When American protest singer Bob Dylan, in his autobiography “Chronicles” mentioned his ancestors’ origins as Turkey, it had major repercussions in Turkey, and we experienced the happiness of finding somebody else with ties to Turkey.
Believing “everybody whose paths went through Turkey is a Turk!”, we helped the famous rock star to recover his identity. (Even though in his book, Dylan said that his ancestors went from Turkey to Odessa in Southern Russia before moving to USA.)
Our guest in this issue is not as famous as Bob Dylan, but he is more valuable to the Turks and to Turkey. He is Dr. Robert B. McKay or “Turkish Bob” as close friends call him, living in Hartford, Connecticut, the center for US insurance companies. Although there are few Turks living in Hartford, Dr. McKay voluntarily acts as a major booster for Turkey. Every October 29th he raises the Turkish flag on the Hartford State Capitol, he volunteers in organizations forging tie between Turkey and US. Together with Turks he is working to promote Turkish culture in different areas. He worked on projects such as bringing the Murat Reis submarine, used to gather intelligence from Russia during the Cold War, to Little Rock, Arkansa, and on efforts to include Turkish culture in the Heritage Museum, which will soon be opened in affiliation with the Smithsonian Institute.
HE WAS A TEACHER İN TARSUS
McKay’s Turkish story started when he accepted a job as a teacher at Tarsus American College. McKay tells how impressed he was by the attention and the love he received during his five-year stay in Tarsus. Besides teaching, he also did volunteer work building village roads. He still remembers the taste of the fizzy lemonade, “gazoz”, he was offered everywhere he went. His office is decorated with Turkish books and the flag.
His wife Lorraine summarizes the five years the couple spent with the words, “I learned more than I taught.” Their favorite locations in Turkey are the Pine Park near Silifke and Istanbul.
McKlay, who was consulted by the Clinton administration regarding Cyprus, says, “I received a lot of attention in Turkey, now I am trying to show the same to Turks living in US.”
A friend of the Turks, McKay has four missions: to educate Americans that Turkey is a friend in the free world, to increase the industrial and business relations between the two countries, to positively reinforce Turkey’s image in the US, and to make the contribution of Anatolian civilizations to today’s life more widely known.
Some of the projects McKay is working on with Turks are the flying of the Turkish flag on the Hartford State Capitol, a program to bring students at Tarsus American High School with insufficient resources to the US, the exhibition of Turkish historical and cultural artifacts in the Smithsonian Institute’s planned new museum in Rhode Island, and the foundation of Ataturk Peace Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas. McKay notes that such ambitous activities would ordinarily require at least six high-level managers to run, who would be funded by both governmental and private sources.
McKay is a member of the board of directors and the advisory board of Turkish Forum, as well as the board of directors of the Southern New England Turkish American Cultural Association.
(April 2005, 16th Issue)