artsakh Aid

Somewhere around the mid-point of the gala, Hajjar had addressed the guests about the tragic situation of the expelled Artsakh Armenians, including the victims of a terrible explosion at a Stepanakert fuel depot. She announced that the Mirror-Spectator partnered with the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) to raise funds for these victims and families in need as they now try to settle in Armenia, and asked for the support of the audience. TCA already has an established program with a representative in Armenia personally interviewing each and every aid recipient.

Nicole Babikian Hajjar (photo Candid Memories Studio)

At the very end of the evening, Hajjar took the stage with the welcome news that the gala guests raised over $24,000 for this purpose, and this number reached $26,870 several days later. This is on top of nearly $50,000 raised already by the Tekeyan Cultural Association. Those who still want to participate can go to https://givebutter.com/AGuStb or contact the Mirror-Spectator office.

A Word of Thanks

The Mirror-Spectator thanks all of its supporters for making it possible for the newspaper to continue to survive in a period of transition in the media. It only has organized such gala campaigns every five years, and this time all records were surpassed, with $360,000 raised.

No words of praise are sufficient to describe the excellent and most efficient gala benefit committee chair ever — Nicole Babikian Hajjar. The inspired work of gala committee members Mary Jo Bazarian Murray, Margarit Belorian, Yelena Bisharian, Piruza Bogossian, Katrina Menzigian Glorikian, Carol Ishkanian, Rouzan Khachatourian Abrahamian, Anaïde Nahikian and Ani Stepanian, with advisor Barbara Chrakian Tellalian, made the gala the full success that it was, together with the unstinting participation of Hasmik Saroyan, administrative assistant at the Mirror-Spectator.

Armenian Mirror-Spectator 90th Anniversary Committee (photo Candid Memories Studio)

The TCA Friends of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator gratefully acknowledges the support of Storica Wines, which provided wonderful Armenian wines for the evening. The beautiful photography was compliments of Candid Memories Studies, and the guitarist compliments of Stage Music Center. Michael Aram provided several award gifts. Business partners for the 90th anniversary events include Signature Printing, SarVia Group, and David A. Medzorian of Daval Video Productions (his videos of the gala program and the journalists’ panel the prior night may be found at mirrorspectator.com or the corresponding YouTube page of the newspaper).

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