Winner of a Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, United Nations Correspondents Gold Medal, the National Magazine Award, the Overseas Press Club Award, and two from the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA Eastern and Western Regions)… Do you know who this describes? Here’s another hint: A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. In case it’s not yet obvious, she was also President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to the UN.
Samantha Power is now a winner of the coveted SpitRain award, too, granted (by yours truly) to individuals who behave so shamelessly that the Armenian saying, “S/he’s so shameless, if you spit in his/her face, s/he’d say it’s raining” becomes applicable to her/him.
But she is not alone in earning this SpitRain. Rather, she was enabled by a host of others, to be named shortly.
No doubt, you saw the news that she joined the Aurora Prize selection committee. This prize was founded by Noubar Afeyan (entrepreneur, venture capitalist, inventor, technologist, and CEO), Vartan Gregorian (extensive resume of distinguished academic and foundation positions), and Ruben Vardanyan (billionaire in Russia), to recognize, annually, the efforts and achievements of “an individual whose actions have had an exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes.” This is a great thing, especially since it’s named after Arshalooys Mardiganian (Aurora Mardigian), who starred in the movie portraying her own story of surviving the Armenian Genocide.
But Samantha Power is also the person who did nothing to act on her “convictions” during her time in office. She was silent about the Armenian Genocide until some months before the end of her tenure, and even that was just a passing reference. Simply, she was no better than Obama or any other promise-and-renege official we’ve encountered countless times over the decades.
Imagine if soon after Ambassador John Evans’s unceremonious dumping (2006) for speaking honestly about the genocide (2005), she had done the same as Obama’s Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council (Jan. 2009 to Feb. 2013), as chair of a newly formed Atrocities Prevention Board (April 2012), or U.S. Ambassador to the UN (until 2017).
How did she get appointed to the Aurora Prize Selection Committee (APSC)? It’s not spelled out in the press release, nor could I find a description of the selection process on the Aurora website. I have to assume that Afeyan, Gregorian, and Vardanyan did it, hence their complicity and sharing the shame required to earn a SitRain.
What of the other members of the APSC? Were they involved in her joining Aurora? It’s been more than a week, and I’ve seen no indication that any of them have voiced disapproval or dissatisfaction with Power’s being brought in their midst. Unfortunately, this leads me to include these august individuals as SpitRain recipients. In case you have any doubt as to their credentials, or simply do not know who they are, please read on or see the list with more detail on the Aurora website.
The APSC is composed of George Clooney (humanitarian, performer, and filmmaker), Ernesto Zedillo (former President of Mexico), Gareth Evans (former Australian Foreign Minister), Hina Jilani (Former UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders), Leymah Gbowee (Nobel Laureate), Mary Robinson (former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Ireland), Oscar Arias (former President of Costa Rica and a Nobel Laureate), Shirin Ebadi (Human Rights Lawyer, Iran’s first female judge, and a Nobel Laureate), Lord Ara Darzi (Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London), and Vartan Gregorian.
Shame on these otherwise exemplary people!
And, even more shame on all of us, as Armenians, if we don’t raise a huge fuss over the poor judgment that led to Samantha Power’s being added to the APSC. She had her chance, and she blew it. Unless she finds some way to make up for her eight-year silence, she has no place in the Armenian circuit. Otherwise, many more like her will take advantage of us and dump us when it doesn’t suit their needs.
The Aurora Prize started, and should continue, as a proudly Armenian “thing” that is serving all of humanity in gratitude for the help we received when we most needed it. but Armenian rules and norms must apply. No back-door collusion, crafty compromising politics, or gamesmanship ought to be tolerated.
Fortunately, there’s already a bit of a stink being raised on Facebook about this as well as at least one other op-ed, published in Armenian, penned by Apo Boghigian. May there be many more. Write the Aurora folks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 2/2, Melik-Adamyan Street, 0010 Yerevan, Republic of Armenia. Heck, maybe there office should even be picketed!