William Saroyan Speaks - 1978 National Geographic Society

 UntitledIn 1978, National Geographic ran an article called "The Proud Armenians" which provided a nearly 30-page look at the history and culture of Armenia, where it stood at the time, and some of the best-known members of the Armenian diaspora, including Krikor Ohanian (actor Mike Conners), financier Kirk Kerkorian, and of course, William Saroyan. 

This article provided an excellent introduction to the Armenian people, both in Armenia, which was under Soviet control at the time, and elsewhere. 

The National Geographic Society would hold annual dinners, usually focusing on a theme that had been a major part of the year's issues. The Proud Armenians, a major accomplishment, was clearly the focus of the 1978 dinner, and William Saroyan was chosen to give the audience his unique good humor and insightful comedy. 

William Saroyan was an in-demand speaker for much of his life. So much so that he was fairly choosey with his appearances, particularly later in life. He was a regular on television and radio in the 1950s through the early 1970s, including a famous 1971 appearance in The Dick Cavett Show with Veronica Lake and Leonard Maltin. He tired of the same questions and began limiting his appearances shortly thereafter. 

The National Geographic dinner speech represents one of Saroyan's last major speeches before his passing in 1981. This comedic look at the Armenian people, and specifically a hilarious portion of the talk where he discusses how many Armenians are in the world and who exactly are the Armenians, gets the audience laughing heartily.

 A digital copy of this recording was provided by the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) via  Marc Mamigonian. 

 

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