YEREVAN, Armenia – From April 19th through the 26th, Governor Michael Dukakis and his wife Katharine were honored guests at the American University of Armenia (AUA). Invited by President of AUA Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian and Vice-President for Development and External Relations Lorraine Alexander, the Dukakis’ came to interact with the AUA community and enrich the learning experience by participating in a series of lectures, discussions, events, and sessions at AUA. In addition, Governor Dukakis and his wife Katharine Dukakis came to pay tribute to the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and explore Armenia.
While on campus, Gov. Dukakis and his wife Katharine met with the AUA community to share their valuable experiences and insights on public service, genocide education, health care, economic development, equal opportunity, and social welfare. They were guided by Director of Admissions Arina Zohrabian and undergraduate students Max Gouchian, Gevorg Mnatsakanyan, Talin Saghdasaryan and study abroad student Emma Su.
Gov. Dukakis led a public lecture on the current U.S. presidential elections and informal discussions with students in the political science, law, and communications classes. He also participated in various lectures and events throughout the week sharing his insights related to political science. The couple also led an interactive lunch session with some of AUA’s Syrian-Armenian students.
Katharine Dukakis has served on the President’s Commission on the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, the board of the Refugee Policy Center, and the Task Force on Cambodian Children, and has always been a strong advocate for recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Her areas of expertise also include public health, with an emphasis on mental health issues. Mrs. Dukakis visited the AUA School of Public Health, health care facilities, and health care professionals in Armenia. She held a seminar with MPH students and graduates on Mental Health on April 21st, and visited the Armenian American Wellness Center and the Nork Mental Health Center with Dean Varduhi Petrosyan on April 22nd.
Michael and Katharine Dukakis attended the 100 LIVES initiative that presented the Aurora Prize for Humanity. They also visited the Armenian Genocide Museum Institute at Tsitsernakaberd, where Mrs. Dukakis was honored with the Henry Morgenthau Award for her lifelong service in the cause of genocide prevention and recognition. Their home state of Massachusetts has a long-standing tradition of holding annual Armenian Genocide commemorations at the State House and has included Armenian Genocide awareness in the public school curriculum.
Being a son of Greek immigrants, Gov. Dukakis highlighted the similarities between the Greek and Armenian communities in America, especially when it came to striving for higher education and preserving cultural values. He also noted that just like many Diasporan Armenian families in America, his family had also been displaced from Greece, and that Greeks and Armenians share a very similar history.
He stated, “My connection with the Armenian community comes partly from my dad’s experience but also from warm relations that the Greek and Armenian communities have always had in the Boston area, and the strong support that I received from the Armenian community there. Katharine is the direct result of her commitment to Holocaust education and her service first as a member of the original Holocaust Commission and, subsequently, her years of service on the Holocaust Museum board and her insistence that the Armenian genocide be part of the Museum.”
The Dukakis’ also explored a few of Armenia’s historical landmarks such as the Parajanov Museum, Garni Temple, Geghard Monastery, Echmiadzin Cathedral Compound and Zvartnots Cathedral. They also visited one of Armenia Tree Projects’ nurseries.
Governor Dukakis studied law at Harvard University and served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1963-70. He was governor of Massachusetts from 1975-79 and 1983-91. Currently, Dukakis is a professor of political science at Northeastern University and a visiting professor at the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research.
As strong supporters of higher education, they were able to experience how AUA contributes to Armenia’s development, and to convey their successful strategies of public service to the students and community.
“We were much impressed by both the students and the faculty,” said Governor Dukakis as he was expressing hope for potential partnerships in terms of an exchange program with Northeastern University.