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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Program kicks off annual lecture series focusing on “Principled Voices”

A few weeks ago, the Program was pleased to welcome Armenian Parliamentarian, Edmon Marukyan, to the University to present the inaugural lecture, “Fighting corruption and advocating for human rights in Armenia,” of a new annual lecture series. The series “Principled Voices,” supported by the Stephen and Chacke Scallen Lecture in Human Rights Fund, is designed to highlight leaders and thinkers who distinguish themselves by carrying out their passion for human rights, cultural awareness, democratic principles, fairness, and dignity, often at great odds and great personal risk. 

Mr. Marukyan, member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, lawyer, longtime defender of human rights and former Humphrey Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Law School, spoke of the many challenges to the promotion and protection of human rights in Armenia, citing government corruption as presenting some of the most deeply entrenched challenges. While promises to tackle the corruption go largely unfulfilled, Mr. Marukyan sees strong hope and broad efforts within the parliamentary system to strengthen the democratic process. The need is great as the negative impacts of the corruption extend not only to the protection of human rights but also to the government system overall.

Responding to various questions from the audience, Mr. Marukyan spoke of the importance of the Armenian diaspora in the United States and its supporters in using their expertise and resources - financial and otherwise - to engaging with Armenian organizations, officials and civil society. Through continued efforts inside of Armenia and with support from the diaspora, Mr. Marukayn is hopeful that lasting change can be made to root out the corruption and improve the overall environment for support of human rights.

The Program looks forward to bringing more principled voices to campus in the future and to providing courageous human rights advocates with an opportunity to continue speaking out. Stephen and Chacke Scallen, supporters of the lecture series, are focused on shedding light on corruption in governments, businesses, churches, and other institutions that challenge the full realization of human rights and as we know too well, can often lead to the erasure or near-erasure of cultures. Chacke Scallen’s abiding interest in human rights and cultural awareness was borne out of her family’s experience of having fled the Armenian genocide. We are so grateful to the Scallens for making this lecture series possible. Stay tuned for announcements on the next lecture coming in 2017-18.

-Written by Trish Palermo