A tribute on the 69th Anniversary of his death and Commemoration Service, Thessaloniki (Selanik), November 10, 2007, At five minutes past 9 on November 10, 2007, in the city where Ataturk was born in 1881, close to five hundred people gathered in his historical house to commemorate the death of one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.
We stood motionless for one minute, just like the millions of Turks in Turkey and around the world. Than, we all sang the National Anthem with the sound of rain falling over the tent in the garden of the Turkish Coonsulate.
There were over 75 students from Ayazaga Isýk Primary School, Istanbul French School and Edirne Koleji, many with their parents and friends, who had come all the way from Turkey by bus, some by the ”Friendship Train”.
Following the national anthem, Turkish Consul General delivered the welcoming speech, and the Head of the Isýk Primary School and Edirne Koleji and several other dignitaries made presentations.
Every speaker praised Ataturk’s great leadership in fighting the war of independence, establishing the Turkish Republic and introducing many reforms that brought Turkey into the modern ages.
Several State artists and musicians from Hacettepe University, Ankara also participated in the ceremonies and the group from Hacettepe University sang a new oratorio following the reciting of poems by two 2nd graders, Didem Ece and Beril.
Everyone stayed for over an hour and a half despite the rain and the cold weather and toured Ataturk’s house full of memorabilia and beautiful photographs and some even wrote a few sentences in the visitor book in the corner.
MUSTAFA KEMAL ATATURK, One of the Greatest Reformers ofAll Time
One of the greatest reformers of all time, Ataturk passed away at the age of 57 on November 10, 1938, at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. His death was mourned throughout Turkey and the world. Hundreds and thousands of books and articles had been published about Ataturk during his lifetime. Upon his death and since than, endless studies and assessments have been made, praising Ataturk on his accomplishments and leadership, including the following statement by Greek newspaper Kathimerini:
‘’Every country erects statues to those who have guided it to victory in war and prosperity in peace. But Turkiye will have to drill mountains to find stone for its statue of Ataturk. For here was a man who arouses the admiration of friend and foe alike, a genius whose loss is felt not only by Turkiye but by civilization and the entire world (Kathimerini, Athens).
Upon the death of Ataturk, Turkey wanted to build a Mausoleum for him in the capital city Ankara. Until then, his preserved body was placed at the Ethnographic Museum where it stayed for 15 years. On November 10, 1953, his remains were taken from the Museum, laid on an artillery caisson, and drawn by 138 young reserve officers in a procession.
Behind slowly marched 80,000 Turks, including representatives from many countries around the world, the President, every cabinet minister, every deputy, every provincial governor, ordinary people and representatives of schools from around the country. This writer was among the dozen students from Tarsus American High School, an event that will be remembered for ever.
On that day, the procession reached the top of a hill overlooking Ankara and stopped in front of the mausoleum with square-pillars. The father of Turks finally came to rest, covered with earth from each of Turkey’s 64 provinces.
Now it is customery for every leader who comes to Ankara, including the representativs of American companies, to visit the mausoleum to pay homage to the greatest leader of the 20th century (1).
Almost every leader of his time and many who came after him spoke admiringly of Ataturk, including Franklin D. Roosevelt who said:
I learned about Mustafa Kemal Ataturk from someone who knows him very well. As I was speaking to the Foreign Affairs Minister of the Soviet Union, Litvinov, he told met hat the most valuable and interesting leader does not live in Europe, but beyond the Staits in Ankara, and he was the President of the TURKÝSH REPUBLÝC, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
John F. Kennedy was another US President who spoke very highly of Ataturk and said:
The name of Ataturk reminds mankind of his historical success as one of the greatest men of this century. His inspirational leadership of the Turkish Nation, his open view in understanding the modern world and his might and courage as a military leader. Without doupt, the confidence of a nation cannot be better demonstrated other than by the birth of the Republic of Turkey and the profound and vast reforms Ataturk and Turkey had undertaken.
Among his admirers was Gen Douglas McCarter who came to Ankara and met with Ataturk.
When someone loves eternity
Becomes a flag on the hill.
Its crimson throbs in the skies
And can be seen from all
When someone loves liberation,
Breaks out of the darkness of centuries.
Shines in such majesty in his land’s song
And can be seen from all
When someone loves freedom,
Comes alive in generations from green to fire.
His love comes true
And can be seen froýn all
Of the World.
Fazil Husnu Dagiarca,1953
(Translation by Talat S. Halman)
Ataturk’s value for Humanity and praises by World Leaders
Ataturk was a great humanitarian who introduced many new cultural firsts for Turkey, from establishing museums to creating the institutions for the betterment of the lives of the people that he loved so much, as told in his ”Philosophy of Life.) He even took interest in the life of the Cartagena General Hannibal and had a monument erected not too far from Gebze, near Istanbul In an article, M.M. Moushrafa made the following comment on Ataturk’s value foýr humanity:
‘’His value to humanity goes beyond the boundaries of his country. For Europe, it is probably a negative value, in the sense that he has removed from the sphere of Europe imperial strife and exploitation one backward nation. This is good for Europe since a corrupt and backward nation will always remain a demoralizing influence on a strong and healthy one.
His value for the East is concrete and positive, for he has proved to us that our little fears of being culturally submerged by the Wst are groundless. He has shown the Eastern nations how to readjust their values without losing their national integrity.
ATATURK’s PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE
”Because I wanted to know the opinion which philosophers have held about life, I have read many books during my life. Some of them saw everything darkly. Since we were nothing, they said, and since we will be reduced to nothing, there can be no room in the transitory life of this world for gaiety and happiness.
I have read other books, written by more sensible men. Since, say these philosophers, we are nothing and that without remedy, we are going back towards nothing, let us be happy during the course of our existence.
I prefer this last conception of life, but with the addition of these conditions. Those who think they can represent the whole condition of humanity are doomed to failure. Man, as an individual, is condemned to death. To work, not for oneself, but for those who will come after, is the first condition of happiness that any individual can reach in life.
Each person has his own preferences. Some people like gardening and growing flowers. Others prefer to train men. Does the man who grows flowers expect anything from them? He who trains men ought to work like a man who grows flowers.
I always tell my thoughts to people I respect. I am a man who can not keep a secret in his heart for no reason. Because I am a man of the people, I always say what I think in front of the people. If I make mistakes, the people can tell me; but it has never happened that the people have found me lacking in frankness.
Nations ought not to experience sadness or affliction. The duty of the leaders is to govern them in such a way that they will accept life with happiness and love.”
Many scholars have studied the leadership secrets of great man, including John. W. Gardner who wrote a book about leadersip.
THE GREATEST ATTRIBUTE OF LEADERSHIP – ADAPTABILITY AND FLEXIBILITY OF APPROACH
In his book ”On Leadership’‘, John W. Gardner lists fourteen attributes for effective leadership, including physical vitality and stamina, intelligence, willingness to accept responsibilities and, probably the most important one, adaptability and flexibility of approach. For the last attribute, Mr Gardner presents Kemal Ataturk as the model and states:
”It was said of Kemal Ataturk, the greatest figure in modern Turkish history, that he could shift swiftly and without a second thought from a failing tactic to another approach, and if that did not work, to still another. Whether the fields of action was war or diplomacy or domestic governance, he rarely clung to an approach that was not producing results. His goals were stable but his tactics flexible.”
In the same book, Mr Gardner again gives the example of Kemal Ataturk for renewing a nation and writing history and states:
”In some systems that have gone too long without renewal, people understand that change is needed and restless. This was spectacularly true of Turkey when Kemal Ataturk, one of the great renewers of modern times, was a young officer. Long before World War I, he had joined the Young Turks who sought a constitutional government for the decaying 600-year-old Ottoman Empire. After the war, he drove out the various foreign powers threatening Turkey’s autonomy, created the Turkish republic, and then as President, launched an extraordinary series of reforms. He dis-established Islam as the state religion; abolished old codes subordinating women; substituted the Roman alphabet for the Arabic; instituted a new civil and penal code; abolished the traditional, mainly religious educational system, and established secular states”.
JEFFERSON AND ATATURK: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHIES
A Book by Garrett Ward Sheldon
Book description by Amazon: This book is a comparative study of the political theories of Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders of the United states of America, and Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Similarities are found in their imperial settings, wars of national independence, the establishment of republics, freedom of religion, public education, and economics. The impact of these two great political thinkers on the West and the Middle East is detailed. Two Giants from two different eras and countries.
At the end of his excellent review of the book, Dr J.E. Boton from Lynchburg, VA, United States, writes the following:
Not withstanding his deprecators acting on misinformation and personal hatred, Ataturk deserves to be placed among the greatest statesmen of the 20th century.
ORATORIA BY THE HACETTEPE UNIVERSITY GROUP
The program at Ataturk House in Thessaloniki was crowned by a new oratorio written and sang by a group of professors and artist from Hacettepe University. Through poems, narrations and beautiful music, the group presented a brief story of the road to victory, from the Turkish War of Independence to Ataturk’s reforms and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. One of the poems read was ‘’PLEA’’ by Nazim Hikmet:
This country shaped like the head of a mare
Coming full gallop from far off Asia
To stretch into the Mediterranean
This country is ours.
Bloody wrists, clenched teeth, bare feet,
Land like a precious silk carpet
This Hell, this Paradise is ours.
Let the doors be shut that belong to others,
Let them never open again,
Do away with the enslaving of man by man
This Plea is ours.
To live! Like a tree alone and free
Like a forest in brotherhood
This yearning is ours.
(1) Exception are the leaders from Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Professor Dr. Arnold Ludwig of University of Kentucky, after 17 years of study of over 377 leaders in 2003, declared Ataturk as the greatest leader of the 20th century.
Yuksel Oktay, PE
10 November 2007