I had the great honor during this rainy long weekend of presenting for the second time at AYF Convention. The mess hall of Camp Haiastan at 9:30 in the morning was teeming with groggy, but enthusiastic delegates, ready to take on the responsibility of representing their chapters in this significant undertaking. AYF Convention is an important time for this respectable youth organization during which members discuss novel initiatives, reflect on their accomplishments, address their shortcomings, confront the challenges ahead and elect new leaders.
As we await the announcement of the brand new Central Executive and since I only addressed just about four dozen young people on Saturday, I decided to share an abridged version of my remarks in a brief personalized note for the entire AYF-Eastern Region, which is currently home to just over 400 members.
I am so proud of our Armenian youth. During these last three years and my time as assistant editor of the Weekly, it has been inspiring to witness firsthand the youth’s unmatched level of commitment to the Armenian cause, their unwavering spirit in the face of adversity and their abiding love for the homeland. The AYF’s participation in the pages of our historic publication grew two-fold in 2020 in response to the global pandemic, the Artsakh War and other issues related to human rights and organizational activities. We have welcomed new voices like 14 year-old Grace Asbedian (Middlesex County West “Musa Ler” Chapter) and Shant Armenian (Chicago “Ararat” Chapter) and supported more seasoned contributors like Araxie Cass (Chicago “Ararat”), Ani Khachatourian (Greater Boston “Nejdeh”), Alek Surenian (Chicago “Ararat”) and Arev Dinkjian (New Jersey “Arsen”), to name a few.
As a member of the Weekly’s editorial staff, I have made it a top priority to strengthen ties with the AYF and help create a love of writing as a form of self-expression and an appreciation for the written word. My message has been empowering and consistent: the Armenian youth have a voice, and the Armenian Weekly is their newspaper.
I often note the early beginnings of both the Weekly and the AYF. I like to think they grew up together. The AYF, founded in January 1933, was a visionary initiative by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) to groom an emerging generation of activists, while the Weekly, founded in the spring of 1934, was created out of necessity for the tens of thousands of English-speaking Armenians in America at the time, yearning for a connection to the homeland. The Weekly has humbly served as the publication of the ARF-ER and its sons and daughters for 87 years, promoting their activism work and publicizing their progressive ideas.
Since those early days, the Armenian media landscape has drastically changed. Information is now being delivered at rapid speeds in often sensationalized and careless ways—a type of content production that the Weekly avoids. I want to encourage our young people to broaden their news consumption and refer to sources that offer more in-depth analysis and coverage of current events. Reading high-quality content and analyses with well-grounded journalistic principles will help develop a vigilant sense of media literacy and ultimately facilitate the writing process.
I believe that being an “active” member of your community and a dedicated member of the AYF means adopting a more introspective approach and developing an understanding of why your role in this storied organization is so important during this critical time in our nation’s history. Take time to reflect and challenge each other with intellectually stimulating conversations that go beyond 280 characters.
You are members of a bright and talented generation with stories to tell and opinions to share. Consider the Armenian Weekly your home for your important voice. “Writing can be an incredible development tool for a young person and lead to great expectations,” wrote Weekly columnist Stepan Piligian in a December 2019 article I revisit often, “When we write, we dream, and when we dream, our full capabilities emerge.”
Ultimately, I want to bring out the writers in you, dear young people, and I’m here to help you do that. I hope to see more of you in our virtual writing bootcamps. I hope to see different names come through my inbox. I hope to see more YOUTH pages in the Weekly. Overall, I hope to see more of a growing interest in preserving and upholding our respected and enduring cultural institutions, namely the Hairenik and the Armenian Weekly. We grew up together, and my hope is we continue to grow old together. Good luck to you all.