President Obama Holds Conversation With Turkish Students in Istanbul

Posted by Preeti Shah
April 9, 2009
President Obama Responds to Question at Town Hall in Turkey

About the Author: Preeti Shah serves as Vice Consul at the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey.

As President Obama, with his trademark smile, graciously shook the hands of the young participants, I took a deep breath. The town hall discussion with 100 Turkish students and students studying in Turkey had gone off without a hitch. Assigned as the press site officer from the U.S. Consulate General here in Istanbul, I watched as an old cannon factory, first built in the 15th century, transformed over the last two weeks into a television studio and audience venue. Complete with bright lights, multiple camera positions and an open press invitation that resulted in over 100 journalists vying for angles, the event demonstrated our President’s willingness to talk openly not just to Americans but also to students all over the world.

Chattering nervously before the event, several students told me how they couldn’t sleep last night, for fear of getting up late and missing the event. Some of the students were alumni of Department of State programs, but for many, this was their first interaction with anyone representing the United States. I became aware of just how monumental this day had become, particularly for these students. They had been given an unscripted and unrehearsed opportunity to ask questions of President Barack Obama. No topic was off limits, and President Obama shared his thoughts in his characteristically warm and open manner. He fielded his first question about climate change and moved on to topics including Turkey’s possible membership in the EU, nuclear proliferation and the possibility of peace in the Middle East. Watching the faces of the Turkish students as they had the chance to talk with the President, my President, I was in awe. After the event, the students who participated in the town hall created their own Facebook group. They are using this social network to share videos and pictures of the event and continue the conversation begun by the President.

Coming at the tail end of his Europe trip, that included the G-20 meeting in London, Turkey represents President Obama’s first visit to a Muslim country, the significance of which has not gone unnoticed by both the Turkish and international media. Living in Istanbul, I have seen the effect of the President’s popularity firsthand – an Obama look-alike graces billboards in the metro and along the roads touting low interest rates at a Turkish bank. Public opinion in Turkey regarding the U.S. has been on an upswing for the past few months. President Obama’s visit, and specifically his gregarious interaction with students, has served to highlight the enduring friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

Read more about the President's conversation with Turkish students or watch his remarks to them at the White House Blog.

Comments

Comments

palgye
|
South Korea
April 9, 2009

Palgye in South Korea writes:

Dear to President Obama.

may, i question to President Obama?

Mr. Obama really a President of USA? i can`t find any

authority, arrogance, affectation.

it`s looks professor, teaching student.

it`s very shock to me. yes, fresh shock.

no more ask to me this, do you believe me?

i always,,,,,

thank you..

p.s

blue color`s carpet is good and good matching to

President Obama`s wearing suit

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
April 9, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Palgye in South Korea -- I have enjoyed reading your comments here on Dipnote for the last few weeks, please do continue to ask any question you wish to ask.

I would not try to speak for President Obama in answer to your question, but as a citizen of America I can say this;

He works for us ("we the people"). We elected him to represent us ( being a government "by, for, and of the people") to the peoples of the world.

So in order to do the job we elected him to do, it is important that he relate well with the people of other nations, as well as their leaders.

Sometimes I wonder if he asks himself the same question you asked, and is shocked when he realizes he's not dreaming...(chuckle).

John
|
Greece
April 9, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Palgye in South Korea -- What is the question or your comment? I do not understand a thing...

U.S.A. voted democratically. Period.

I think Eric in NM was very polite with you. I am not, when... I do not "understand", and especially when I "suspect".

What's your question or your entry Palgye, in order for us to post you back?

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
April 9, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ John, our friend is simply expressing his wonderment that a U.S. president can be just a regular guy, and treat folks like equals.

I wouldn't read anything negative into his asking "Mr. Obama really a President of U.S.A.?"

It's not like the South Korean President goes around the globe giving "town hall" meetings...

But then again...perhaps he should.

John
|
Greece
April 10, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Palgye in South Korea -- I apologize for my mistake (I misunderstood Palgye's text and his real meaning).

You see, this continuing anti-American propaganda tends to make us "crazy", in order to be "secure". So, I flip side even "texts" to be sure.

Thanks a lot Eric. Best Regards Palgye! Sorry again guys.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
April 10, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Words are the worst form of communication ever invented.

But what are humans to do for an alternative?

(chuckle)...

Ole
|
New York, USA
April 12, 2009

Ole in New York writes:

I urge President Obama, Secretary Clinton and others responsible for American foreign policy, to promote Turket's bid to join European Union. We need Muslim world to see the fruits of democracy and prosperity, moreover we should accept the hand extended by the current Turkish leadership, which so successfully combines Muslim religion with democratic ideals and free economy. I applaud President Obama's mediation on the issue of Mr. Fog Rasmussen's candidacy for the head of NATO; I hope this sort of mediation will be continued on many issues, concerning many nations, especially freedom-aspiring. also, it should be noted that fears of certain circles in Europe that Turkey's inclusion will lead to further spread of immigration and lowering of living standards in European states, are probably unfounded: there already is a significant number of Turkish, Kurdish and other immigrants i those countries, caused mainly by superior prosperity which naturally attracts people of all colors, faiths and ethnicities; whereas joining Eu might allow Turkey to reap full benefits of Western way of life, economic oportunities etc, thus alleviating the disparity and immigration problem

At the same time, I think Vice-President's Biden concept of creating independent or broadly autonomous Kurdistan in Northern Iraq, is a good idea too, and should be explained better to the Turkish leadership, for it presents not only a risk but a great chance of establishing Kurdish national home that might potentially attract the part of Turkish Kurd population that doesn't feel comfortable under Turkish rule.

.

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