May 19th marks a significant date in the history of the Turkish Republic. Ninety-nine years ago today, Army Commander and Founding Father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk arrived in the port city of Samsun on the Black Sea coast of Turkey, launching the War of Independence against powers that had invaded Turkey at the end of World War I, repelling all foreign militia from Turkish soil. Thus began the transformation of Turkey into a progressive, secular and modern democracy. From that day forward, Turks became united, for the first time recognizing and celebrating their nationhood. As a reminder that the future of the Republic is entrusted in the youth, this day has so been named, “Youth and Sports Day.”

The Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) remembers Atatürk’s message to the Turkish Youth, which he sent at the end of his famous, 36 hours long speech, “Nutuk”.

“I’d like to direct my last words specifically to the youngsters of our homeland. Turkish Youth! You add on to and carry on our confidence. With the discipline and virtue you gain, you’ll be the most valuable reflection of humanity, love of homeland, and freedom of opinion. You, arising new generation! The future is yours. We formed the Republic; you’ll make it live on…” M. Kemal Atatürk

The ATAA extends its best wishes to Turks and Turkish Americans, both at home and abroad, on this day of tribute to Atatürk and to the energy and optimism of youth everywhere.

(Photo Caption: Atatürk with the students and teachers of Izmir Girls’ High School, 1931)


Hon. Steve Cohen of Tennessee in the House of Representatives
(Extensions of Remarks – May 17, 2012)

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate May 19 as a significant day in the history of our friend and ally the Republic of Turkey.

In Turkey, May 19 is celebrated as the commemoration of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Founder of the Republic of Turkey. It was on that day in 1919 when Ataturk landed in the Black Sea port of Samsun and the war of independence began. After the war, he dedicated May 19 to Turkey’s youth as a reminder that their “first duty is to preserve and defend forever Turkish independence and the Turkish Republic.”

He was an exceptional leader who understood that Islam and modernity are not inconsistent–an important factor to reinforce today with democratic leaders throughout the Muslim world.

Ataturk went on to build a republic based on universal values, secularism, equal rights and democracy under the rule of law–from a disintegrating Ottoman Empire. He understood that advances in women’s rights, education, science and technology were crucial to his vision of creating a nation as proud members of the group of civilized nations.

His reforms inspired President John F. Kennedy who said, ”The name Ataturk reminds mankind of the historical accomplishments of one of the greatest men of this century. His leadership gave inspiration to the Turkish nation, farsightedness in the understanding of the modern world, and courage and power as a military leader.”

Recognizing the importance physical activity has in the health of our nations, the United States and Turkey have a shared vision of promoting the well-being of their nation’s youths. Coinciding with Ataturk Youth and Sports Day, President Barack Obama has designated the month of May 2012 as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. These celebrations promote the value of physical activity in the pursuit of a happier, healthier and more productive nation.

May is a very important month for the United States and Turkey–it’s a month where we both honor the importance and health of our youth. What started on May 19, 1919 as a great leader beginning his inspirational journey to transform his people, has culminated in a yearly celebration of his vision becoming a reality. We should all learn a lesson from this man’s life. A leader with motivation and determination can lay the roots for a great future.”