Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis Addresses CYSCA Annual Meeting


From lef t, CYSCA Board members Brad Rice,Eva Medzorian, Mayor Henrietta Davis, Cit y Councilor Leland Cheung and CYSCA President Cheryl Shushan (Nancy Kalajian photo)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — On June 28, the Cambridge-Yerevan Sister City Association (CYSCA) held its 26th annual meeting at Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church of Greater Boston. The keynote speaker was Mayor Henrietta Davis of Cambridge, who saluted the group for continuing to evolve and grow over the years since 1986-87, when the relationship was founded. At that time the hope was that in the atmosphere of the Cold War, cross-cultural exchange would foster better understanding, dialogue and friendship. From meeting with CYSCA’s delegations and reviewing its programs over the years, Davis said she sees CYSCA as an example to others. She noted, “In my time as city councilor here in Cambridge, and now as mayor, I have seen just how beneficial cross-cultural and international exchange is. I’ve learned to set my sights higher, learning by examples from cities and nations outside these shores.”

One of her priorities is to make Cambridge a national leader in climate protection and sustainability. “Over the past two years I have been fortunate to travel to parts of Europe to see the latest in energy efficiency and green building. Just this week, Cambridge hosted DasHaus from Germany, which is a traveling demonstration of advanced technology in energy efficient home construction and solar energy use.”

She added, “In 2009, we became one of the first communities in the state to require high standards for energy efficiency in new buildings. … And we were recently named America’s Most Walkable City. Our public transit and bike-friendly streets help us in becoming a city of green commuters.”

She acknowledged CYSCA’s programs to educate seventh and eighth graders in Cambridge and Yerevan about energy use and production; to educate the public about the reforestation work of the Armenia Tree Project in Armenia; and, in 2010, to bring environmental and energy experts to the Cambridge Science Festival.

She concluded, “It’s inspiring to see the power of collaboration when it comes to tackling the pressing concerns of today. So, as we enter the next 25 years, I look forward to seeing our cities continue to collaborate and engage about these issues that face us as members of the global community.”

Also attending the meeting were City Councilor Leland Cheung; Fred Fantini, vice chair of the School Committee; attorney David Wylie, former city councilor and one of the founders of CYSCA; and Brian Corr, director of the Cambridge Peace Commission.

Davis was asked whether she had plans to visit Yerevan and was urged to do so. Board member Suzanne Pearce posed a question about whether climate change might be a compelling global issue, relevant to CYSCA’s work in 2012, comparable to the threat of nuclear war which was perceived to be great in the mid 1980s when CYSCA was found- ed. Davis suggested that CYSCA might be help- ful in a triangular way with Armenia and Western European countries like Germany and Austria.

Nancy Kalajian proposed that air quality and walkability could be topics of mutual interest in both cities. Davis responded that Cambridge had been told by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve its air quality and therefore created programs to improve biking and walking in the city, in order to reduce the use of cars. Now the programs have many advocates.

At the brief business meeting preceding the talk, President Cheryl Shushan and several board members shared updates from the past year and upcoming plans. The Armenia School Aid Program in its 18th year with five sponsors assisted eight schools. Donations totaling $5,000 were used to replace windows, acquire computers and fund general maintenance for school buildings. In the village of Berd, the biol- ogy and anatomy lab at the college was renovat- ed, special glass windows provided to the high

school and a small fridge given to the kindergarten. In November, the Community Connections program supported the publication of the new Armenia Marketing and Management Journal, the first of its kind for Armenia, published by CC alumni Aram Navasardyan and col- leagues. Continuing its work in linking schools, CYSCA has helped to set up a student and teacher exchange between the Pingree School in South Hamilton, MA with School #114 in Yerevan. In a brand new program established this year with the leadership of Board member Joe Dagdigian, CYSCA is supporting infrastructure improvements at an important archaeological site, the Shengavit Preserve, on the outskirts of Yerevan, where artifacts from the “Kura-Arax” culture dating back to the fourth millennium BC are being excavated. The site’s director, Vladimir Tshagharyan, was a participant in the 2003 Community Connections program for cultural and historic preservation experts. Finally, last September, CYSCA spearheaded a major event in Cambridge together with a number of other groups to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Republic of Armenia. Shushan announced that in 2013 CYSCA will celebrate 25 years of activity with local events and an exchange of offi- cial delegations led by the mayors of both cities to plan future programs.

After Shushan thanked departing Board mem bers, Arax Badalian, Richard Boyajian and Peggy Hovanessian, for their work for many years, members voted in the 2012-13 Board of Directors, including one new member, Brad Rice, who came from Indiana to the Boston area to study at the Boston University School of Theology then Harvard Divinity School. He currently works as associate editor of Contexticon Learn and Research, a nonprofit research insti- tute involved in producing a reference work for the ancient Greek of the New Testament. This work has led him to study classical and modern Armenian, travel to Armenia and become immersed in the local Armenian culture.