2019 AYF Senior Seminar Explores the Evolution of a Revolution

AYF Senior Seminar 2019, Marlboro, Massachusetts (Photo: Knar Bedian)

By Arianna Mesrobian
New Jersey “Arsen” Chapter

MARLBORO, Mass.—Sometimes it takes Olympic games to gather different AYF regions in one hotel… other times, it takes a mosquito-borne virus. The recent flare of EEE in the New England area may have displaced Senior Seminar this year, but that did not stop an amazing line-up of speakers from engaging AYF seniors in a crucial dialogue. 

At this year’s seminar, lecturers all the way from Armenia to Los Angeles brought their expertise to an extraordinarily engaged and reflective audience to say the least. The theme of the weekend was Evolution of a Revolution, or Յեղափոխութեան Զարգացում – and with that, we found that all roads eventually lead to us. 

ARF Eastern Region Central Committee member Khajag Mgrdichian presenting during AYF Senior Seminar (Photo: Knar Bedian)

After opening the weekend in a conference room full of attendees from East, West, Canada and Armenia, U. Khajag Mgrdichian set the tone for the weekend by bringing us back to the essentials – the basic viewpoints and goals of the ARF as they were outlined at the ARF Congress in Artsakh back in January.

Left to right: Stepan Piligian, Stepan Altounian, Michael Varadian, Armine Varadian, Stepan Panosian, Stepan Kanarian pictured at AYF Senior Seminar 2019, Marlboro, Mass. (Photo: Knar Bedian)

Soon after, we saw tangible examples of how the AYF and ARF have played invaluable, practical roles in the lives of its members. U. Stepan Altounian from the West Coast, accompanied by his childhood AYF friends from across the US, gave us an inclusive view of the people and places that AYF alumni have touched. For a room full of college-aged youth, it was moving to see earlier generations of AYF members bouncing stories off each other from the past. Their advice, which we tend to lose sight of sometimes, was to take care of our personal needs and focus on our personal goals throughout our AYF careers, so that we don’t lose sight of our own individuality and eventually serve and give back to the AYF to the best of our ability. Since many of us donate so much of our time and energy to the AYF without ever second-guessing this notion, it is easy to forget that our individuality is what is truly indispensable to the organization.

Then U. Gev Iskajyan from the West Coast gave us examples of when such young individuals came together to shake outdated and problematic systems. He gave us an eye-opening rundown of social revolutions that took place in Armenia from 2010 to 2019, including the Dem Em movement of 2014, Electric Yerevan in 2015, all the way to aspects of the Velvet Revolution in 2018. U. Gev started a conversation with us, comparing and contrasting the successes and failures of these movements and opened our eyes to the strategies used by young revolutionaries in our homeland.

ARF Supreme Council member Shaghik Maroukhian speaking during AYF Senior Seminar (Photo: Knar Bedian)

Finally, to circle back to this pattern of change in the ARF, U. Shaghik Maroukhian from the ARF Supreme Council in Armenia offered an insider’s view of the ARF’s stance and success in Armenia today. Upon expressing her admiration for the ideas and conversations taking place throughout the day, she addressed us with a high level of trust and hope. She reiterated an idea which continuously surfaced throughout the day – that we, the youth, are not the future; we are the now. With that, she inspired us not only to continue on the path we are on, but to continue to rebrand the AYF and ARF in our image.

U. Khachig Choukhajian helped wrap up the day with U. Gev by creating a space for members to discuss the different roles of the AYF in local communities in the Diaspora and Armenia. Discussions ranged from sparking drive to pursuing new opportunities, serving as agents for social change, promoting repatriation and defending our nation, to maintaining and supporting ARF ideology. The rising level of importance and responsibility felt by those in the room could truly be felt as the day grew longer and longer.

LA-based political and strategic consultant Gev Iskajyan speaking during AYF Senior Seminar, Marlboro, Mass. (Photo: Knar Bedian)

The premature nostalgia felt by the members in attendance did not fade until almost four o’clock in the morning, when we started to lose our voices from singing, dancing and sharing stories in the same conference room all night. 

The following morning consisted of gratitude from lecturers, committee members and attendees alike, which stemmed from an inspired attitude from the content that was presented throughout the weekend. While we tend to dwell on the many problems that require solutions within our nation and maintenance of a diaspora, sometimes we deserve to take a day or two to remember that we are each part of the best possible solution.

Founded in 1933, The Armenian Youth Federation is an international, non-profit, youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). The AYF-YOARF Eastern United States stands on five pillars that guide its central activities and initiatives: Educational, Hai Tahd, Social, Athletic and Cultural. The AYF also promotes a fraternal attitude of respect for ideas and individuals amongst its membership. Unity and cooperation are essential traits that allow members of the organization to work together to realize the AYF’s objectives.

1 Comment

  1. These seminars are a form of leadership training. This generation is the best educated and has established a
    direct connection with the homeland. What remains is for
    the current generation to make room for their participation
    and leadership. They are not simply the future as we like to
    say about our youth. THEY ARE THE PRESENT!

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