“This, their expression of gratitude for what we have been able to do in this country for their aid, is accepted by me as a token of their goodwill to the people of the United States, who have assisted in the work of the Near East Relief. Will you be good enough to extend to these orphans my thanks and the thanks of the vast number of our citizens whose generosity this labor of love is intended to acknowledge? The rug has a place of honor in the White House, where it will be a daily symbol of good-will on earth…” To Dr. John H. Finley, Vice President of the Near East Relief Executive Board from President Calvin Coolidge, December 4, 1925.
With the rediscovery and renewed appreciation for America’s crucial participation in the efforts of Near East Relief that saved dozens of Armenian orphans from the genocide of their parents one hundred years ago, the “Coolidge Rug” was finally displayed in the White House last year. It would come as an equally inspiring discovery that the smaller Kunzler Rug (named for “Papa” and “Mama” Kunzler, who selflessly rescued and cared for some 8,000 young orphans left destitute) would then turn up after seventy years in the San Diego home of 97-year old Elibet Kunzler, daughter of the couple who did so much for so many.
It is a reminder of the kindness and gratitude shown out of something horrible and tragic. It is also a reminder that President Coolidge, and his country, were there to humbly serve, gladly welcome, and abundantly give to those who had lost so much. It is hardly accidental that America is home to the largest population of Armenians living abroad. As grandson of one of the survivors, Shant Mardirossian, observed, “I couldn’t be more proud of this history, that Americans who knew nothing about Armenians 8,000 miles away gave something to help them…In fact, one could even argue a whole generation of Armenians wouldn’t be here today had it not been for their support.” God bless America and the families of the Armenian orphans!