The Turkish Coalition of America’s Fifth Annual Turkish American Youth Leadership Congress took place in Washington, D.C., October 25-28. Twenty nine delegates participated in the 2018 Youth Congress, including twenty-seven Turkish American college students, recent graduates, and young professionals from 14 states, Turkey and Great Britain. Additionally, there were two representatives participating from the Council of Turkish Canadians (CTC) and the Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance (ATAA).
The Youth Congress is a key component of TCA’s mission to provide opportunities for young Turkish Americans to learn about the American government and political system and understand the importance of civic/political engagement. Further, it is TCA’s hope that they are inspired to take a more active role in the Turkish American community.
Briefings and meetings were held in TCA’s headquarters as well as in the U.S. Capitol. The Youth Congress delegates were briefed by Turkish policy experts, congressional staffers, representatives from the U.S. Department of State, and leaders in the Turkish American community. An emphasis on civic and political engagement was presented by former Member of Congress Glenn Carlyle Nye III (D-VA/2nd), who is currently the President and CEO of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, and City Council Member Hacibey Catalbasoglu representing Ward 1 in New Haven, Connecticut who is a TCA Youth Congress alumnus and the youngest Turkish American to be elected to office.
Video messages were received from two co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkey Relations and Turkish Americans Representatives Pete Sessions (R-TX/32nd) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA/11th); as well as 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 the four currently elected Turkish American officials.
The Turkish Canadian and Australian representatives spoke about the political systems and challenges in their respective countries. Their remarks also highlighted the need for dialogue among Turkish communities around the world.
Over the course of the weekend, delegates had time for networking and sightseeing. They were given tours of the U.S. Capitol and the Turkish Ambassador’s historical residence. They also attended the American Turkish Association of Washington, D.C.’s (ATA-DC) Republic Day Gala celebrating the 95th Annual Turkish Republic Day. Their visit to the nation’s capital was topped off with a political, musical comedy show “Capitol Steps” and a boat cruise brunch on the Potomac on the last day.
As in previous Congresses, the delegates were able to network and bond with their fellow Turkish Americans while hearing perspectives on the bilateral relationship between Turkey and the United States. They also engaged in active dialogue on the political systems in both countries and the current state of affairs in U.S.-Turkey relations. As for civic engagement, the delegates learned about constituents’ involvement in policy-making and the fundamentals in being successful Turkish American advocates.