THRIVE is an AIWA-SF April project dedicated to highlighting Armenians who are doing amazing things in their personal and professional lives to better themselves and those around them. These individuals are inspiring, dynamic, innovative and interesting. Today, we feature Brittany Kademian.
Name: Brittany Kademian, Analyst for the U.S. Federal Government
(currently serving overseas at U.S. Embassies in Lusaka, Zambia and Bangkok, Thailand Jan-June 2019)
Brittany Kademian has served with the US federal government in various capacities for almost a decade. In early 2010, Brittany began her career with the US Department of Defense working in the counter-narcotics trafficking office, and she deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan in 2012 to help combat terrorism and illicit finance. Brittany switched careers to another US federal agency in 2015, where she worked as an analyst on Europe and Eurasia issues and informed policymakers about intelligence collection developments through written products and briefings. In 2016, Brittany specifically focused on Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K) conflict, and was also able to provide support to various posts in the Balkans. Most recently, during the first half of 2019, Brittany served at the US Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia and will be serving at the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand on shorter-term overseas assignments to assist these missions abroad. Brittany earned a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts in 2009, which included a semester abroad at King’s College in London examining War Studies and a spring break service trip to Armenia. She also earned a Master’s of Science in Strategic Intelligence (MSSI) from National Intelligence University (NIU) in 2014, and a graduate certificate in Public Policy and Security Studies from Georgetown University Graduate School in 2013. Brittany lives in the heart of Washington, DC with her husband, Justin, and her longhaired mini dachshund, Otto, and enjoys volunteering in her community.
Question: What is your life philosophy?
My life philosophy is twofold: first, leverage your passion to give back to others, and second, never stop working hard to achieve your goals. I’m a big believer in volunteering and giving back to your community, and there are so many ways that you can do it that essentially everyone can and should try to. For me, I’ve made a career out of public service, but I also have taken issues that I’m passionate about – public education, civic leadership, public works, and cancer research – as opportunities to help out by volunteering to tutor and read to kids at my local elementary school, stepping up as the president of my DC neighborhood’s civic association, and running the Boston Marathon to raise money for Dana-Farber Cancer Research. As a leader in my civic association, I helped save the dog park, host neighborhood clean-ups and holiday events for local kids, canvas grassroots needs to our elected officials, and organized local candidate debates for neighbors to attend and ask questions. I have been passionate about cancer research for a long time, so I finally was accepted as a marathon runner for Dana-Farber and hosted a series of fundraiser events to ultimately raise over $6,000 for the cause. These are the issues I care about, but others can find what they enjoy and find a volunteer opportunity out of it – such as volunteering at a local animal shelter if you’re a dog or cat lover, or helping to coach a little league team if you are good at sports, or if you speak Spanish, you could volunteer as an ESOL teacher – if none of these things apply, then at the very least, you can support your friends who are volunteering or raising money.
My second life philosophy is to never stop working hard to achieve your goals. I’m in a great place right now with my career, education, and personal goals, but I worked REALLY hard to get here. I gave school everything I had to get into my first choice college, but I graduated during a recession and with $100,000 in student loan debt with little shot of securing a great job. I felt defeated that first year out of school, worried about how my student loan debt and how I would live on an entry level salary; but my goal was to start a public service career with the federal government to contribute to national security, to get into (and graduate from) graduate school, and to pay off (most of) the student loan debt. I worked hard to find a way to achieve all of these goals in the following few years, but it wasn’t always easy – I deployed to Afghanistan for six months to help pay off the loans, and found myself in 2014 working full-time while also going to one graduate school part-time during the day and another graduate school part-time at night and writing a master’s thesis, and somehow found a way to balance all of that with wedding planning, buying a house, and a crippling injury (torn achilles tendon). The thought of giving up crossed my mind when I got injured because I hadn’t finished my thesis yet and it was due in three weeks, and I couldn’t physically drive or get myself to work. However, it was really important to me to finish the thesis and graduate on time, so I found coworkers to drive me to work and to help me physically submit my thesis so that I could walk across the stage and receive my diploma that summer. My point is this: the goals that you set for yourself are very meaningful, but they will never be easy, and you should always work hard towards achieving your goals (resisting the urge of giving up, finding other solutions in the face of obstacles) because they will always pay off in the end.
Question: What is your hope for the future?
My hope for the future from a domestic standpoint is that Americans will find a way to be kinder to each other – our domestic climate right now is one of heavy divisiveness, with fear and hatred on both sides, and I hope that people can come together and find common ground to show empathy, respect, and common decency to each other, regardless of a person’s background or political beliefs. I would also REALLY like for Congress work together on legislation which could prevent another school shooting or mass shooting from occurring here again. My hope for the future from more of a worldview is that the overall situation gets better soon for the Syrian refugees.
Question: What is your favorite thing about being Armenian?
I have too many favorite things about being Armenian, but the very first one that comes to mind is is the food and hospitality. I LOVE Armenian food, and have fond memories of my Armenian grandma teaching me how to make her recipes passed down from her parents who came from Armenia. We now host Christmas at our house and I make Armenian food for Christmas dinner every year (braised lamb, rice pilaf, boreg, eggplant, etc) from family recipes – it is truly my favorite food. I also love the tradition of Armenian hospitality and offering friends, family, and even strangers the best of what we have, and I’m glad this has been passed down to me. I recently had a third cousin once removed ask if she and her daughter could stay with us while they are in DC for a few days, and even though I don’t know her very well, we had the best time together! This also contributed to my love of hosting big dinner parties with friends and friends-of-friends, which we do on a monthly basis. In addition, I truly enjoy how unique the Armenian culture is, from the language/letters to our love of performing arts (I play the violin and sing in a choir myself)! It’s a badge of pride to be able to say that I’m Armenian, and it’s a fun community of folks when you find other Armenians in your area (since there are so few of us, at least where I live).
Question: How has being Armenian influenced your life?
My Armenian culture has shaped and influenced me by instilling in me a love of history and politics, which I attribute to what influenced me into my career field today. Like many other Armenian-Americans, I really enjoyed hearing stories from my grandparents about how our relatives escaped the Armenian genocide, and also what the culture was like in the “old country,” and so I grew up enjoying history class, learning more about other genocides and other families’ histories, and cultures from other countries – which also ultimately contributed to my interest and love of international travel and made me more inclusive and open-minded to others. The ongoing dispute over officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide also probably contributed to my interest in government and politics, as I recognized that there are still opportunities to influence change. Finally, being Armenian made me both celebrate and appreciate family (I help organize a massive extended Armenian family reunion of the three original branches who emigrated from Armenia – Poosikians, Bedrosians, and Yotnakparians – in New Jersey every few years!) and also be able to carry on the tradition of Armenian hospitality to family, friends, and strangers, as my family and ancestors have done before me.
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