Commemoration of the 50th anniversary
By Meguerditch L. Bouldoukian
Speech addressed at the official ceremony on March 23, 1997
Translation from the Armenian text
Fifty years ago, in 1947, the Second World War was over and the Charter of the United Nations was declared. Two superpowers, with diverging ideologies had conquered the world and initiated the long struggle of the Cold War. In newly independent Lebanon, a government of National Unity, was taking its first steps of statehood. Israel did not exist as a state, but the germs of a regional crisis were being sown. Armenia, with only ten percent of its Historical Land, was a part of the Soviet Empire. In 1946-47, the massive return to the homeland, was an important event for the survival of Armenia as a Republic, and for those staying the in Diaspora. In Lebanon, the majority of the Armenian community families lived in Bourj Hammoud and other nearby quarters of Beirut. They were born there. They studied in Armenian Schools, they established workshops and trading shops, they got married in a closed vase system and they were buried near their home, all in the same limited geographical zone. It was not necessary for them to communicate with non-Armenians, considering the Arabic language as a tool of least importance. In 1952, the AGBU Hovaguimian-Manouguian Secondary School for Boys, was transferred to its new building, near St. Nishan Church, at a distance of half an hour on tramway, but reachable with 5 piasters. Washing machines, telephone, television did not exist in our homes, and the word gadget was not created yet. Classrooms of our School were sunny, and much more pleasant than the coldness of the tin roofed barracks of some of us.
Fifty years later, the United States of America has become the sole superpower of the World. Science tries to match God’s attribute of All Powerfulness. But, every new breakthrough in Science, opens the way to new and multiple questions, confirming the limits of human capabilities, and the need to abide by the basic values regulating the relationship between nations and individuals. Armenia is independent since five years. The majority of our symbolic, historical and cultural values are a source of faith and hope for all Armenians, despite their sense of belonging to different religious communities, political parties and having distinct ideologies. Lebanon, after seventeen years of tragic destructions, endeavors to recover its old days of prosperity, and a homeland for freedom and quality of life. Armenians in Lebanon, now, they are located in a much larger geographical zone. They have mastered the Arabic language as a second or third language, and in their daily relationship they have become fully fledged Lebanese Citizens, with their existential worries, mentality, attitudes, responsibilities and rights. At the same time, as other entities, they try to safeguard their cultural identity, with positive actions, without degrading values of other groups or encroaching on their rights. As such, they enjoy the sympathy and the goodwill of other individuals and communities. An Avenue cuts through our old School, and a part of the fence is the only reminder. Exiled, since several years, the present classrooms of Hovaguimian-Manouguian are less pleasant than the homes of most of the students, hoping that in the near future, the projected new complex shall become a reality.
During fifty years, thousands of teen-agers attended the Hovaguimian-Manouguian Secondary School for Boys and members of the first generation are in their vigorous sixties. So many respectable and dear educators left us forever, sometimes silently, leaving behind them a pleasant remembrance, a face, a sentence or volumes of writings. Their faces are fixed in our mind, as they were forty, thirty or twenty years ago, paradoxically younger than we are. The present educators continue to follow the track of their elders, working in harder conditions, but with the same patience and solid faith.
The fiftieth anniversary of Hovaguimian-Manouguian Secondary School of Boys, is a historic moment, to clarify the basic national aims of the Diaspora, with bold and realistic questions and to improve means and tools of their achievements. Indetermination of national aims of Armenians in the Diaspora, coupled to the degeneration of the traditional human and ethnic values, influenced by a growing universal paradigm of technology, are subjects worth analyzing. Ontological questioning of the human life is further complicated by the necessity to reconcile the human existential needs and the collective unconscious memory of being Armenian. The search for a sense to survive as Armenians, becomes more realistic, if it is accompanied by the satisfaction of basic human needs and desires.
The growing influence of mass media and the unifying factor of the present world civilization is threatening the identity of all nations. Means to follow up instantly world events and the supply of free and raw information affect the human mind and create a new microcosm where wisdom has no time to mature.
Hence, social, economic and cultural changing conditions have created the emergency to look for a comprehensive national vision statement, and the long term planning to achieve collective aims. For this purpose, reevaluation of Armenian studies, as a means to imbue the soul of new generations with the sense of belonging to a multi-millennial nation is one of the most responsible tasks. A difficult lane uphill, edging the abyss, faith and hope being a necessary initial drive but insufficient motivation if pragmatic reasoning is not used as an additional guideline.
The revised interior regulations, of the AGBU Academic Committee, shall include the following goals, summarizing the responsibility of educators in the formation of the Man and the Armenian of the future:
To consider the basic goal of education the synchronic and balanced improvement of the soul the mind and the body. Together with the transmission of mass of information and knowledge to encourage the formation of the faculty to love and appreciate the good and the beautiful, the sense of responsibility, cooperation and creative works, the capacity of dealing with difficult situations and the virtue of social communication.
To prepare citizens, believing in the basic moral principles and human rights, and at the same time applying and defending them.
With the collaboration of the Principals, Teaching Staff and Specialists in the field of education, to devise pragmatic educational programs to fit best the evolving social and economic conditions, and through efficient administrative tools, to control efficiently their implementation.
To inculcate the young generations to believe in the Armenian perennial and eternal existence, and safeguarding and transmitting the Armenian language, national identity and cultural values in an effective manner.
Safeguarding our national values and identity. Words, needing definition. Definition of values and identity is the first step towards self-knowledge. “Quo Vadis” should follow “Know Thyself” in order to revise our state of vegetation and dwindling energy. Only through sensible, practical and plausible vision it is possible to reach the stage of targeted dynamic vitality.
On the eve of a new age, Armenian Community in general and the Alumni of Hovaguimian-Manouguian and Alumni of all Armenian schools in Lebanon have the sacred responsibility through a collective introspection to engage all their potential possibilities and start an organized work. In Diaspora, a new renaissance is possible and it should be initiated. We, in Lebanon, still have the necessary faith and the potential human resources for leadership. We should not become a “Madrassian Memory”. This is the message of the Jubilee of our School!
Dear friends, addressing my words of respect and appreciation to all past and present educators, allow me to mention certain names of my own teachers:
Mr. Ara Topdjian, the patriarch of our school, the Baron Denoren, with his clarity of mind and the exceptional conscience of an educator and responsible leader, with his administrative talent and the abundant product of Armenian generations.
Mr. Vahé Vahian, the poet and the critic with his whispering voice in solitude.
Mr. Simon Simonian, the tempest of the Armenian spirit whose visiting card with “call me” order is still on my desk, as a relic.
Mr. Onnig Sarkissian, the friendly teacher of the Armenian language with his enchanting humor
Mr. Puzant Yeghiayan, the solemn intellectual and historian, with his encyclopedic knowledge
Mr. Zareh Melkonian, the grammarian poet, during whose courses it was impossible to dream as a nap.
Mr. Kersam Aharonian, the historian public worker, with his faith in the “Big Dream”, and his immense talent for analysis and synthesis.
Mr. Khatcher Donabedian, with his imposing and kind parental glance
Mr. Jirair Talienian, the student of the above mentioned names and their worthy follower, as researcher and principal.
As well, so many other brilliant educators, I apologize for not mentioning their names, who with the patience of a potter, shaped and animated several generations. They remain our modest by glorious national spiritual benefactors.
Respect to the eternal memory of the absentees. Greetings to the white hair majesty of those present, and to their trustees, the new generation of educators, who will be the source of inspiration for those who will celebrate the 100th anniversary, with faith, hope, love and the baptism a possible national renaissance.