Ambassador Hovhannissian’s farewell message
In a few days my term as Armenia’s ambassador to USA will come to an end. After three years of a wonderful and fulfilling posting in Washington I will be returning to homeland to start a new chapter in my life.
Serving as the Armenian Ambassador to our close friend and ally has been the greatest privilege of my life. Years spent in Washington DC – a city filled to the brim with intellectual pursuit and stimulating debate – have broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of the US and the world at large. I have learned a lot and gained priceless experience over the many years that I studied, lived and worked in this fascinating country, starting as a student at Tufts University, then as a UN staffer visiting the HQs in NY, as a Consul General in Los Angeles and, finally, as an Ambassador in Washington.
My posting in Washington coincided with profound changes in both our counties. Constitutional and then democratic transition in Armenia and the change of administration in Washington fell on difficult times for international affairs marked by new and old geopolitical challenges. Notwithstanding the transition process, the dialogue and the partnership between Armenia and USA remained active and continued to bear fruit.
The relationship between Armenia and the US is strong and has grown stronger during my time here. Beyond the chronicles of official meetings and visits, relations between our countries continued to expand in many ways – at federal, state and local levels, among cities, universities, museums and other public institutions, between the military, businesses, and, above all, among ordinary people – all creating even stronger bonds between us.
During the past three years our relations with the Congress and its Caucus on Armenian Issues intensified, resulting in the first in two decades Congressional Delegation to Armenia and Artsakh, as well as the first ever delegation of Armenia’s National Assembly to Washington. New areas of cooperation between our legislatures include the Democracy Partnership group and exchanges with California and Massachusetts State Assemblies. During this period, Washington hosted productive sessions of the US-Armenia inter-government Task Force (USATF) and the Council of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Investment and business conferences were held in NY, the Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, contributing to the rise of US investments to our economy. Armenia’s partnership with the US IT industry continued to boom with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth Armenia-made services exported to or through Silicon Valley based companies. We are finalizing plans to substantially help Armenian start-up community to get better integrated in the innovation and venture capital communities. Sales of Armenian wines in the US market soared over the last couple of years, owning to the outstanding quality of our new wines, many of which were produced through American investment.
Armenia opened its third – after Fresno and Las Vegas – Consulate in Chicago and made plans for additional consulates in several other important cities throughout USA. Our partnership with the Kansas Army National Guard and the State of Kansas continued to thrive, as we celebrated the 15th anniversary of our partnership. Beyond institutions and organizations, we also forged strong relations with individual communities throughout USA, particularly with the Evangelical Christian, Mexican and Francophone communities. It was a personal privilege for me to meet and interact with Reverend Franklin Graham and his associates. The already traditional Armenian-Mexican cultural festival of Los Angeles was another achievement that, as Armenia’s former Ambassador to Mexico, I am personally proud of.
The current year, which marks the 400th anniversary of the first Armenian settler arriving in USA, was in many ways extraordinary in terms of the exposure of the Armenian culture, arts and traditions to the American public at large. First – the groundbreaking “Armenia: Creating Home” festival on the National Mall by the Smithsonian institution, followed by the Inauguration of Saroyan’s museum in Fresno and the absolutely historic exhibition “Armenia!” by the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art. I am extremely proud and feel privileged to having had events of this magnitude during my tenure in Washington.
And of course the past three years also saw a number of great celebrations, such as Armenia’s 25th anniversary at the grand Hall of Americas, the centennial of Armenia’s first Republic in US Senate, the 25th anniversary of US-Armenia diplomatic relation at US Congress and countless celebrations of our culture, gastronomy, wines and US-Armenia friendship hosted by our cozy embassy in Washington DC.
In a few days I will be leaving Washington DC with the conviction that our relations with the US are strong and that they will weather any storms the complexity of today’s world can possibly produce. I am also a staunch believer in even closer strategic relations with United States, as our countries share values of freedom, justice, equity, fairness, faith, family, community, and many others.
I am seizing this last opportunity to express my profound admiration and love to the Armenian-American community – to thousands of individuals – activists, leaders, clergy, artists, professionals, shopkeeper and restaurateurs who I am privileged to personally know, to communities and parishes where I was wholeheartedly welcomed in Charlotte, Chicago, Phoenix, Salt Lake city, Burbank, Boston, Glendale, Miami Beach and Boca Raton, Fresno, Detroit, Denver, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Watertown, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Houston, Pasadena, New York, Richmond, and many many other places throughout this wonderful land. Your commitment to Armenia and Artsakh, to our Churches and to our institutions, to our national causes, to our strong relations with USA, in addition to your ever growing volunteer spirit, social activism, incredible generosity and humanism – are a true blessing for our homeland and for our global Armenian community. I thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that Armenian diplomatic service has allowed me to lead.
Last but not least, my profound thanks to my past and present colleagues at the Embassy whose unwavering support, professionalism and passion made our mission truly meaningful; to my US State Department Bureau of Eurasian Affairs counterparts – who set examples of professionalism and integrity. Thank you to our supporters and followers on social media, in particular FB, where the number of our friends grew more than tenfold in the last two and a half years.
Victoria and I are also grateful to the Montgomery county school district for taking such a great care of our children, helping them to become inquisitive and self-confident young ladies.
I take my hat off to all of you!
Ambassador Grigor Hovhannissian