What Next? Turkey’s Global Vision for a Prosperous Future

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Gül in 2007

Dane Cook was on hand to hear Abdullah Gül, the President of the Republic of Turkey, address the World Leaders Forum as the last speaker in the week-long series. Though Gül expressed sentiments of optimism and cooperation for the future, students pressed him on steps Turkey has recently made in the international scene.

While introducing President Gül, University President Bollinger expressed what he believes to be the American perception—or misperception—of Turkey as a “metaphorical bridge, linking the West and the Muslim world.” He pointed out, however, that Turkish citizens do not consider their nation to be a link, but rather a center in and of itself.

Bollinger also stressed the need for an open dialogue on the sensitive issues that the world currently faces, proposing the University as a fitting place for such a dialogue to develop. In his opening remarks, Gül praised University President Bollinger’s new book, Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open, which he claimed he saw in a NYC bookshop, and he assented to Bollinger’s emphasis on free press and free discussion.

The first half of his address focused on Turkey’s accomplishments over the past decade. Gül emphasized the liberalization of the media, cultural advances, dedication to human rights, and further democratization, as well as listed significant economic figures that suggest Turkey is stepping into an increasingly important role in the international community. He highlighted the fact that Turkey has the 16th-largest economy in the world, recently passed a liberalizing constitutional referendum that garnered majority support of 58%, and has the most Facebook users of any country in the world behind English-speaking nations. He openly acknowledged that Turkey has many issues yet to be resolved, but expressed his resolute optimism that Turkey is moving forward: “Today the Turkish influence is being felt in the most positive manner.”

The second half of Gül’s speech was dedicated to Turkey’s vision for the future. Here, Gül took a more adventurous tone, calling for the reform of the international system. Invoking Foucault, he called for a “new language of diplomacy”—a language not based on established power structures, national identities, and international “clubs” but on shared power, national qualities, and international cooperation. Refusing the old polemics of East vs. West, North, vs. South, and the First, Second, and Third Worlds, Gül sketched his conception of a better diplomatic architecture: “The new language should be multicultural, multidimensional, and heterogeneous.”

After the speech, he took a handful of questions from the audience. Students pressed him on recent events, such as the Flotilla incident and Israeli-Turkish relations, as well as the Turkey’s recent “No” vote for sanctions on Iranian nuclear projects. Though his answers were littered with repetitive offerings of goodwill, justice, and cooperation, he replied to each question at length.

At times, applause burst out from the audience for both questioners and for Gül’s responses, and much to Prezbo’s delight, the entire event maintained the uninhibited discourse the World Leaders Forum seeks to promote.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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