Assembly Honors Amb. Yovanovitch with Morgenthau Award
WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a virtual event on Wednesday April 21, the Morgenthau family gifted a rare portrait of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau to the Armenian National Institute (ANI) and the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). The Assembly also honored former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Marie Yovanovitch, with its Morgenthau Award, which is given to public officials in recognition of their contributions in defense of human rights.
In his welcoming address, Executive Director Bryan Ardouny marked the “special occasion” of the program and noted that it was “truly a privilege” to have the Morgenthau family in attendance, particularly in April, which is Genocide Remembrance Month.
Assembly President Carolyn Mugar expressed her gratitude for the continued participation of the Morgenthau family in Assembly initiatives. She thanked Judy Naumburg for her donation of the portrait by noting that Ambassador Morgenthau “set such a high bar for courage and truth in this world.”
“At the Assembly and ANI, we work to magnify those qualities Ambassador Morgenthau set for us,” she concluded.
Naumburg, who is the great-granddaughter of Ambassador Morgenthau, thanked the Assembly for its ongoing important advocacy work and provided background insights about the portrait. It is believed that the portrait is painted by Oskar Stossel, who fled the Nazis in 1938 and made his way to the U.S., where Ambassador Morgenthau commissioned the portrait.
“I’m thrilled to hear there’s a place for Henry to be publicly honored in his efforts to bring the horrific Armenian Genocide to a halt,” said Naumburg, who serves on the RMK Foundation, which was established by her grandmother Ruth Morgenthau. “Henry Morgenthau had a lifelong dedication to the strength of his beliefs and community service and passed this motivation down to his descendants.”
Naumburg elaborated on Ambassador Morgenthau’s legacy and said she looked forward to visiting ANI in person in Washington, D.C.
“I hope this portrait inspires others, as it did me, in devoting ourselves to making the world a more just and kind space, something we need desperately right now, not just for Armenians and Jews, but for all,” she concluded.
ANI Director Dr. Rouben Adalian defined Ambassador Morgenthau as a “truly historic figure” and emphasized that he was the “first in the 20th century to report about the occurrence of a genocide.”
Considering the number of genocides that unfolded in the 20th century, Dr. Adalian underscored Ambassador Morgenthau’s “prescience” in his thinking and understanding of the problem of genocide, and how “the problem had to be brought to the attention of the public.” Dr. Adalian also referred to Ambassador Morgenthau as “one of the most significant humanitarians of that era” as he did his utmost to alleviate the plight of the Armenian survivors, including through the formation of the Near East Foundation, which raised the equivalent of $2 billion in today’s monetary terms.
In video remarks, Ambassador Eric Rubin, President of the American Foreign Service Association, drew a parallel between Ambassador Morgenthau and Ambassador Yovanovitch and their abilities to “speak the truth during times of difficulty and peril for our country and the world.”
He referred to Ambassador Morgenthau’s dispatches that “speak to us as an example of truth-telling and as an example of an honest and clear presentation of facts that, more than 100 years later, are still the most important and reliable account of those terrible days.”
Ambassador Rubin commended the Assembly for its significant advocacy efforts and in helping to advance freedom and democracy in Armenia. He thanked the Morgenthaus for a “tradition of family service.”
Presenting the Morgenthau Award to Ambassador Yovanovitch, Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian stated that “as Americans, we identify as people who respect human rights and democracy, and it’s those principles that bind us together.”
He highlighted Ambassador Yovanovitch’s efforts towards advancing women during her tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia from 2008 to 2011. “Her mentorship programs and providing the U.S. Embassy in Armenia as a platform to advance women gave them an enormous amount of empowerment in a traditional society,” said Krikorian.
“It’s a great personal and institutional honor for the Assembly to give the Morgenthau Award to Ambassador Yovanovitch today, on what we expect will be the almost eve of President Biden staying true to his word and acknowledging the Armenian Genocide in his April 24 statement this year.”
Expressing her appreciation for receiving the Morgenthau Award, Ambassador Yovanovitch said it’s the most “meaningful award an American Foreign Service Officer can receive,” while referring to Ambassador Morgenthau as an “American hero.”
“We remember Ambassador Morgenthau for his passionate truth-telling about ‘race murder’ as he called the genocide before the term was coined,” said Ambassador Yovanovitch. “His witness to history ensures that we know the truth, that we do not forget, and that we continue to press for accountability.”
She spoke about how Ambassador Morgenthau not only left a rich legacy behind for his family, but “inspired legions of foreign service officers,” including current U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy, who are “advocating, influencing and following in the footsteps of Ambassador Morgenthau and his mission in many ways.”
“Just as in 1915 when missionaries and businessmen came to Ambassador Morgenthau to tell him what was happening and asked him to act, today too we have concerned citizens in the U.S. and Armenia, like the Assembly, to inform, guide and partner with us.”
Citing civil society as the “strongest pillar in any democracy,” Ambassador Yovanovitch stated that she sees the Armenian people continue to fight for “meaningful change and justice.” She reflected on the “traumatic year” and the calamitous war that resulted in the loss of lives, including the continued captivity of Armenian POWs, but remarked that she believed in the “resilience of the Armenian people.”
“Over the centuries, Armenians have drawn on their strength, wisdom, faith, and survived, rebuilt and thrived,” said Ambassador Yovanovitch. “The resilience of Armenians will light the path forward and build Armenia’s future, and we all need to do our part in any way we can.”
In his closing remarks, Assembly Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian thanked Ambassador Yovanovitch and the Morgenthau family, while highlighting the “important week in Washington, D.C. as we await President Biden’s statement.”
Reflecting on the significance of the day’s program, Dr. Henry (Ben) Morgenthau stated that: “President Biden has an important opportunity this April 24th to honor the legacy of my great-grandfather, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, and the important work of America’s diplomats by standing true to his word and record on the Armenian Genocide and ensuring America’s credibility and leadership on human rights around the world.”