ATAA’s 37th Annual Turkish American Conference was held March 24-25 in Houston, Texas with a theme of “U.S. – Turkey Relations: The Political, Economic and Cultural Dimensions.”

The two day conference composed by presentations, panel discussions and interactive dialogue  provided the participants with the rich opportunity to explore a broad range of topics including U.S. -Turkey Relations, Proposed Turkish Constitutional Change, Armenian Allegations, Legacy of Atatürk, Turkish American Women in Leadership, Advocacy and Community Outreach, and ATAA Bright Future Online Education.

Packed with informative and engaging sessions, the conference featured speakers from across the country who are the leading experts in their fields. Among them were Ambassador Ross Wilson, Howard Beasey, President of American-Turkish Council, Reva Goujon, Stratfor’s Vice President of Global Analysis, Cenk Sidar, Founder of Sidar Global Advisors, Professor Justin McCarthy, Dr. Ulku Ulgur, Founder of ATAA, Ergun Kirlikovali, Former ATAA President, Lydia Borland, President of LB International Solutions, Professor Hande Ozdinler, Professor Halil Ersoy, and Professor Bulent Atalay, President of Ataturk Society of America.

The first day of the conference started with an exquisite breakfast buffet at the Conference Center of the Hyatt Regency Galleria Hotel. After the opening ceremony, President Kenan Caglar opened the proceedings by extending a warm welcome to the conference attendees. Following the president’s welcoming remarks, Zafar Tahir serving on the City of Houston Planning Commission took the floor to read the proclamation presented to ATAA by Sylvester Turner, Mayor of the City of Houston. The proclamation declares that March 24 is the Assembly of Turkish American Associations Day in Houston, Texas.

In his speech, Mr. Tahir, pointed out the rich diversity of the population in Houston, the huge investment and trading potential it has and the importance of political participation and representation of ethnic minorities.

The luncheon was accompanied by Ambassador John Bass’ video message. In his address to the Turkish American Community, John Bass laid particular stress upon the fact that Turkey and the U.S. need each other despite the current issues between them and that the two countries should further strengthen collaboration, dialogue, and cooperation.

The second part of the day started with the session titled “Proposed Turkish Constitutional Change and Its Impact on the Future of Turkey”. Reva Goujon and Cenk Sidar gave their insightful comments on what is potentially a very important discussion in Turkey.

The second day of the Conference was launched by the session titled “Legacy of Kemal Atatürk”, which featured two prominent figures, Professor Justin McCarthy of University of Louisville and Professor Bulent Atalay, President of Ataturk Society of America.

The overwhelming highlight of the conference was the visit of Congressman Al Green and his address to the attendees of the conference. In his speech, Congressman Green pointed out the importance of unity without uniformity and diversity with harmony.

“I believe that this relationship with Turkey is critical. I believe we should do what all we can to maintain and to have a good understanding and a good working relationship with Turkey.” Congressman Green said.

He continued, “I believe that culture can be appreciated because culture brings not only the beautiful regalia, the beautiful music but also a better understanding of the world. So I invite you to please maintain your culture so that we can continue to celebrate it. I believe that we can have unity without uniformity.”

After his speech, Congressman Al Green handed President Kenan Caglar with a certificate of special congressional recognition to be presented to the ATAA in honor of its service to the community on behalf of the Constituents of the Ninth congressional district of Texas and thanked ATAA for its commitment to bridging communities nationwide by promoting Turkish culture through its annual leadership conference.

ATAA’s 37th Annual Turkish American Conference was followed by a cocktail reception and the annual award ceremony and dinner. Professor Bulent Atalay accepted this year’s Sukru Elekdag award on behalf of Ataturk Society of America for its outstanding and promising contributions to the promotion of the principles of Ataturk.

The dinner was accompanied by live contemporary and traditional Turkish music performed by “Cat Kapi”, a rising young orchestra of musicians, Cagatay Atmaca, Turker Otcu, Eray Ozugur, and Murat Kaleli.