My Birthday, 19 May by Sebahattin Devecioglu

Prof. Dr. Sebahattin DeveciogluHistory of nations involves important events and dates, which change their destiny, enlighten their future, appreciate the society as a whole and open to a radical change and development, as well as a new structure and formation. If these dates and events become the starting point of a great revolution and a bright future, they gradually become important and permanent holidays.

Holidays that are commonly celebrated by communities are definitely placed on the top of national customs and traditions (1). 19 May 1919, which is the first step of the great revolution within the War of Independence, was accepted as the “Youth and Sports Day” on 19 May 1938. Being among the important national holidays of the Turkish nation, “May 19 the Commemoration of Ataturk Youth and Sports Day” has been established deeply in the Turkish culture and widely esteemed by the society in a commonly official and unofficial way. History of nations involves blurry, rough and dark periods, where it seems impossible to find a way, select a trace and get illuminated. As Ataturk states, majority of people get into a vicious circle on such days and while some of them resort the salvation in uniting with the enemy, some resort in being under the protectiveness and guidance of a stronger foreign state and some resort to establishing weak local resistance organizations. 19 May 1919 is an illuminating date in a dark period (2,3), which is based on dying in an honorable way rather than living in a dishonorable way under contempt and the starting point of a chain of events that occurred afterwards.

Ataturk’s definition of youth generally gains an intellectual meaning by exceeding the age limits; in other words, it goes hand in hand with the innovation of opinions. Ataturk’s statement, Having a young opinion means a person with a real opinion, who sees and understands the truth was used in this context. The Great Leader Ataturk who proclaimed the Republic when he was 42, he stated: “As for me, the youth consists of individuals who adopt the opinions and ideology of this reform and would transfer them to the next generations. In this regard, it is essential to seek, see and think about an ideal youth of opinion in Ataturk’s “Turkish Youth” by exceeding the age limits.  The founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk anticipated that the only solution against those who intended to cause the nation to go back with their old-fashioned opinions as from the beginning of the National Struggle was in youth and young opinions and foresaw that generations who would be raised with a modern mentality would develop his work even further and keep it alive for eternity by protecting it from all kinds of dangers in the future. Thus, Ataturk commended the republic which he called “my greatest work” to the youth and presented the date May 19, when he set off for Samsun to start the War of Independence, to the Turkish youth as the “Youth and Sports Day”.  Placing a great value on this day, Ataturk started his Great Speech on May 19 and when he was asked about his birthday, he answered why not May 19. As well as the expectation, desire and enthusiasm of the people of Samsun, “Ataturk’s special interest” enabled the day to be considered among our national holidays (4).

In 1981, on the other hand, the name of the day was changed as “May 19 the Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day” with a law numbered 2429. The official newspaper that was published on 1 October 1981 issued a program regarding how to celebrate that day in Ankara, the capital, and other cities and explained that this celebration would be organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The addition of the words “the Commemoration of Ataturk” to name of the day is an expression of the great respect for Ataturk, who stated “I was born on May 19”. May 19 is celebrated with physical education and sports shows throughout Turkey and these celebrations turn into a visual feast with simultaneous movements of students of hundreds. May 19 Race, which starts in Samsun and ends in Ankara, has been organized since that day (5).

Having been entrusted with the Republic of Turkey by Ataturk, the youth will progress on the way of science and modernity referred by him in full unity, glorify our nation, arrange our future, and make it enlightened and content. In his statement, “Youth; who have taken on the task of realizing my future goals! I am very pleased and happy since I will leave this country to a youth like you, which understands me”, Ataturk expressed his reliance on the Turkish youth as well. The youth of Ataturk is a youth that pursues great actions just like him, aims at education and knowledge, believes in the existence of modernity primarily in education and technique, research, works and finds for this… grounds on the consciousness forming the Turkish Culture, fulfills its requirements, and sets the goal well….comprehends and expresses the philosophy, principles and goals of Ataturk. Thus, abiding by the principles and reforms of Ataturk, the Turkish youth will bring the Turkish Nation to the highest point of the contemporary civilization within the shortest time, which was His goal (6).


1. Salim Koca, “Türklerde Bayram Anlayışı ve Nevruz”, Ufuk, Sayı 3, (Kasım-Aralık1998), (2-4), s.2

2. Mustafa Turan, “19 Mayıs’ın Türk İstiklâl Harbindeki Yeri ve Önemi”, Türk Yurdu, C.18, Sayı 129, (Mayıs 1998), (41-45), s.4

3. Suna Kili, Türk Devrim Tarihi, Boğaziçi Üni. Yay. 1980,İstanbul, s.20.

4. Utkan Kocatürk, Atatürk’ün Fikir ve Düşünceleri, Ankara, 1984, s.1

5. 19 Mayıs Atatürkü Anma Gençlik ve Spor Bayramı;, Erişim Tarihi : 25.03.2013

6. Aydın Can, Atatürk ve Türk Gençliği, Ç.Ü. Türkoloji-Makale Bilgi Sistemi Makale No : 3646, 03.07.2008

P.S: This article full presantation :The Birth Of The Celebration Of Youth And Sports And The U.N.’S Agenda For Youth And The Encouragement Of Sports, Pioneer Of The Millennium Development Goals: Ataturk, International Conference, The Light Millennium and College of Arts and Letters at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey, April 19, 20, 2013

Asst. Prof.  Sebahattin Devecioğlu

(This text  was written with reference to my Birthday May 19, 1968)