Armenian Assembly Ohio State Chair Hosts Smithsonian Folklife Festival Presentation

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Razmig Pounardjian, Armenian Assembly Ohio State Chair Ara Bagdsarian, Smithsonian Director of Special Projects Halle Butvin, Rev. Fr. Hratch Sargsyan, and Ari Terjanian

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) Ohio State Chair Ara Bagdasarian hosted a presentation by Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Director of Special Projects Halle Butvin, entitled “Armenia On The National Mall: How A Festival Was Brought To Life” at an event organized in partnership with the Assembly, the Armenian Cultural Association, and St. Gregory of Narek Armenian Church of Richmond Heights. She spoke to a packed room of St. Gregory of Narek parishioners and Cleveland-based Armenian Americans on the Smithsonian’s successful “Armenia: Creating Home” cultural experience during the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

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Smithsonian Director of Special Projects Halle Butvin

“I would like to especially thank Halle Butvin for doing a wonderful job introducing Armenian culture and history at the Festival, and sharing that experience with us back here in her home state,” Assembly’s Ohio State Chair Ara Bagdasarian said. “The Cleveland Armenian community was inspired and proud to hear Halle’s presentation on ‘Armenia: Creating Home,’ with some guests even expressing tears of joy. Those who could not attend the Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. this summer had the opportunity to feel the magnitude and excitement created by the Festival and the Armenian volunteers, and for that we are grateful,” he added.

The Festival, which the Assembly was proud to co-sponsor, drew more than 750,000 visitors, and featured over 100 musicians, dancers, artisans, winemakers, and cooks from Armenia. Following her presentation, there was a lively Q&A session with those in attendance.

Butvin shared a behind-the-scenes look into the different Armenian cultural, musical, and food exhibits that were on display at the Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. She told moving stories of how the event was put together and her important role in making it a reality. Butvin, who travelled to Armenia numerous times, was one of the curators of the Festival.

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Smithsonian Director of Special Projects Halle Butvin

At the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Butvin is responsible for expanding the reach of cultural sustainability work around the world, designing collaborative projects to support communities, safeguard their heritage, promote cultural expression, and elevate cultural practices to improve local economies. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she spent ten years designing and implementing impact-driven international development programs in East Africa and Asia, ranging from democracy and governance to biodiversity conservation and economic growth. She is a native of Northeast Ohio, and was accompanied at St. Gregory Church by her family.

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

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NR#: 2019-002

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Senate Confirms by Voice Vote Ambassadorial Nominees for Armenia and Azerbaijan

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Robert Menendez Reiterates Key Concerns

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Ambassador-designates Lynne M. Tracy (left) and Earle D. Litzenberger (right)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the United States Senate confirmed by a voice vote Ambassadorial nominees Lynne M. Tracy and Earle D. Litzenberger to represent the United States in Armenia and Azerbaijan, respectively, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).

Last month, during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) business meeting on the nomination, Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-NJ) explained his support for both candidates, as well as the importance of strong U.S.-Armenia relations.

“Armenia and the Caucasus region will continue to be vital to regional and global security. According to the OSCE, Armenia’s elections over the weekend met international standards. I look forward to supporting the government’s efforts to build strong democratic institutions, a vibrant Armenian economy, and oppose any efforts to violate Armenia’s sovereignty,” Ranking Member Menendez said.

During Ambassador-designate Tracy’s nomination hearing she promised to support Armenia’s “remarkable” democratic reforms. As to questions at the hearing by SFRC Ranking Member Menendez and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) on the Armenian Genocide, she agreed that “1.5 million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their death in the final years of the Ottoman Empire” in 1915, but fell short of properly categorizing the killings as a genocide.

“Throughout my time in the Senate, I have advocated for an honest accounting of the Armenian genocide.  I believe we have a moral imperative to recognize the atrocities that were committed against the Armenian people. Ms. Tracy’s experience in Russia and Central Asia positions her to help navigate U.S. policy in this critical time. I support this nomination, but expect to work closely with Ms. Tracy on how she will encourage an honest acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide, support Armenia’s ongoing efforts to ensure accountable, citizen-responsive governance, and support efforts to reach a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he added.

During the SFRC business meeting, Senator Menendez also noted the importance of safety in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), and his expectations for the U.S. Ambassador selected to be the representative in Azerbaijan.

“I support Mr. Litzenberger’s nomination and expect to have close and continuing dialogue with him on how he will urge the Azeris to step back from any threatening behavior that could disrupt the line of contact in Nagorno Karabakh, support respect for human rights, and support efforts to reach a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict,” Senator Menendez said.

The hearing for Ambassador-designate Litzenberger occurred in October, wherein he restated the U.S. position condemning violence along the line of contact, which undermines the peace process and violates the 1994 cease-fire agreement.

“We appreciate the important issues raised by Senators Robert Menendez and Ed Markey during the confirmation process.  We look forward to working with the new Congress to ensure robust assistance to further Armenia’s democratic development,” Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny said.

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

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NR# 2019-001

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