Absurdity of Motions at Armenian Meetings

As a young Armenian boy, prim and proper, I often found myself on the stage giving a recitation. The fact I was shy and stuttered a lot didn’t bear any consequence.

My mother made me do it.

“Son,” she used to say. “It’s the day of the Armenian hantess. I have just the poem you can recite in Armenian. Now go up there and make your parents proud.”

I would have preferred a trip to the dentist. Until I got older.

Then, I realized how vital those earlier public speaking engagements were in my overall step toward maturity. I made my parents happy, that’s all I know, and they had a few dollars waiting for me as the prize.

Once when I was 12 and saving for a bike, I raised the ante a bit. “If you want me to get up there and recite Sayat Nova, it’ll cost you $10.”

What it did was teach me pride, confidence, and understanding of my heritage and that wasn’t a bad compromise. In later life, I got to become the educational director of my AYF chapter and standing before a crowd delivering reports became standard procedure.

It all led to a public speaking course in high school and a number of speaking engagements in my adult life at commemorations, celebrations, and dinners. Matter of fact, there are critics who claim I’m much too long-winded at the podium and should learn to curtail my remarks.

Which brings me to the matter at hand. I belong to several Armenian organizations. Much as I’ve tried, I had hoped to condense some of this helter-skelter activity and get a life.

But you know the old saying: “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

The other night, I had attended a meeting of my genocide committee. The subject arose about sponsoring an essay contest for high school students on a rather pertinent subject.

“If you were going to give a presentation on Armenia to your high school class, how would you go about it?”

The question was designed to make students think, but more important, inspire them to showcase their heritage in a resolute manner.

There would be three prizes totaling $200—the winning essayist receiving half that sum. Not bad for 250 words.
Now here comes the pitfall. Being a “man in motion” at these meetings, I made a suggestion to have the winning essays read on stage the day of our genocide observance.

Each student would approach the microphone and address an audience of 300-350 guests. It would be their time to shine, their moment in the sun, their opportunity to bring respect to themselves and their families.

There would be genocide survivors in attendance who would marvel at the sight of young adults cognizant of their heritage and willing to take the initiative to promote it.

No doubt, one or two survivors might be mindful of the day they first set upon the stage or, like my mother, gave their children “a gentle shove.”

Back and forth went the motion until it got to the level of absurdity. When a vote was finally taken, the proposal died in its tracks.

And do you know why, dear reader?

Because it was felt that having three essays read would only prolong an already lengthy program.

“Cut the speeches. Get the clergy to give a condensed prayer. Have the musicians play 45 minutes instead of an hour. Whatever you do, make room for the youth.”

It was like preaching to deaf ears.

“We’ll publish the essays in the program booklet and people can read them while they’re waiting for the observance to begin,” came the recommendation, more out of sympathy than anything else.

“Not the same,” I proposed.

“What if the students don’t want to appear on stage?”

“Neither did I when I was their age. Only good will come out of it,” I rebutted.

Members of Congress are duty bound to meet, but they don’t always come together. Much as this represents a group that is instrumental in the country’s prosperity, it still has its shortcomings. Behind closed doors, there’s a backlash of opinions that leave our political elite empty and restless.

A meeting of the minds turns into malcontent. Like most governing bodies, some members think a great deal of themselves and very little of one another.

It just goes to prove one important theory, I’m afraid. The best way to kill a good idea is to get a committee to vote on it.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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1 Comment

  1. Tom’s columns are very funny and informative. I believe he is one of the best columnists in the Armenian community.

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