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Armenia-Diaspora Conference 2002 Report

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Presentation to the 2002 Armenia Diaspora Conference

May 27, 2002

I am honored to join with you - in this great city - with the sons and
daughters of the Armenian nation, gathered together here from across
the globe.

We meet here in Yerevan - on the free soil of our independent homeland
- as the collective leadership of our people - Hairenik and Diaspora -
to share ideas and perspectives, to learn from one another, and - most
importantly - to chart a common course for our nation's future.

In this effort - at this conference, and in our work beyond these
walls - we are bound by a shared responsibility - a responsibility
both sobering and inspiring - to lead the Armenian nation through the
complex and difficult challenges of our time, to bear the heavy
burdens of our generation, and to leave a better future for those who
will write the next chapter in our long history.

In each generation - for more than three thousand years - we have
found the strength to deal with these challenges.

We have seen a critical mass of Armenians step forward with foresight,
courage, and the willingness to make the sacrifices required to ensure
our nation's survival.  Today, at the turn of the new millennium, this
destiny rests in our hands.  Our nation asks of us: "Will we build a
secure, prosperous and democratic future, or leave an embattled,
isolated, and divided legacy."  By our collective actions or our
inactions, we will make this choice.

Speaking today on behalf of the Armenian National Committee of
America, I know that we have - all of us - made the right choice, by
being here, by choosing to work together, by bringing to bear the
tremendous international resources that we can collectively mobilize
to tackle the task of strengthening our nation.

We bring to a devotion to the cause of liberty, of justice for the
Armenian people.

We bring an unmatched history of service, a proud legacy of sacrifice,
and a proven track record of meaningful and concrete results.

We bring a vision of Armenia - beyond the Republic, beyond Artsakh,
beyond our Diaspora.  The vision of an Armenian nation, rooted in this
soil, but reaching throughout the world - a far-reaching network of
identity and influence.

We bring an organization deeply based upon our grassroots foundation
that has for decades stood alone in advocating for the Armenian Cause
in the international arena.

We bring, with humility, because we are a grassroots organization, not
a voice for the Armenians but the voice of the Armenians.  A
distinction that cannot be overstated, in light of recent and ongoing
efforts to manipulate our people - including most recently through the
Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission.

We bring all of these to this task of building our nation and pledge
to you our good faith and cooperation in our collective efforts to
strengthen our homeland, provide for the growth of our communities,
secure justice for our people, and ensure that we, as Armenians,
continue to make our unique contribution to the family of nations.

You are all familiar with the issues that we advance in Washington, DC
and throughout the United States.

We are making significant progress in our efforts in the United States
with the President, the Congress, state governments, and the media to
break the back of the Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide.  When
we have accomplished this goal, we will move to the next phase of the
Armenian Cause - ensuring that this crime against our people has been
punished and our nation has, to the extent possible, been made whole.

Justice, in all of its forms - repentance, restitution, reparations,
and return of our lands - is the only guarantee that Turkey will not,
in the words of the late Turkish President, Turgut Ozal, seek once
again to teach the Armenians "the lessons of 1915."  Simply put,
Armenia cannot be secure as long as it remains bordered by an
over-armed and unrepentant perpetrator of genocide against the
Armenian nation.

We are defending Nagorno Karabagh's right to self-determination within
secure borders, while countering the efforts of the Caspian oil
interests to tilt U.S. policy in favor Azerbaijan.

We are strengthening Armenia through the promotion of increased trade
and investment, a strong and vibrant economy free of corruption,
foreign assistance to Armenia, continued direct aid to Nagorno
Karabagh, and bilateral agreements designed to increase U.S.-Armenia
commercial activity.

We are fighting against the illegal and immoral Turkish and
Azerbaijani blockades, as well as against their efforts to isolate
Armenia from the benefits of the Caspian energy sector.

On each of these issues, we face powerful and well-funded opposition.
Arrayed against us are some of the most influential groups in the
American political system.

Under this intense pressure, there will always be the temptation to
give up, to walk away from the battle or, worse, to break under the
pressure and compromise our ideals, to trade apparent short-term
benefits for our long-term well being and survival.  These are false
choices, whether they deal with the Armenian Genocide, Nagorno
Karabagh, or any of the other vital issues facing our nation.

As we consider here how we will advance our nation into this new age -
how we will deal with the intense pressures of a rapidly evolving
geopolitical landscape, we must remember, always, that strength,
character, and backbone are as necessary today as they were in the
days of Avarayr, the deserts of Der Zor, the fields of Sardarabad, or
the cliffs of Shushi.

In our history books, in the stories of our grandparents, and even in
our own lifetimes, we have seen tremendous changes in the challenges
we face as a nation.  What has remained constant is the price of
Armenia's survival - the service and sacrifice of individual Armenians
to a cause greater than themselves.

We must - in the coming months and years- remain true to this
principle and keep faith with the enduring values of our nation.

We must remain confident in the strength of our grassroots, the
sophistication of our new generation of leaders, the ultimate morality
of our positions, and the devotion of the Armenian people to the cause
of our nation.

We must get directly and personally involved, in whatever country we
live, with the political and public processes necessary to advance the
Armenian Cause. We must passionately, energetically, and intelligently
advocate for our beliefs and our people.

We must - together here today and long after we have left this hall -
work to proudly carry the burden of our generation so that we may
realize - for ourselves and for generations to come - the promise of a
free, independent and united Armenia.

Thank you.

Kenneth V. Hachikian

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