June 21, 2023
Good evening everyone, hoş geldiniz. What an honor it is for Cheryl and me to celebrate 247 years of American Independence with you. I would like to recognize Deputy Foreign Minister Mehmet Kemal Bozay for joining us tonight. I am also thankful to share this occasion with our entire family visiting from the States.
We cherish our democratic tradition in America, and so does Türkiye. This year is a special milestone because it marks the centennial of the Turkish Republic.
When Ataturk founded the modern republic, the world was a much different place. In 1923, the Walt Disney Company was founded, Louis Armstrong made his first recording, and a new Ford Model T cost $725. In 1927, America opened its first embassy in Ankara, which was a train car. That’s a far cry from our wonderful new building. In the century since we have accomplished much together.
So, it’s fitting that very recently, in this centennial of the Republic, the eyes of the world were on Türkiye for a long-anticipated and hard-fought contest. And now we know there was one clear winner: Manchester City has won the Champions League!
100 years as a republic is a commendable achievement, and it has only been possible because of the Turkish people’s steadfast commitment to democracy. Türkiye’s voter turnout rate of close to 90 percent sets a global standard, and, I might add, far surpasses the average turnout in U.S. elections. I also admire the huge attendance at political rallies. As a former politician myself, my admiration for large crowds borders on jealousy — I even brought my family here just to make the crowd look bigger.
This is to say that all Turks should be very proud of their nation’s democratic tradition.
Sadly, 2023 will also be remembered for the devastating February earthquakes that claimed so many innocent lives and profoundly impacted many more. But these trying times have also brought out the best in Türkiye. The spirit, resilience, and strength of the Turkish people have been self-evident. These qualities resonate in America. I am proud that just days after the earthquake, two American urban search and rescue teams were on the ground in the southeast ready to support our friends. There was such an outpouring of support from Americans that when Secretary Blinken signed the condolence book in Washington, he had to practically wade through a sea of donations and “geçmiş olsun” wishes.
But the United States was not alone; dozens and dozens of countries sent rescue teams, equipment, and supplies. The international community has not forgotten Türkiye’s own assistance after natural disasters around the globe. This was the world’s opportunity to repay Turkish generosity.
And the American people demonstrated that in their personal outpouring of compassion. While the U.S. government and U.S. private sector contributed hundreds of millions, across the United States, American communities came together to donate goods and funds to offer to the Turkish people. I am so proud of my country’s response. I am in awe of how Americans, from coast to coast, stepped forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Turkish people.
This is the American spirit that we honor today, in celebration of our Independence Day.
The international outpouring of goodwill for Türkiye has also led to progress in some of its more complicated relationships. The image of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias embracing Foreign Minister Cavusoglu shortly after the earthquakes foreshadowed the current period of much improved relations between these two critical NATO allies.
As Türkiye celebrates its centennial, it remains a critical partner of the United States and a powerful force on the world stage. Türkiye’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty is another example of its global role. No other country could have contained the conflict by invoking the Montreux Convention, nor could any other country have successfully facilitated the Black Sea Grain Initiative to deliver much-needed food to global markets.
Of course, Turkish-American cooperation goes far beyond security issues. Total trade between our two countries now exceeds $33 billion a year. People to people contact is increasing in a big way.
Last year, one million Americans visited Türkiye, including one intrepid tourist pretending to be James Bond on top of the Grand Bazaar. I’m told that authorities are close to identifying the suspect.
More than 1.8 million Americans are expected to visit Türkiye this year. I can tell you that my family and I have been doing our best to support the Turkish tourism industry, one Flake at a time!
I’m excited for the next century of partnership between our two nations. Türkiye is confidently striding into the future with its first domestically produced electric car. In April, Türkiye’s first domestically produced observation satellite was launched by SpaceX from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
Later this year, in partnership with the United States’ Axiom Space, the first Turkish astronaut is expected to travel to the International Space Station. So it is not true anymore to say “the sky is the limit.” Our cooperation and partnership has quite literally taken us beyond the sky – into space.
America has been blessed to have Türkiye as a partner for the last 100 years, and we are looking forward to many more. Happy centennial, Türkiye. And Happy Independence Day, America.