This column will feature Q&A sessions with ANCA Eastern Region Board members. This week, I talk with Steve Mesrobian of Providence, R.I.
Michelle Hagopian: Tell us about yourself.
Steve Mesrobian: I would describe myself as an advocate for Armenian issues and causes. I’ve been involved in the Rhode Island Armenian community since I was a young child and I remain active to this day. I’m currently serving as the co-chair of the ANCA Eastern Region and also as an ANCA National Board member. I’ve been a member of the ANCA-ER Board since 2007 and just rejoined the ANCA National Board in May.
MH: What’s your Hai Tahd background?
SM: I’m a life-long member of the Rhode Island community, having moved through the natural progression of the Providence AYF Juniors to the AYF Seniors, and now to the Providence ARF.
MH: What’s your education and career background?
SM: I graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1988 with a B.S. in computer electronic engineering and started working professionally as a software engineer, writing firmware for high-speed thermal printers and barcode printers. From there I wrote firmware for fire detection and alarm panels then made the shift to the medical device industry, where I’ve been since 1996.
I’m currently the director of OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing) Engineering at Covidien, where I am responsible for the integration of our proprietary level of consciousness monitoring technology into the multi-parameter patient monitors of our Strategic Alliance business partners. In layman’s terms, our technology is used to measure the depth or effects of anesthesia on a patient, primarily during surgery.
MH: How long have you been involved in ANCA work?
SM: I started working on Hai Tahd activities as an AYFer and really jumped in with both feet as chairman of the ANC-Rhode Island in 2000. After chairing the ANC-RI for a few years, I joined the ANCA National Board for two years (2005-07) and then moved over to the ANCA Eastern Region Board, where I’ve held a variety of positions since 2007.
MH: Why do you work hard for Hai Tahd?
SM: My motivation is two-fold. When I was a child, I remember my grandmother sharing her personal story of surviving the Armenian Genocide. She was forced to watch Turkish soldiers drown her young son who was hardly more than an infant.
The fact that so many families have similar stories and Turkey stands unrepentant and in denial today infuriates me and fuels much of the work that I do. I also feel a sense of responsibility to strive for justice for our Armenians martyrs.
I work for more than simply recognition of the Armenian Genocide. I want to see our historic lands returned to their proper place as part of Armenia, and Artsakh and Javakhk reunited with Armenia.
MH: What brought you to this type of work?
SM: I think Hai Tahd work and activism in general is a channel for me to contribute to the Armenian nation. Living in the diaspora, especially in the United States, affords us some unique opportunities to help Armenia prosper and provide for her long-term viability as a nation.
Working within the ranks of the ANCA, I have a chance to pool my efforts with other like-minded activists and work toward the goal of a strong, independent, and unified Armenia!
MH: What do you think we can do better for our cause?
SM: We need to get more people involved in our work. It’s safe to say the vast majority of Armenians in the United States believe in the work the ANCA does, but only a small minority are working consistently as activists for our cause.
To use a sports analogy, we need to get more people to get off the sidelines and onto the Hai Tahd playing field. We cannot hope to match the Turkish lobby dollar for dollar, nor does Armenia have the strategic importance of Turkey or the natural resources of Azerbaijan. Our greatest resource is the intelligence, the drive, and the dedication of our people. We need to continue to mobilize our communities to add to our ranks of dedicated Hai Tahd activists. One constituent reaching out to his or her Congressman goes a long way to furthering our efforts and counterbalancing the effects of Turkish and Azeri dollars.
With the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide fast approaching, we need to mobilize more of our community, especially our youth, to join in the vital work we are doing. If we are going to truly gain justice for the Armenian people, we need to bolster both our core group of activists and our support base.
MH: How has the ANCA benefited you over the course of your life?
SM: Besides the personal satisfaction I get from each and every ANCA victory, the organization has afforded me the opportunity to work alongside many other wonderful people who share many of the same goals and dreams that I have. I feel lucky to count many of these people as some of my very best friends.