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Posted 20 June 2000 - 04:14 PM

The New Generation
Taking Cues from their Ancestors,
Young Armenians are Shaking the Scene
by Lisa Boghosian Papas

Who cares about being Armenian?
It’s the 90s. Our careers are on the upswing, the economy is booming and we are
busy enjoying more cultural activities, sporting events and gastronomic delights than
ever before. We are consumers of luxury, quick-hit indulgers and virtual adventurers.
We can juggle several roles at once and still cope with the demands of our overly
busy lives. What we don’t have time for is blowing off the dust from our past to bring
our culture up to speed. We are too busy pacing like panthers throughout the major
cities in the world trying to get ahead.
Hardly true.
These days, as intense a passion as youth have for their personal and professional
lives, the next generation of Armenians is realizing that “blood is thicker than water.”
In futuristic terms it is called Clanning—spending time with those who share your
values, beliefs, and interests. Whether its been brought on by a desire to leave behind
the stress of their daily lives, or search for more meaning and fulfillment, the outcome
is the same: Armenian youth are rediscovering the importance of their heritage and
are making it a point to commit themselves to the well-being of their community.
“In the past, Armenian organizations, like AGBU, have organized numerous
programs for youth through the college level,” explains AGBU president Louise
Simone. “The challenge has been to keep this segment of the population interested in
their heritage between the time they start their careers and they turn forty. In the last
several years, we have seen that trend change. Now young adults, who were once
part of an AGBU school, Camp Nubar, or were a recipient of a loan or scholarship,
are taking claim to their heritage–committing themselves to leadership positions and
financially backing programs–despite their busy schedules and monetary restraints.”
With a new generation of Armenians engaging themselves in their heritage, AGBU
is fulfilling its mission to preserve the Armenian identity with its youth. Many come to
AGBU knowing little about the culture aside from the fact that they have an “ian” at
the end of their names. These same young adults generally exit their AGBU
experience with a much stronger understanding of who they are. For those who have
had a more extensive Armenian family experience, a new level of awareness is often
achieved through their involvement.
Several examples of the “new Armenian” are listed below. Each one came to AGBU
with varying backgrounds, beliefs and talents. Each one now shares a mutual desire
and commitment to his/her heritage.
<img height="94" width="64" src="http://www.agbu.org/images/krekorian.jpg" align="left"><b>
Paul Krekorian's Armenian Revival
In the heart of the “90210” glamour-land, business
and entertainment litigation attorney Paul Krekorian has
mingled with the stars—at least within his own
universe. A law degree from the prestigious Boalt Hall
Law School at Berkeley, several years of experience
with powerful Wall Street firms, and, currently, a
position with the entertainment law firm of Leopold,
Petrich & Smith, have put Krekorian at the top of the
top. But in the last few years, Krekorian’s goals have
driven him into a new direction. And in more ways than
one, this all-star lawyer is looking more like a renaissance man than ever before.
As the grandson of Armenian immigrants, Krekorian grew up in a fully assimilated
American-Armenian household. As Krekorian tells it, his father, like many
first-generation Americans, made such an effort to assimilate and be accepted that
he lost touch with many aspects of his Armenian heritage, including the language.
“My dad gave me a lot of pride in our heritage, but we really weren’t involved in the
Armenian community or exposed to the culture. I always felt sad not to speak
Armenian,” says Krekorian.
Krekorian began to become reacquainted with his heritage when Armenia was
struck by the earthquake. Motivated to help, Krekorian began raising funds for relief,
which led him to be acquainted with the Armenian community in Los Angeles. He
then began learning about and promoting Armenian interests in the political arena. As
a long-time Democratic activist, Krekorian worked to educate many elected officials
about issues of importance to Armenians. “When our community unites with
consensus, we have a powerful voice,” Krekorian says. “In addition to our international
concerns, I think we must be politically involved to improve the lives of our Armenian
neighbors here at home.”
Through his involvement in politics, Krekorian was introduced to the AGBU-Young
Professionals in Los Angeles (AGBU-YPLA). Having been invited to be one of the
panelists at the event Let Your Vote Count, Krekorian, impressed with the
organization and the event, decided to become an active member of the group. Last
year, he took on the challenge of chairing the AGBU-YPLA Annual Fund, and this
year he serves as vice chair of development.
“One of the extraordinary things about the YP’s is our unity. We have young people
from many countries, backgrounds and professions, and we are all working arm in
arm for the same thing. Participating in the AGBU has given me the sense of being
part of the Armenian community that I lacked before. Now most of my free time is
spent with friends from the YP’s...they are like an extended family.”

Mary Setrakian Lights Up The Stage
Mary Setrakian took the express train to New
York. Not literally. This Broadway performer grew up
in Tentfield, California near San Francisco, studied
music at Stanford University in Palo Alto, then
logged in training at the New England Conservatory
in Boston in pursuit of a career in musical theater.
Since then, her name has been in lights (or listed
in production Play Bills). Starting in the chorus of the
light opera of Manhattan, Setrakian subsequently
has performed in Les Misérables, toured with Evita in Germany and Paris, and was
an understudy in Hello Dolly with Carol Channing. She’s starred as Trina in Joseph
and the Technicolor Dream Coat, as Madame Giry in Phantom of the Opera, and was
Fanny Brice in Funny Girl.
With a wealth of experience behind her, Setrakian’s most recent
accomplishment—one that is still in progress– includes developing and starring in her
own one woman musical. In 1994 she got the idea to put together a melange of love
songs–using opera, pop, Broadway, jazz, rock and rap. With the expertise of an
off-Broadway producer and the financial backing of the AGBU, Setrakian assembled
an hour production which ran off-off Broadway. Four years later and a few changes to
the act, The Mary Setrakian Show is back on stage—this time in Los Angeles for a
seven week run. With rave reviews from critics all over, Setrakian modestly admits
“the show works.”
Grateful for the backing of the AGBU, Setrakian admits that her involvement with
the organization has brought her closer to her heritage. “I’ve always felt that it is
something very special to be Armenian, and I have a great sense of pride in my
heritage,” says Setrakian. “But growing up with few Armenians around me, my initial
experience with my culture came mainly through food.
“Since I’ve been to New York, I am more involved with Armenians. If I see an
Armenian name, I am interested to know who that person is. One time when I was on
tour in Ohio, an Armenian man left a note back stage saying that he had a young
daughter interested in musical theater. I called him and gave them a tour of the
theater. It’s connections like that which are real special.”
As for the future, Setrakian hopes to be a powerful artist in the world. “To be a
powerful Armenian artist—like Cher or Eric Bogosian would be really special,” says
Setrakian. “I hope to be a voice that will do something more for us–to make a
difference in the community.”

Michael Agbabian Puts AGBU Young Professionals Into Production
“I don’t know if it’s made me more Armenian,” says Michael Agbabian.
“I am as Armenian now as I was before. I guess I am more aware of
being Armenian.”
What Agbabian is referring to is his involvement as chairperson of the
AGBU Young Professionals in Los Angeles (AGBU-YPLA). Having been
involved since the onset of the program when a group first gathered to
discuss the idea in his parent’s home in 1995, Agbabian has been one of many
instrumental professionals dedicated to building the group from the ground up.
The success of the organization has been unprecedented. From the time they
started, the mailing list has grown from 80 to 800 names, and the group has earned a
sterling reputation for its work on ARVEST—a cultural event featuring the works of
famous Armenian artists, musicians and writers. This year was no exception as they
prepared for the largest Armenian world music concert called Uniquely Armenian. In
addition to these large scale events, the AGBU-YPLA conducts special lectures,
gatherings and discussions, created and is supporting a mentoring program to help
troubled Armenian youth, and actively fund-raises for special projects in Armenia.
As an independent film and television producer, and graduate of the prestigious film
school at the University of Southern California, Agbabian spends close to 15 volunteer
hours a week outside of work on business for the AGBU-YPLA. “My position has
given me the opportunity to do something I might not have done otherwise–like
manage personalities,” says Agbabian. “There are a lot of people in the group who
want to be involved in the community and do good. But our biggest challenge is
demographics. We are young, working people whose careers are in their prime. Many
of us don’t have the time to devote to an Armenian organization now. The challenge of
AGBU-YPLA is to maintain the support level, but cut back on the time it takes to
accomplish things.”
Agbabian says that he became more involved in his heritage when Armenia became
independent. “The first really Armenian thing I did was go to Armenia in 1988,” says
Agbabian. “Then in 1989, I did the AGBU Internship Program and in 1990 the
Armenian Assembly Internship Program. Having been to Armenia three times, I have
the advantage of seeing the huge improvements in the country. Compared to other
former communist countries, Armenia is doing well and the Diaspora has a lot to do
with it. The only thing that I think we could improve on is attracting more tourists.
Armenia needs to be more welcoming to outsiders.”

Dr. Linda Darian Karibian: Brings Smiles to the Faces of Many
Dr. Linda Darian is in the business of helping others—she keeps her
patients’ smiles healthy and beautiful. Outside her dental business her
practice is the same—contributing to the welfare of her community.
As a first generation American, Darian’s family emigrated from Iran to
Detroit, Michigan in 1956. When Darian was in the 7th grade she
began attending the AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian School in
Southfield, Michigan, and graduated as valedictorian in the school's
first senior class in 1978. After that she completed her undergraduate
studies at the University of Michigan and graduated from dental school in 1985. Since
then, Darian has worked as an associate and now is in business for herself.
Darian maintains her link to the AGBU school, not only through her involvement
with the school board, but also by visiting the school to discuss oral health and check
the children’s teeth. “When I was invited to join the board,” says Darian, “I was
honored and agreed to do it. I think it is important to give back to one's
community—Armenian or non-Armenian. I’ve been very connected with the school
throughout the years. Not only are most of my closest friends from the school, but
my 4-year-old daughter, Ani, is attending pre-school at AGBU. The fact that she is
learning about our rich language and culture and is making Armenian friends is
important to my husband and me. I also think it is good for Ani to see my involvement
giving back to the school.”
As recording secretary and head of the marketing and public relations task force
this year, Darian keeps very busy. “We have a very cohesive and focused board,” she
says. “Our chairperson gives us specific responsibilities and direction. We see
results and don’t feel like we’re spinning our wheels. It is also easy for me to spend
countless hours for the school because I believe in the inherent importance of an
Armenian day school in the Diaspora. It is easy to assimilate–our students are proud
of their heritage and will carry this pride through adulthood and will be the community
leaders of tomorrow.”

Jerry Misk: Chief Camper
At age 11, Jerry Misk was just a happy Camp Nubar camper. The
thought never crossed his mind that 20 years later he’d be the leader in
Marshaling the people skills he’s honed as an attorney, Misk, for the
last three years, has served as the chairman of the AGBU Camp Nubar
committee. As such he is responsible for hiring camp staff, monitoring
capital improvements and upgrades, and promoting and supporting all camp activities.
Under his leadership, camp attendance is up more than 10 percent, a computer lab
has been initiated, a new recreation and dining facility as well as several new cabins
have been constructed, all the existing buildings have been upgraded, and $1.5
million has been raised.
Misk’s position as chairman marks the pinnacle of his participation with Camp
Nubar. His leadership involvement spans more than 10 years and countless hours.
“It’s hard to say how much time I spend on Camp Nubar,” Misk explains. “Last year, I
was spending close to 40 hours a week. This year, the load has subsided since we
hired a Director for the Camp.”
Born in Lebanon, Misk is of Armenian and Lebanese descent. His Armenian side
was revealed to him through Camp Nubar he explains. “When I was growing up, my
parents spoke Arabic and my last name was Misk. I really didn’t know I was
Armenian until I started going to camp.”
Earning a law degree from St. John’s University School of Law, Misk currently
works as an attorney in New York City specializing in personal injury litigation. In
addition to his involvement with Camp, Misk recently took on the challenge of
co-chairing the 100- year celebration at the Diocese resurrecting the One World
Festival, and is serving on the AGBU auditing committee. “I take great pride in my
culture and my ancestry,” says Misk. “When you are Armenian, everything
relates–friends, religion, traditions. Most of my friends today are friends I made
through Camp Nubar. That is also how I met my wife.”

Krista Mooradian Makes Charity a Living
More Americans are making gifts to charitable institutions than ever
That’s good news for Stephen Dunn & Associates president, Krista
Mooradian, an AGBU loan recipient and recent donor herself. A publicly
owned company that is now traded on the NASDAQ small cap stock
exchange, Stephen Dunn & Associates works with many of the major
performing arts organizations in the country to develop strategies and implement
membership, annual fund, special gift, corporate, capital and subscription sales
campaigns. Some current clients in New York include Carnegie Hall, the New York
City Ballet and the New York Philharmonic.
With economic times a-booming, Mooradian says her biggest challenge is filling
the shoes of the founder himself. At 30-something, Mooradian never expected to be
the person responsible for taking the company to the next level. Stumbling upon the
firm in an advertisement in the newspaper, Mooradian began as a marketing
associate and quickly rose up the ranks to account executive, vice president of
marketing, vice president and now president.
How does she do it? Well for Mooradian, leading others is natural. Attending the
University of Vermont majoring in political science, Mooradian was the first woman
elected as student body president in the college’s history. After college, she worked
for various non-profit organizations managing hundreds of volunteers, events and
proceeds. “I worked on a Christmas pageant for United Way— an event for the
American Cancer Society and recruited volunteers for the Midsummer Music Festival
in Minnesota,” she explains. “I moved to California after being hired to manage a
training simulation program for Glaxo Pharmaceutical sales representatives. Since
1991, I’ve been working at Stephen Dunn & Associates.”
Growing up in Lewiston, New York in a half Italian and half Armenian home,
Mooradian recalls that the brightest and most hardworking students in her classes
were Armenians. “I always have found there to be a level of respect given with my last
name,” she says. “Though I definitely grew up more American, I always keep an eye
out for Armenians. I am very appreciative to AGBU for the loan they gave me in
college, and hope my financial contribution now and in the future will make a
difference to students like me.”

Harry Dikranian: On the Front Line
Shortly after working as an assistant editor for the New York Port
Authority Magazine, as part of the AGBU Summer Internship Program in
1986, Harry Dikranian got to test out his skills as a journalist on the
battlefields of Nagorno-Artsax.
As part of the Canadian Youth Mission to Armenia, an organization
which Dikranian helped found, Dikranian and three Canadian journalists
were sent to Yerevan and Stepanakert to report on the war. As a result of their efforts,
several stories were published in the Toronto Globe & Mail, Maclean’s, the Montreal
Gazette, and broadcast by the BBC in England, confirming Azeri shooting into
Armenia and Nagorno-Artsax. That started the trend for most major news
organizations to send their foreign or Moscow correspondents to Yerevan instead of
reporting from Turkey or Baku.
Though he didn’t continue with journalism, Dikranian, now an Attorney practicing
commercial litigation at Sternthal Katznelson Montigny in Montreal, remains
committed to serving the Armenian community. In fact, his enthusiasm led him to
participate on the board of the AGBU school in Montreal, to actively participate in the
Canadian Armenian Business Council, complete various projects for AIM Magazine
and the Armenian Bar Association.
“I believe it is important to live an Armenian life and be as inclusive as possible,”
says Dikranian. “But just because we are born to Armenian parents does not make
us Armenian. Everyone has a comfort level for community involvement and our
identification with our inherited culture should lead us to constantly increase that
For Dikranian, cooperation is the key to our future. “The Diaspora is a vanishing
breed and we need to work together. Many inter-community disputes are often based
on a lack of communication and cooperation at the personal level. The fact that our
communities are shrinking is in some measure attributed to that. Issues of
assimilation and inter-community disputes need to be seriously and continuously
As a first generation Canadian, Dikranian is uncomfortable with the labels
Armenians have created for each other based on where they were born or socialized.
“I couldn’t tell you whether I was more Canadian or more Armenian despite being
perfectly fluent in Armenian, English and French,” he says. “For me, it is not so much
where you come from or if you speak Armenian–but how you exercise your belief in
the culture. Like William Saroyan once said ‘language is not what makes us who we
are.’ I believe this is true.”

“Brailling” the Next Generation Culture
While the evidence points to the fact that the new Armenians are beginning to fill
the shoes of their predecessors, an AGBU survey conducted by Harris Polls
Research Group in July 1995 points out the significant finding that a generation gap is
growing between Armenian youth and the older generation.
Young Armenians were polled as to their views about their predecessors, and
described their ancestors as “stuck in the past,” “guilt-driven” and “difficult.” Harris
Polls concluded that “the Armenian community might meet with some real difficulties
unless proactive steps were taken to bridge the gap.” It was also recommended that
AGBU provide leadership roles to young people to forge the generational bonds. “Not
providing leadership could be a lost opportunity.”
Through the many conversations conducted with the next generation, Armenian
volunteers express their frustration at the glass ceiling above. One volunteer notes,
“Everyone wants young people to be involved in the culture, and then when they do
get involved they are not willing to give up positions.
We are brought on as tokens, but the older generation does not trust us to help. It
is a difficult problem. But the facts are that the community has alienated a lot of
people who could have strengthened it. When young people get involved, they can’t
tell the 65 year-olds that they have to change. We are little fish in a big pond.”
Another young volunteer notes the resentment faced by older generation groups as
a result of volunteer activity. “When you are young with fresh ideas, that can be
threatening to people who are used to doing the same thing the same way. I think
sometimes we feel like the enemy, instead of people on the same team.”
“I sense a morality ceiling within the community,” another notes. “A kind of
provincialism. There seems to be a denial and a resistance to ideas that are outside a
certain moral code. I have found many older generation Armenians not wanting to face
issues like gangs or drugs within the community. But these are serious issues that
need to be addressed. Unless the attitude changes, we could very well lose the next
chunk of the future generation.”
Still other young professionals hold strong to the fact that generation has nothing to
do with it. “Basically,” says one of our profilees, “whether you are old or young, I see
that it is the same problem. There are two types of Armenians, or people for that
matter. One who goes out of their way to donate their time and money, and the other
who doesn’t feel that their contribution will matter. I think the groups are fairly split.”

Filling the GAP
Since its inception, AGBU has held steadfast to helping Armenian youth prosper.
From Armenian schools, scholarship grant and loan programs, Camp Nubar, the
Summer Internship Program and the young professional groups, AGBU has been
present throughout the lives of thousands of young people. It is through the many
levels and layers of initial involvement that most new generation volunteers have come
to be active with AGBU. However, many new-comers to the organization have
become active having never heard of AGBU before.
“We are constantly searching for ways to increase involvement from this new
generation,” says AGBU Chapter Director Anita Anserian. “The challenge is to create
an environment of camaraderie, enthusiasm, and work without burden. Our most
recent program is a professional program in Armenia. For six to eight weeks,
Armenians from around the world can work in Armenia in the offices of government
ministries, international institutions and organizations, private enterprises as well as
in the fields of their expertise. We’ve had tremendous interest in the program
already–and its only just started.”

[This message has been edited by JanFedayi (edited June 20, 2000).]

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Posted 30 June 2000 - 11:33 PM

I'm glad you opened this topic.

It's true what was said: no matter how feverishly we pursue our careers, we're going back to our roots. This is especially true in the Diaspora. But it can sometimes be so darn difficult finding a balance between these two sides of ourselves. Which is why Armenian role models help. Recently, I saw a special on PBS on Armenian-Americans. I sat there glued to the TV (and I normally don't watch TV all that much) for more than 4 hours. It was a totally surreal experience. Here were these people, who are just like me, on American television (sorry, the people on Armenian Teletime don't do it for me..lol). It was unbelievable, really. They had attained positions of prestige and were respectable members of the community, yet they had also retained their Armenianness. It was one of those life changing moments for me; I wish it had come earlier.

My dad recently left for Yerevan (visiting his family, etc) and he asked me what I wanted, what he should get for me. So when he asked me what I wanted, the answer was so quick it surprised even me. I asked for a hand made tapestry from a village in the South of Armenia, a tapestry that featured a scene that's traditionally Armenian (i.e. village girls getting water from the spring, etc). Just goes to show, you can't escape being Armenian. You always long to come back.


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Posted 01 July 2000 - 03:37 PM

Extremely impressive!!!

I have to admit that while I was reading this article I could think how directly it applis to me. I work in a financial services industry and we don't have many Armenians in there. Every time an Armenian name appears I feel kind of different. Mi tesak vonts vor aryune kanchuma. I don't know what it is but it feels so different. A few days ago when I was negotiating a major deal, I came across an Armenian, and you won't believe it, but I got goosebumps from it. He called me up and asked me in his broken Armenian, "Tun Hye es"? I think once people get to certain position they long more toward their roots. Also, it helps a lot to be Armenian. We support each other and one someone applies for a job we always have the prejudice toward one of our own. It really feels special. Being Armenian is similar to being a member of a special club, whose member get priviledges that many envy.

Unfortunately a lot of people do not realize this, especially in a densely populated Armenian areas in Southern California. That's why there is this joke which is very true.

-Ape Hye es,
-Ba khi kaki hame ches hanum,
-Eh, vonts hanem, akhr menak em.

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Posted 01 July 2000 - 05:35 PM

wow...an armenian chick in the financial services industry..must be tough, which is why my hat's off to you )

lol..the joke totally applies...lol...

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Posted 01 July 2000 - 05:40 PM

You are right about everything, except the chick part.

But there are some Armenian chicks in financial services. I know some in Andersen Conculting and Merryll Lynch.

Originally posted by Gayancho:

wow...an armenian chick in the financial services industry..must be tough, which is why my hat's off to you )

lol..the joke totally applies...lol...

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Posted 12 July 2000 - 11:01 PM

oops..sorry, alpha...hope the email explains )

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