President of Armenia speaks to Fletcher students

President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan spoke to a group of 15 Tavitian Scholars from Tufts at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy yesterday morning as a part of his first working visit to Massachusetts. The president’s Boston tour began on Monday and will continue to Washington, D.C. for the Nuclear Security Summit.

The students who met with Sargsyan are part of the Tavitian Scholarship Program, a six-month training program for mid-career Armenian professionals, jointly run by the Fletcher School and the Tavitian Foundation. The program intends to educate professional Armenians and encourage the economic development of GDP, as well as telecom, software, banking and tourist industries in Armenia.

During Sargsyan’s meeting with the scholars, he addressed Armenia’s foreign policy, economic perspectives and strategic goals, according to Tavitian Scholar Yeva Ter-Sahakyan. Following the discussion, Sargsyanheld a question and answer session with the group.

Ter-Sahakyan explained that Boston has one of the oldest and most active Armenian communities in the country, making the city an important stop on the president’s visit.

“His visit to Massachusetts is very significant in terms of acknowledgement of the Armenian diaspora and Armenian organizations in the state, and the work that they are doing for promoting and developing Armenia the country and the nation,” she told the Daily in an email. “Also, Boston is leader in bio and information technologies, which is a rapidly growing field in Armenia. All in all, [the] president’s visit to USA and to Massachusetts is an indicator of [the] countries’ strengthening relations and already established links.”

Earlier in the week on Tuesday, Sargsyan led a wreath-laying ceremony at the Armenian Heritage Park on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The park is dedicated to the memory of the approximately 1.5 million Armenian victims persecuted by the Ottoman Turks during the Armenian Genocide, from 1915-1922, according to a March 30 article in the Boston Globe.

Sophomore Nairi Krafian, who attended the public ceremony, said that Sargsyan’s visit in the United States is an exciting moment in Armenian-American relations.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction for genocide recognition, seeing as now we’re playing a role in the foreign affairs of the United States… This is finally a time where [Armenians] hold some stock in America’s foreign affairs,” Krafian said.

Also on Tuesday, Sargsyan delivered a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) titled “Education and Human Capital: The path to sustainable development,” to an approximately 300-person crowd, according to Ari Kazanjian, a leader of the Tufts Armenian Club. In the speech the president discussed the personal and national benefits of education, Kazanjian explained.

“As we were developing the idea to create the Luys Foundation and fund the education of our young people admitted to the world’s top universities, we had one goal in mind: to bring home all progressive and new that is constantly created around the world, studied and developed in the world’s leading scientific centers,” Sargsyan said in his speech. “Home includes each and every one of you — our extended family called Armenians and Armenia.”

Kazanjian, a junior, said that he, several Tufts alumni and the Tavitian Scholars all attended the event.

“It was an honor to be present at the event and I was proud to be in a room with such accomplished Armenians who were discussing the importance of education and using education to tackle the most important issues around the world,” he said.

Sargsyan also attended a gala dinner on Tuesday at MIT titled “A New Generation of Armenian Thinkers,” hosted by the Luys Foundation, according to a Mar. 30 press release on Sargsyan’s website. The Luys Foundation provides scholarships and loans to Armenians to promote education and economic development in Armenia, according to the organization’s website.

Yesterday, in addition to visiting Fletcher, Sargsyan was at a public event outside of the Massachusetts State House, to meet with the Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. The Armenian president also gave another lecture in the afternoon, this time at the Harvard Kennedy School, titled “Advancing Armenia’s Independent Statehood: Sovereignty, Democracy and Interdependence in the 21st Century.” Ter-Sahakyan noted that the Tavitian Scholars also attended the Harvard lecture.

Kazanjian said that the president’s visit has made him proud to be an active member of Boston’s Armenian community.

“His visit shows his recognition and care for the Armenian diaspora and its continuous, strong connection to the homeland,” he said. “In addition, his visit to Boston is a sign of recognition of Boston as a leader in education and innovation on a global scale.”

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