By Mercedes Gechidjian
FLArmenians Miami Contributor
Hollywood, FL— On Sunday, September 20, several representatives of the Armenian Student Association (ASA) of the University of Miami (UM), the Armenian American Student Organization (AASO) of Florida International University (FIU), and NOVA Southeastern University, had the opportunity to meet at the Armenian Independence Day picnic hosted by St. Mary Armenian Church.
Following Church service, and after indulging in delicious kebabs and barbecued meats prepared by the St. Mary Men’s Club, the UM-ASA and FIU-AASO members met and discussed future plans, potential for joint events, and aspirations for their clubs this academic year and beyond. Ms. Mercedes Gechidjian, President of the UM-ASA, and Florida Armenians Broward County Chair Gevorg Shahbazyan, also President of FIU-AASO, discussed the idea of cooperation between the two clubs to bring awareness of Armenian life and culture in Miami.
However, it was not just a business meeting for the members of the Armenian clubs. Social events such as joint dinners, beach days, and movie nights were also explored. “I think that by strengthening our friendship and planning ‘non-business’ hang outs with FIU-AASO we will be able to work as a family,” said Mishela Gevorkian, a graduate student at the University of Miami and member of the UM-ASA. Arman Shahbazyan, an active member of FIU-AASO, was extremely happy to meet more young Armenians in South Florida. “Living in Miami, it’s a little hard given the size of our community here. So when you have the opportunity to meet new Armenians, you just become happy. We had a very productive day and I’m looking forward to future joint activities,” said Shahbazyan.
Both clubs are relatively new but, since their establishment, have caught the attention of their respective student bodies and Armenian communities around the world. It is wonderful to see the next generation of Florida Armenians promoting our culture, our traditions, and our language amid their peers, as they help grow and expand the Armenian American community in South Florida.
Last week, Florida Armenians Managing Editor Taniel Koushakjian sat down with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan during his trip to Washington, D.C. Sargsyan travelled to the U.S. to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City where he delivered an impassioned speech about the need for international condemnation of Azerbaijan military attacks against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh that has recently claimed several lives, including three Armenian female civilians, in the last few weeks.
From New York, President Sargsyan, accompanied by Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, Presidential Chief of Staff Vigen Sargsyan, and Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Tigran Sargsyan, travelled to Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings with Armenian American community leaders. Koushakjian shared with Sargsyan activities of the Armenian community in Florida marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Koushakjian explained that Florida is one of 43 states that has acknowledged the 1915 Armenian Genocide by Ottoman Turkey, which was last proclaimed by former Governor Jeb Bush in 2006. Although Florida recognizes the Armenian Genocide, it does not have an official curriculum mandated by the state to teach the Armenian Genocide. Sargsyan inquired if the presidential candidate was aware of his strong record on the Armenian Genocide, which Koushakjian assured him was the case.
In that regard, Koushakjian talked about efforts by Florida Armenians and the Armenian Assembly of America to advance Armenian Genocide education in the Sunshine State despite lack of a state mandate. For instance, in April of this year Koushakjian presented an Armenian Genocide exhibit entitled “Iconic Images of the Armenian Genocide” at the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida (HMSWFL). In the lead up to the presentation, the Turkish Consulate in Miami wrote a threatening letter to the HMSWL objecting to the presentation and demanding it be canceled. Koushakjian explained to Sargsyan that Armenian Genocide denial exists around almost every street corner in America and that grassroots efforts promoting genocide education are vital to ensuring a future free of mass atrocities.
In addition, Koushakjian thanked Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian for his efforts to confront and assist with the Syrian refugee crisis. To date, Armenia has absorbed close to 20,000 refugees, the majority of which are the most vulnerable communities: Armenians, Assyrians, Yezidis, and other religious minorities. In addition to Armenian government efforts, Nalbandian has raised the cause of the Syrian peoples’ plight to the international community on several occasions this year alone. Koushakjian informed Nalbandian that Florida Armenians would do everything they can to inform the American public that Armenia is the last Christian safe haven in the Middle East.
In the afternoon, the Florida Armenians attended a luncheon on Capitol Hill hosted by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) and the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues in honor of President Sargsyan. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) gave remarks and introduced President Sargsyan. “For years, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has been a leading voice promoting awareness of the Holocaust and other genocides throughout history, and the Foundation has called upon all of us to have the courage to stand against such despicable brutality in the future,” stated Chairman Royce. “As the leader of a people who survived the first genocide of the twentieth century, President Sargsyan is well aware of the need for that courage. We must continue to speak the truth about the Armenian Genocide and learn its bitter lessons in order to help others who are targeted,” Royce said.
The luncheon featured remarks by special guest Robert M. Morgenthau, grandson of U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau, who received an award from IRWF Chairman Eduardo Eurnekian and co-founder Baruch Tanembaum for his efforts advancing Armenian Genocide recognition.
On Thursday, October 1, President Sargsyan concluded his visit to Washington with a presentation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Managing Editor
Florida Armenians is pleased to announce that Jacksonville based reporter Janna Mosinyan has landed a new position in our nation’s capital as in intern with KPMG.
Earlier this year, Mosinyan received her Bachelor of Art degree from the University of North Florida in Political Science and Public Administration. Recently, she returned from an internship with the U.S. State Department in Luxembourg.
According to Mosinyan, her time at the U.S. Embassy of Luxembourg was “an experience of a lifetime.” “During my internship I worked with a tight-knit political and economics team, which gave me a hands-on experience in my field,” Mosinyan said. Her duties included assisting U.S. diplomats with delivering diplomatic initiatives to Government of Luxembourg officials on topics ranging from Russia sanctions to Ukraine to the Iran nuclear negotiations. Among her accomplishments, Mosinyan also contributed to the drafting of a three-year agriculture biotech outreach strategy for the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg, which was selected by the State Department and approved for $12,000 in funding.
While currently interning at KPMG in Washington, DC, Mosinyan plans to attend graduate school in the fall in pursuit of a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. Florida Armenians congratulates Janna Mosinyan on her achievements and wishes her great success in the future.