As I commence a second term as Chairman, I thank those Board members who concluded their service to our Association with distinction, I congratulate the new members on their selection to our board, and extend a warm welcome to all board members, thanking them for their vote of confidence in selecting me once again to continue serving our Association and communities, as chair of the Armenian Bar.
During the preceding twelve months, we rededicated ourselves to the vision of our founder, Raffi K. Hovannisian, with our relentless service to our people and profession, and most of all with our deeds.
Today, I renew my call to former members and new generations of lawyers, judges, and law students to join us as we together vow to continue to proceed forward.
While we continue to gain meaningful momentum, we should take stock of where it all began. We are in the midst of an ambitious oral history and on-line scrapbook project to ensure that the voices and events of the past are chronicled with the likes of our esteemed Chairman Emeritus, Vicken I. Simonian, and with the first chairman of our Association in 1989-1990, the inimitable David Balabanian, who empowered us with his assessment at our 23rd Annual Conference and Banquet in May 2012. His words and his consistent service to us and in our name on the Movsesian case still echo in our minds, vibrate in our hearts, and reverberate our true essence:
“The Armenian Bar Association has certainly found its soul.” David Balabanian, May 19, 2012.
The foregoing reflection is more than mere words by a great Armenian-American lawyer. It is an assessment by our first chairman of the great strides we have made from 1989 until now. We still have much more work to do. In the wake of Armenia’s recent presidential and Yerevan’s municipal elections, noble causes--from advancing the rule of law in Armenia to respect for human and civil rights, to the protection of the environment and to the citizenry’s entitlement to fair and transparent elections--still beckon.
That which has been accomplished by previous chairs, boards, and many members and supporters who make up the Armenian Bar Association family continues to serve as our foundation for all things to come. Therefore, we must not only preserve and maintain their legacy, but also expand and advance upon it.
Our task is to continue to make progress with an aim towards fair applications of the rule of law for all Armenians in the Diaspora and in Armenia.
Last year, as the incoming chairman on May 19, 2012, I was asked whether I have the requisite time to take on the primary leadership role of this organization. My answer then was a simple “Yes.” I said so then because I believed that the Armenian Bar is blessed with some of the brightest and most committed board members, committee members and officers willing to devote countless hours organizing and volunteering at legal clinics, conferences, continuing education, and pro bono programs. For these reasons and more -- I still believe.
As we begin to embark on our 25th year of service, I continue to believe that each of you is a leader in our communities. I am confident that by working together we shall make the 25th year the most successful chapter in our proud and rewarding history.
Indeed, we have come far. Without a doubt, farther we shall go.
As chair during the past twelve months, I embarked on a journey to the various Armenian communities, from New York to New Jersey, Paris, Beirut, Montreal, Las Vegas, and to Yerevan and beyond in Armenia.
Along the way and with many of you, we forged our relevance in all civic matters, reached out to leaders of all traditional and non-traditional organizations, and together we discussed and implemented the ways in which our Association was in the past, and ultimately continues today, to be of service.
Throughout, we also spoke for people who could not speak for themselves, whether it was the Syrian-Armenian community in crisis, the tragically-killed Army Lt. Medical Doctor of Armenia, Vahe Avetyan, or Lt. Gourgen Margaryan, the victim of the unrepentant Azeri axe-murderer in Budapest in 2004 whose sentence of 30 years in prison was ignored by Azerbaijani President lham Aliyev, despite contrary assurances made to Hungary and the world community; and, we voiced our concern for the environmental crisis in Armenia.
We must continue to make our collective voices be heard on behalf of all Armenians around the globe, from Syria to Artsakh, and especially in Armenia, whenever its citizens are disenfranchised and their civil rights are disregarded or denied.
The way to accomplish our mission of protecting the rights of Armenians wherever they may be requires us to continue to not hold back on our resources. That is why I have and continue to urge our members to remember that the Syrian-Armenians are still in a crisis of survival as a community. They literally are holding on to dear life. That is also why I ask you to never forget the Armenians of Artsakh. Their right to self-determination is a matter based on international law.
A reflection of our commitment to our mission is the Armenian Bar’s collaboration a year ago with Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, and our dispatching a Legal Fellow to the Justice Ministry in Armenia.
Today, we continue to stand for all that is fair and just, even if at times we must stand solitary and resolute like a tree; and if we ever fall or falter along the way, we pledge to spring up again as one Association, united, to continue being the voice for those too weak or too meek to fend themselves.
Thank you for maintaining the honor and integrity of the legal profession wherever each of us calls home. Thank you for helping us promote the rule of law so as to preserve the integrity of lawyers and judges in Armenia, to bring equal opportunity and justice for our communities, to advance continuing legal education through our seminars, and to widen the general understanding of the legal system through pro bono clinics and town hall meetings, one community after another.
To accomplish these objectives, it is imperative that we continue to support an environment of dialog to enhance the relationship between the Armenian Bar Association and the Armenian churches, schools and cultural and professional groups, based on mutual respect and on common cause.
Historically, there has been a pattern of manipulation in certain parts of the world of what justice is and who is entitled to receive it. Justice and equality have been hard fought for by our ancestors, and they continue to be hard fought for by Armenians to this day. As empowered professionals with the ability to affect change, it is our responsibility to continue to advocate for the deliverance of justice in tangible ways to those for whom these promises have yet to be realized.
It has been a year of hard work. We indeed have much to show for due to the dynamic group of individuals who comprise our officers, board members, and committees. Looking ahead, I remain confident that with their considerable talents and dedication, and with the ever-growing support of our members, we will achieve our goals.
Thank you for the countless sacrifices made by each and every one of you during the past twelve months. Thank you for answering the call to open doors and to build bridges, and for continuing to champion fundamental rights for the ones who need and deserve them most.
Together Always, Rising and Forward.
Garo B. Ghazarian
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION