“Eat the Peas”

America, We Thank You

By Rachel Melikian

On Oct. 29 this year 405 Congress members struck a historic bipartisan vote for the house resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to 1923. The H. Res, 296 strives to “commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.” Sadly, some of the histories of the Americans’ support for Armenians have been forgotten.

America, you created the first humanitarian aid organization in world history in 1915 called the Near East Relief Foundation. It was co-created by the US President and the US Congress. As part of the American relief campaign, you created the International Golden Rule Sunday with Near East Relief Campaign, the Orphan Adoption Coupon Book, Armenia’s Day, Armenia’s Refugee Lord Mayor’s Fund, and you created the largest grain sack in the world in your Grain Campaign. America! Do you remember why you did this? Do you remember why you said, “Eat the peas, children are starving?”

Noted artist Ethel Franklin Betts’ 1918 poster for Near East Relief fundraising efforts. (Source: Near East Foundation)

America was there for Armenians during one of the darkest pages in human history. It was during the time of the Armenian Genocide that Americans were providing humanitarian assistance to Armenians to alleviate the pains of the orphans. The general American public was aware of the atrocities. Most Americans were involved in helping the Near East Relief fundraising efforts: government agencies, churches, wealthy philanthropists ,politicians, private companies, and ordinary individuals. For example, the Baltimore Ford Dealers donated cars to raise money for Christmas gifts to give to the orphans. The Boy Scouts held toy drives. Americans, including prominent figures, sponsored the adoptions of Armenian children. Even the American children saved their pocket money to reach across the Atlantic. Americans were proud to reach out, touch and heal the bleeding wounds of Armenia.

The resolution recognizes the American humanitarian effort yet fails to mention Wilsonian Armenia.

In 1920, after the first World War, President Woodrow Wilson was the main architect of the map and arbitrated in the Paris Peace Conference resulting in the Treaty of Sèvres. Wilson made sure that Armenians had much of their historical land and access to the Black Sea. In honor of President Woodrow Wilson, we Armenians call all the area that Wilson envisioned Wilsonian Armenia. Included in Wilsonian Armenia are Mount Ararat where Noah landed, Lake Van, and Ani, the city of 1,001 churches. Mount Ararat is the symbol of Armenia and after the Great Flood of Noah’s Ark, civilization spread from Mt. Ararat and the Armenian Highland into the world.

America then was instrumental in envisioning the survival of the remnants of the Armenian nation. However, the peace treaty was not honored. Wilsonian Armenia was given to Turkey (perpetrators of the Armenia Genocide), for free. Overnight, it seemed that the world forgot about Armenians. And President Woodrow Wilson was no longer alive to defend the Armenians.

It’s a tragedy that Americans have forgotten their pivotal role in reviving the Armenian nation. It’s as much a part of American history as it is of Armenian history.

It’s a tragedy that Americans have forgotten their pivotal role in reviving the Armenian nation. It’s as much a part of American history as it is of Armenian history. It’s a very positive development that the H. Res. 296 recognized that history and Americans’ part in recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide and the relief aid that was given at that time.

For many years there has been silence around Armenia. Although the Near East Relief is still in existence today, the aid principally goes to nations other than Armenia. In a sense, Armenia as a nation has been orphaned. The relief that is now going to other nations originated in programs that benefited Armenia, which now sees little of that aid. The relief for many nations came into being through the suffering of the Armenians. The resolution passed by the US Congress reminds and encourages the education of the American people of the role that the United States played in the humanitarian relief effort to the Armenians during the genocide.

Some Americans may have grandparents who remember theAmerican-Armenian history from talks with their parents. Ask them to recount the stories told to them by their relatives.

We must gather all the information and take note of it. In addition to books on this subject, Americans should pay attention to the stories that their older family members can tell them about the horrible events of the genocide and the wonderful aid provided by the US during this time of crisis. You must maintain your longstanding relations with the Armenian people based upon America’s core values, love, and freedom.

America, you have raised money and cleaned your plates, what other things were you told to do in order to support Armenia’s cause? Record them.

To quote a poster from that era: “Help us to save the remnant of this brave and persecuted people.”

America, without you, we Armenians cannot bring justice. When the world forgets history then how do they lead? They leave Armenia behind. Without your just rule, Armenia cannot be seen or heard. Let’s call for the recognition of Wilsonian Armenia.

How could Americans forget their pivotal role in reviving the Armenian nation? It’s part of American history as much as part of Armenian history. Be proud of your history what Near East Relief did and what President Woodrow Wilson did for the Armenians and also for the passage of H. Res. 296 for recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Rachel Melikian is the former GCC Woman of the Year

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.