Yerevan Event Honors a Predecessor, U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau

April 26, 1999

Yerevan, Armenia - US Ambassador to Armenia Michael Lemmon Saturday (April 24) told participants attending the Armenian National Institute (ANI) conference on the Armenian Genocide that the lessons of the past should guide this generation "towards a more humane and secure future."

Addressing an audience which included the grandson and namesake of a predecessor, the US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador Lemmon linked the current genocide in Kosovo with that in Armenia in 1915, saying, "Contemporary events underscore that at the end of the twentieth century we continue to struggle with addressing these themes just as we did so unsuccessfully in the earlier decades of this benighted century."

The Yerevan conference, sponsored by Washington, DC-based ANI and Armenia’s National Academy of Sciences was entitled, "The Armenian Genocide: Ambassador Morgenthau and the American Response, 1914-1923." It honored the American ambassador, Henry Morgenthau, who was among the first to alert the world to the 1915 Genocide. His grandson, Henry Morgenthau III, his great grandson, Henry IV and a delegation from the United States which included US Holocaust Memorial Council representatives Kitty Dukakis and Diane Asadorian, ANI founder Hirair Hovnanian, ANI Board of Governors member Carolyn Mugar, ANI Academic Council Chairman Richard Hovannisian, representatives of the Union of Armenians of Italy Pietro and Anna Maria Kuciukian and ANI Director Rouben Adalian.

Also in attendance were the Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Roland Sharoyan, the Ambassadors of Germany and Syria, a French Embassy representative, and numerous representatives of Armenia’s academic community.

Ambassador Lemmon opened his remarks by first reading US President Clinton’s April 19 commemoration statement in which he called the 1915 deportations and massacres of one and a half million Armenians, "one of the saddest chapters of this century."

Ambassador Lemmon went on to describe Ambassador Morgenthau’s memoirs which, he noted, were designed to help mobilize American support for the Armenians. Lemmon said that they were written after the events "to make sense of horror that, to an educated and sensitive man, must have seemed almost incomprehensible."

"Even more impressive to me as a diplomat, however, is the body of work that the US Embassy in Istanbul and the far-flung US consulates in Turkey produced under Ambassador Morgenthau's direction. That body of work…stands for modern historians as the single most complete and compelling record of the Armenian tragedy," he added. "Today we have American diplomats in not dissimilar circumstances in the Balkans trying to measure up to the standard that Ambassador Morgenthau set for us all those years ago."

Ambassador Lemmon maintained that scholars have a critical role to play in reaching understanding and reconciliation, and expressed hope that Turkish academics will find the courage to uncover the facts for themselves.

"It may seem easy enough to be an Armenian Genocide scholar, embraced by a community passionately devoted to preserving that historic memory…," said Lemmon. "Imagine how much more difficult it is to be a Turkish scholar conscientiously pursuing the same questions."

Lemmon concluded his remarks by saying, "Without truth there cannot be the recognition and the closure among all parties that most of us hope and pray for."

ANI Academic Council Chairman Richard Hovannisian thanked the Ambassador and congratulated him for his "profound and heartfelt statements." Referring to Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide, Hovannisian raised the question of whether "denial is not a continuation of the crime."

"Steps toward acknowledgment must be taken before there can be serious and meaningful dialogue," he said.

Hovannisian added that he was delighted that ANI and the National Academy of Sciences had seen fit to honor Ambassador Morgenthau.

Commemorative services also honoring Ambassador Morgenthau followed Friday at the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial, Yerevan, Armenia. At that time, an urn containing earth from the Ambassador's gravesite was interred in the Genocide Memorial’s wall of honor.

Ambassador Lemmon also took part in the memorial service.

The Armenian National Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study, research, and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.