Michael Haratunian Honored at Armenian Assembly Annual Banquet in Florida

WASHINGTON — Last month, the Armenian Assembly of America honored Michael Haratunian, who served as chairman of the board of directors from 1993-1994, with the Assembly’s Distinguished Humanitarian Award, reported the Assembly. In a packed hall at the Marriott hotel in Boca Raton, Florida, family, friends and Armenian community leaders from across North America congratulated Haratunian with a standing ovation.

Haratunian’s remarks were as informative as they were inspiring. Reflecting on the early days of the Assembly’s inception, Haratunian stated, Meeting in a conference center outside of Washington D.C. over 40 years ago, they came together for the first time as a community of concerned Armenian-Americans determined to find a way to have our voices heard in the halls of Congress and the White House. I was just a junior presence in those meetings, led by some major figures in our community, like Steve Mugar, John Hannessian, Hirair Hovnanian, Aram Kaloosdian, Jirair Haratunian and many others.”

Haratunian then turned to the future and what he envisions, stating that “the Assembly is an important organization,” one with “no outside political agenda.” “The Assembly’s uniqueness,” he said, “is its independence and non-partisanship. In fact, that was why it was created in the first place and that is its ultimate strength.” Haratunian continued, “So it is my hope that the Assembly will continue to be that strong, independent voice that represents a large number of the Armenian-American community.”

“It is time that all major organizations put aside their narrow interests and work together more effectively. There is no longer any reason that we should not combine our strengths by cooperating and collaborating together whenever the highest interests of the Armenian people are at stake,” Haratunian said as the crowd rose to its feet in applause.

The evening’s program featured introductory remarks from Assembly board member Lu Ann Ohanian, who welcomed those in attendance. Assembly executive director Bryan Ardouny spoke about the important work of the Assembly and the challenges we face now and in the future.  Ardouny urged even greater activism in the months and years ahead. The program also featured Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), who has been a personal friend of Haratunian for years. “Michael Hartatunian is recognized as a distinguished, indispensible, and much-admired figure throughout the Armenian community,” stated Archbishop Aykazian. He also mentioned Haratunian’s activities with the Armenian Church and “other major Armenian-American institutions” such as the Armenian Assembly and the Columbia University Armenian Center. “Michael is an outstanding citizen of the United States, an outstanding son of the Armenian heritage, and the head of a truly remarkable family of which he is rightly proud,” Aykazian said.

Anthony Barsamian, Assembly board member, who like this year’s award recipient is a former chairman of the board himself (2004-2006), also spoke passionately about Haratunian, his accomplishments and his life-long service to the Armenian Assembly, to the Armenian Church and to the Armenian people. “Michael has and continues to serve both the Prelacy and the Diocese of the Armenian Church with distinction, Barsamian said. “When Armenian-Americans join the Armenian Assembly family, they understand that we are at the center of the community serving the best interests of Armenians worldwide. Michael Haratunian exemplifies this duty every day,” stated Barsamian.

The Assembly’s Distinguished Humanitarian Award was established in 1997 and is given to champions of Armenian causes in honor of U.S. Senator Bob Dole (R-KS). Previous recipients of the Assembly’s Distinguished Humanitarian Award include Kathryn Cameron Porter (1997); Mrs. Rakel Dink (2007); Elizabeth Agbabian, Flora Dunaians, and Savey Tufenkian (2012); and Ann Hintlian, Virginia Ohanian and Nevart Talanian (2013).