The Turkish Coalition of America’s Fourth Annual Turkish American Youth Leadership Congress took place in Washington, DC from October 26-29, 2017. Twenty three young Turkish American college students, graduate students, and young professionals enjoyed a weekend of networking and meetings with experts and government officials, and they came away inspired to become involved in politics and take a more active role in the Turkish American community.
Youth Congress delegates attended meetings and briefings with Turkish policy experts, congressional staffers, representatives from the U.S. Department of State, journalists, political activists, and leaders in the Turkish American community. They also had the chance to learn more about civic engagement from two former members of Congress, the Honorable Al Wynn (D-MD/4th, 1992-2008) and Dan Maffei (D-NY/24th, 2013-2015). Additionally, two representatives from the Council of Turkish Canadians (CTC) accompanied the delegates throughout the weekend and briefed the group on the political system of Canada and the challenges faced by the Turkish Canadian community, providing an impetus for cross-border dialogue and relationship building between Turkish Canadians and Turkish Americans.
Delegates toured the U.S. Capitol and the Turkish Ambassador’s historical residence, and they attended the Maryland American Turkish Association’s (MATA) Republic Day Gala celebrating the 94th annual Turkish Republic Day. Their visit to the nation’s capital was topped off with a concert to watch Pink Martini perform with the National Symphony Orchestra at the historic John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and a boat cruise brunch on the Potomac.
Over the course of the weekend, Youth Congress delegates were able to network with other young Turkish Americans while learning about the U.S.-Turkey relationship and the political systems of both countries. They engaged in an active dialogue on the state of U.S.-Turkey relations, and they learned about the role that citizens can play in policy-making as well as the steps they can take to be successful Turkish American advocates.
On the occasion of the Youth Congress, TCA received video messages from three of the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkey Relations and Turkish Americans: Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX/32nd), Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA/11th), and Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN/9th); as well as video messages from two prominent Turkish Americans: Cenk Uygur, co-founder of the Young Turks Network and a leading Turkish American political commentator, and Judge Jay Karahan, Harris County/Texas Criminal Court judge and one of two currently elected Turkish American officials.