Our Organizations Should Learn to Walk the Talk

Team Keghart Editorial, 2 May 2010

Thirteen months ago it was announced, with great fanfare, “An unprecedented 46 Parliamentarians Join Canada-Armenia Friendship Group.” Naturally, it was welcome news, and it raised expectations of great things to come. No, we are not superstitious: Thirteen is just another odd number to us.

Team Keghart Editorial, 2 May 2010

Thirteen months ago it was announced, with great fanfare, “An unprecedented 46 Parliamentarians Join Canada-Armenia Friendship Group.” Naturally, it was welcome news, and it raised expectations of great things to come. No, we are not superstitious: Thirteen is just another odd number to us.

For the purposes of this discussion, it is immaterial who made the announcement. What matters is whether there was a follow-up to evaluate the group’s progress. Who else–other than Armenian organizations–were to provide a report card about the functions of this group? To our knowledge, no such report has been furnished to the public. And that’s the rub for it raises questions about how Armenian Diaspora communities invariably operate.

 It goes to the core of the principles of transparency and accountability. Let’s assume for a moment that the aforementioned group accomplished work that matters to Armenians. If that’s the case, why has the public been left in the dark? If nothing was achieved, the obvious question is: why?

It seems unusual to pose such questions, and more importantly, to expect answers from leaders of the community who claim to speak on our behalf. And therein lies the skepticism of the “silent majority”, especially of the young who are turned off by boisterous announcements, fervid slogans and plans, without responsible connection to action or outcome.

There are several proposals on the table now about plans to form new organizations—small and big, local and more widespread. They are furnished by well-meaning individuals. Some profess limited objectives; others contemplate far-reaching goals. The general community stance towards these budding organizations is one of “wait and see” at best and incredulity at the other extreme. Both responses have lead to lack of participation, despite the buzz that “something should be done”.

Maybe the solution to this morose mood is for Armenian organizations to inject accountability and transparency into their operations.

Another matter that frequently comes to play is the deployment of “history” when furnishing a raison d’être for the continued existence of current organizations, particularly that of the “political party” variety or the invoking of the “lessons of history” when projecting the establishment of a new organization. The amazing characteristic of these two explanations is their convoluted manner. It’s as if they were a page or two torn from a 19th century voluminous novel or a philosophical treatise, with no consideration or understanding of present-day listeners or readers conditioned to speed in the Internet age.

More importantly, who cares what partisan and contradictory “histories” rival groups spouse? The young, who are forward-looking and care less about the “mistakes” of history, are repelled by this obsession in the past. Only a few are interested… and mostly for documentation rather than for passing judgment, since more often than not, they consider Armenian organizations to have blundered frequently in the past century and earlier.

As to the lessons of history, despite the adage that history repeats itself, the fact is past “mistakes” are relevant only within their own context of time. Circumstances are not reproducible as time goes by and new factors create new contexts.

It’s pointless – if not self-defeating – to dwell on the alleged past political mistakes of Armenian organizations. It’s divisive and should not play a role in the birth to new organizations. Similarly, raising the subject of whether the Second Republic was authoritarian, oppressive, and anti-nationalistic or an age of “zartonk” (renaissance) is a time-waster in public perception.

Precision, brevity and clearly-articulated objectives garner a bigger and stronger following than a whole library of narratives.


  1. I don’t understand
    I must confess that I don’t quite understand the point in the above editorial.  is this because I am American?  The editorial needs to be rewritten, in my opinion.

  2. Far too long

    For far too long the existing organizations have taken the public for granted. The young generation as pointed out in the editorial is primarily the one we are losing. Of course they are better educated and fast paced. This is reality that cannot be discounted. Accountability and transparency for them are principles that they are brought up with right from the days of their early schooling and later are reminded of those through the media.

    History for sure is important for any nation. New archives will open up pages that will shed light on many issues. These are valuable, but I would agree that they should not be bones of contention between organizations whether old or newly proposed. On the contrary they should serve as reminders to how we have behaved and a warning of not engaging in senseless divisive quarrels at present.

    We should stress the common denominator in whatever actions we take. Let each organization do what it can and let the public be the judge.

  3. Several Diasporan

    Several Diasporan organizations have been walking the talk for decades, I am not sure what this editorial is looking to achieve. It is time people got more involved in the work that is being done and thus learn about the progress these organizations are making. 

    As for the youth, I do not think this editorial speaks for the youth. The Armenian youth in Canada, operating in a variety of churches, universities and organizations have been implementing a variety of initiatives leading to increased unity, participation and activity.

    While individuals writing this editorial who seem to be living in a virtual armchair critisize what they do not know, dedicated members, including youth are making a difference. I suggest people get involved or do their homework on these organizations before passing any judgement. It is vital to learn about their problems, their difficulties, their successes, their future goals and suggest cnstructive ideas rather than suggest to form yet another organization as a response.

    Let’s work together to make this right. I call on all those in the Armenian communities in Canada everywhere to become proactive members in Armenian community life, in our centres, in our churches and help make a difference.

    1. The picture seems to be rosy
      Dear Azadvorti,

      It seems you are close to the youth and have enumerated their contribution in the community for which a thank you is owed to you. The picture seems to be very rosy. One hopes.

      Since you seem to be aware of the details would it be possible to quote a percentage of the youth that does participate in the community activities?

      I infrequently visit both the Armenian Centre in Toronto and attend functions at the Holy Trinity Church facilities. What I notice is that the same people get involved in a variety of activities. Superficially they give the impression that lots of people are participating, yet the bottom line is that most of the time it’s the same faces.

      The editorial has mentioned a specific example of the announcement of 46 parliamentarians. That’s the talk. Where is the achievement? What has transpired in a year or so? That would have been the walk as I understand.

      Within the past five years at least four independent different newly formed groups have dotted the greater Toronto area. Most probably you are aware of them. Why would such groups, and mostly by intelligent concerned Armenians, come into play if the traditional organizations fulfilled their tasks and did "walk the talk"? Why is it that protagonists of traditional organizations do not want to see this reality?

  4. “. . .walk the talk.”

    Permit me to offer some opinions and thoughts.


    Perhaps silence from this group is ideal.  Let us assume that the group is accomplishing something.  It is the something that is accomplished and not the announcement that is important.  After all, in the good old USofA, whenever Armenian groups announce success, for instance, in recruiting members of the Dummycrat and Repugnant parties to join the fight for recognizing the Armenian Genocide, they are also telling the Turks whom to target when the voting starts.


    Also, knowing how the Armenian mind works, it has to be said that when any one or group announces success in furthering the Armenian cause, there will be people coming out of the woodwork asking — No, demanding– ”Who gave you the authority to. . . ?”


    If this group is achieving anything, it is better to remain silent.


    On the other hand, it may not be achieving anything.  So, why admit it?


    You refer to the “leaders of the community. . . .”  Permit me to show my ignorance of matters in Canada, but did the Armenians of Canada vote for these “leaders”?  Or, are they of the same ilk as the “leaders” elsewhere in the Armenian Diaspora self- appointed, self-anointed?


    If the Canadian organization is to succeed in achieving the goals that it has set, it is best done without your “leaders.”  


    Many years ago, my father told me that “you can achieve anything you want as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.”  Time after time, he has been proven astutely correct.  That maxim prompted me to come up with a definition of an Armenian: “Someone who, if he is not going to get credit for a project’s success, will do everything he can to achieve the project’s failure.”  This, too, alas, has been proven correct.


    You refer to “plans to form new organizations. . . .”  Pray tell, why do the Armenians need new organizations?  Don’t we have enough?  And don’t we have enough competing with each other?  The “skepticism” on the part of the young, you cite in the preceding paragraph, could be because there are so many organizations, many of them mirroring each other.  Among the factors that have led to my cynicism–and, perhaps, of the young people–is that it is easy to see that the prime purpose of most Armenian organizations is to perpetuate themselves (“please send money”) with little success to show for extending their lives.  It is possible that the young are more interested in the “mistakes” of the past because they see that nothing has been learned from them, and no one admits to having made them.  


    Until past mistakes are acknowledged, they cannot be lessons from which to learn what not to do when the next opportunity arises.  (We see it every day in Washington, where the mistake of Iraq is not acknowledged and, thus, we hear of war with Iran!)  


    How refreshing it would be if an Armenian organization were to admit to having made a mistake and, thus, having learned from that mistake.  Its call for support would be met with overwhelming success.


    Let us hope that your Canadian organization is working quietly to achieve its goals, and we should wish them well and not ask “What are you doing?”  When they achieve success, we can join in together to say, “Well done!”  We don’t have to know about any of their stumbling en route to that success.


    Avedis Kevorkian

    Philadelphia, PA. USA

    3 may 10


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