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(SAN DIEGO) – The Knights of Vartan, Gomidas Tahlij #43 of San Diego has donated a commissioned painting of St. Vartan and Ghevont Yeretz for the side altar of St. Sarkis Armenian Church, San Diego.

The painting by Armenian artist Tigran Hovumyan was dedicated and blessed by His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese, and parish priest Very Rev. Father Pakrad Dz. V Berjekian, on Sunday, February 5, 2023, as part of St. Sarkis’ First Anniversary Celebration.

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Speech Never Given

During my term as Avak Sbarabed, I gave many speeches, in person and online.  A speech was prepared for the 2019 Grand Convocation but never given.  It was brought back for the 2022 Grand Convocation Banquet, but again, never given.  Many said, I never had a speech prepared.  But I promised I would print it, so just consider this “The Speech That was Never Given”, edited slightly for print.

NAS Steven Adams

NAS Steven Adams delivering his speech at the Grand Convocation Banquet.

It was a Saturday night, May 27 1916 when 12 dedicated men met in a hotel in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, and bound themselves together in a holy and sacred vow.  On that day, the Knights of Vartan was born.  For a moment, let’s just imagine ourselves there on that day.  What drove those men to come together?  What do you think was going through their heads?  Of course, it didn’t begin on May 27, they had probably been corresponding with one another for some time.  Because they were all witnessing the systematic destruction of their homeland.  Imagine, they were living here in relative comfort, and knowing that their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and grandparents were being slaughtered by the Ottoman Turkish Government. Imagine the frustration, disillusionment, pain, and sense of helplessness they must have been experiencing. Sitting here in this country and not being able to do anything to stop the massacre. Appeals were being made to governments to intervene and stop the destruction but to no avail.  It was then, that the realization struck them that there was no help coming, they were going to have to do something themselves.  It was out of that pain and suffering that our organization was formed and it is in that frustration and struggle that we see history begin to repeat itself.  From where did they gather their strength to begin such an undertaking?  Who would be the role model to guide this group of dedicated men?  It was a battle that had taken place centuries prior, where Armenians once again had their backs against the wall.  Where their existence was being threatened by a Persian King demanding their obedience by worshiping another god.  The parallel between the Battle of Vartanantz and the battle that these men were witnessing was all too apparent. Vartan and his warriors were in a battle for their faith and ultimately their existence as Armenians.  Those 12 dedicated men were equally in a battle for the survival of our people. 

I would like to focus tonight on those 12 founding fathers.  What was that characteristic that brought them together? What was the common thread that bound them as brothers?  It was simply a case of dedication.  We refer to them as 12 “Dedicated” men.

Dedicated – Dedication!  What does it mean to be dedicated?  Try looking up the word dedication and you probably find over a dozen synonyms.  Words like commitment, devotion, faithfulness, and loyalty to just name a few. It has so many interpretations and depends on so many different circumstances.  How can we even begin to define it?  In the scope of human existence, one of the easiest ways to define the word is to look at examples we find in people who we know have this characteristic.  In examining our founding fathers we see the characteristics of true dedication.

First of all, and most importantly, dedication is love. This is obvious to me and I assume to all of you. One cannot orient their life around something if they do not love it; I mean really, really love it. If one doesn’t love something then they have no chance of being dedicated to it because of the time and effort it takes. Our founding fathers had that love of their heritage, their culture, and their homeland.

Dedication is passion. It is to be excited about what one is doing.  One must feel that rush if they are really dedicated to doing something.  If there is no rush then there is no motivation to dedicate oneself to it. It is what keeps us from quitting.

Dedication is time, a whole lot of time in fact.  One doesn’t just become dedicated to something because they say so. They become dedicated to it because of the amount of time they spend on it. One wouldn’t be considered dedicated to something if they only occasionally took the time to assist; time and dedication go hand in hand.

Dedication is the foundation of our organization and is the key to our survival as a people.  If it wasn’t for dedicated men and women, throughout our history, we would not be here today.  Vartan Mamigonian was dedicated to his faith.  Throughout the history of our people, it was dedicated men and women who through their sheer faith, strong will, and steadfastness have allowed us to celebrate this day.  We know what it takes to get here.  Our history has shown us the way. The only question is are we able to learn from history and accept the challenge?  Can we continue to live that dedicated life that enabled us to survive a battle with the Persians, that allowed us to survive a massacre of our people in 1915?  We live in such comfort today that it is almost hard to imagine living in a place where you would need to put your life on the line.  Yet we still have young men in Armenia who guard the borders of our homeland and do put their lives on the line every day.  So what do we ask of you brothers and sisters of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan?  We only ask for your dedication to our cause.  If we are not dedicated to the high ideals that our founding fathers put forth, then we are failing in our cause as Knights and Daughters of Vartan.  So tonight I put the call out to you can we live up to the challenge?  We must take up our sword, not to strike the head of a Persian soldier, not to go into battle with an Ottoman Turk, but to fight the apathy and indifference that is stealing our culture and heritage in this country.  We must come to grips with assimilation and use it to enhance our heritage, not weaken it. We must build ourselves up here in this country so we can be strong to help our homeland Armenia.  I believe in this organization, and I believe we are fully capable of living up to the high ideals and dedication of our founding fathers.  Tonight Brothers, sisters, and friends, I believe you are here because you have that love, passion, time, and most importantly dedication.  Don’t let it stop here.  Tomorrow we will all begin our journeys back home.  Take back this excitement to your hometowns, don’t let it die here.  Tonight we end our Avak Tahlij and Kerakouyn Zhoghov. Our work here is complete, but the real work begins tomorrow.  For as dedicated as your newly elected Avak Tivan is, the true work of our brotherhood lies in you the individual members and lodges.  We rest our swords tonight, but tomorrow we go into battle again.