The third annual K. George and Carolann S. Najarian, M.D. Endowed Lecture on Human Rights will be held on Thurs., Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall. Free and open to the public, the lecture is an endowed public program of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, the sponsor of the Armenian Heritage Park on Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in Boston.
In celebration of the opening of the Armenian Heritage Park and of the central theme of the Greenway—the immigrant experience—it is fitting that this year’s speaker is Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian, the founding director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic.
A first generation Armenian-American and the son of survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Djerejian is an outstanding example of the kind of achievement, leadership, public service, and commitment to human rights. Djerejian has also worked to assist Armenia and Artsakh in their transition to democracy and peace.
Djerejian served in the U.S. Foreign Service under eight presidents, from John F. Kennedy to William J. Clinton (1962-94). Prior to his nomination by Clinton as U.S. ambassador to Israel (1993-1994), he was assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in both the George H.W. Bush and Clinton Administrations (1991-93). He was the U.S. ambassador to the Syrian Arab Republic (1988-91) and also served as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and deputy press secretary for foreign affairs in the White House (1985-86). After his retirement from government service in 1994, he became the founding director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.
His book, Danger and Opportunity: An American Ambassador’s Journey Through the Middle East, was published by Simon & Schuster in September 2008. Djerejian has been awarded the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, the Department of State’s Distinguished Honor Award, and numerous other honors, including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Anti-Defamation League’s Moral Statesman Award. He is also a recipient of the Association of Rice Alumni’s Gold Medal, the group’s most prestigious award, for his service to Rice University.
In 2011, Djerejian was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and named to the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Corporation of New York by its president, Dr. Vartan B. Gregorian.
“We are honored and pleased that the ambassador has accepted our invitation to speak in this inaugural year of Armenian Heritage Park,” said Dr. Carolann S. Najarian, who with her husband George endowed this lecture series in honor of her father, Avedis Abrahamian.
The lecture series was inspired by the New England women and men—intellectuals, politicians, diplomats, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens—who, beginning in the 1890’s at Faneuil Hall, heard the eye-witness accounts of the atrocities taking place against the Armenian minority of the Ottoman Empire during World War I and were called to action. Distinguished Bostonians, among them Julia Ward Howe, Clara Barton, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Alice Stone Blackwell, heard these accounts and were moved to assist the Armenians. As a result, the American Red Cross launched its first international mission with Clara Barton bringing aid to the Armenians. Philanthropists nationwide raised over $100 million in aid. This was America’s first internationally focused human rights movement. Peter Balakian’s The Burning Tigris (HarperCollins, 2003) made many aware of this New England history.
The lecture is being offered in partnership with historical and academic institutions, and human rights organizations. The purpose of the endowed series is to advance understanding of human rights issues and the societal abuses faced by millions today, and to increase awareness of the work of individuals and organizations dedicated to eliminating these injustices so that we are all more actively engaged.
Governor Deval L. Patrick and Mayor Thomas M. Menino are honorary chairs.
Co-chairs representing their participating organization are Charlie Clements, executive director, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government; Martha F. Davis, Ph.D., faculty director, Northeastern School of Law, Human Rights, and the Global Economy; David Hollenbach, S.J., director, Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice; Michael A. Grodin, M.D., and George J. Annas, JD and MPH co-directors, Global Lawyers and Physicians Working Together for Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health; Shant Mardirossian, chairman of the Board, Near East Foundation; Margot Stern Strom, founder/executive director, Facing History and Ourselves; Adam Strom, director of research and development, Facing History and Ourselves; Deborah W. Nutter, Ph.D., senior associate dean, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Ph.D., acting director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Human Rights and Justice; and Joshua Rubenstein, northeast regional director, Amnesty International USA.
The lecture’s inaugural speaker in 2010 was Kerry Kennedy, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights based in Washington. The 2011 speaker was Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hero of the acclaimed film “Hotel Rwanda” and the president and founder of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation.
The endowed lecture is a public program of the Armenian Heritage Park on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in Boston, a gift to the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from the Massachusetts Armenian-American community. The park commemorates lives lost during the Armenian Genocide of 1915-23 and all genocides, and celebrates the immigrant experience and contributions made to American life and culture.
Serving on the Lecture Committee are Dr. Carolann Najarian, George Najarian, Dr. Joyce Barsam, Phyllis Dohanian, Dr. Linda Kaboolian, Audrey Kalajian, and Barbara Tellalian.
The Armenian Heritage Foundation, sponsor of the Armenian Heritage Park, is a non-profit organization founded to secure the designation and to raise funds to design, develop, and construct the park and endow its public programs, including this annual lecture, the reconfiguration of the park’s sculpture, and its ongoing care and maintenance. The Board is comprised of representatives from 13 parishes and 25 cultural organizations within the Massachusetts Armenian-American community. Honorary chairs of the foundation are Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and Registrar Rachel Kaprielian; the president is James Kalustian.
For more information on the Armenian Heritage Park and its program, visit www.ArmenianHeritagePark.org.