About the Author: Ann Kim serves as a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.
Today is the eve of International Women’s Day, and I have had the privilege of witnessing Secretary Hillary Clinton pay her respects to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk at Anitkabir, where Turkey’s hero is laid to rest. It is an interesting coincidence that Clinton — a individual who has tirelessly advocated democracy and women’s rights and proudly wears the badge of “first woman to accomplish…” in her own right (first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation, first female partner at Rose Law Firm, etc.) — pay her respects to a man who also tirelessly fought for democracy and women’s rights; one of his hallmark reforms was to give Turkish women the right to vote in 1934, shortly after American women fought for and won their right to vote in 1920.
When Secretary Clinton arrived at the site, energy filled the air. I’ve been to Anitkabir before, but the crowd was larger for a Saturday morning. She continues to be a favorite American among Turks, which is really important right now when Americans are not always looked upon favorably by a number of countries. But this crowd was clearly excited... they said hello and waved. She waved and said hello back… It has been a while since Turks have been excited about an American so it was a moving scene to behold.
The Turkish dignitaries greeted her, and they all proceeded toward Ataturk’s mausoleum for the wreath laying ceremony. The excitement when she arrived contrasted with the solemnity of the ceremony was striking. I was amazed at how quiet things got, even though there were many people around. The slow walk, the dignity of the soldiers leading the procession, and the reflective expression on Clinton’s face underscored the uniqueness and importance of Turkish-American relations. .
For her entry in the Guest Book, Clinton wrote: “It is an honor to visit once again on behalf of my country to show our honor and respect for the founder of this great country and demonstrate the friendship of the American people.” These words reflect the nature and importance of this bilateral relationship. Though at first glance it might appear to some that Americans and Turks do not have much in common, upon reflection, it is easy to see that the democratic values of both nations bind the two countries together.