March 18, 2015, Washington, D.C. – 5th Annual Turkic American Convention & Business Summit commenced with the Gala Reception held at the Willard InterContinental Hotel. The doors opened for guests at 6:30 PM ET and approximately 500 participants filled the room within minutes. The reception was hosted by Lamija Silajdzic from Turkic American Alliance and started with an introductory video about TAA and welcoming remarks from TAA President, Dr. Faruk Taban.
Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southern and Central Asian Affairs, Richard E. Hoagland was the keynote speaker of the event. PDAS Hoagland spoke about the state of relations between the U.S. and Central Asian countries, talked about the New Silk Road Initiative and the benefits it will have for Central Asian countries in the future. Former Ambassador Hoagland also validated the concerns of many regarding the recent issues surrounding Ukraine, and reassured everyone that the United States stands with those countries who struggle for their territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Senator Christopher Coons (Delaware) took the podium to thank everybody for a wonderful event. He urged everyone to look for deeper, more meaningful relationships with one another, as well as expressing his hope for more profound understanding between the nations represented at the convention.
Secretary of State of Maryland, John Wobensmith was also invited to the stage to share his remarks. Secretary Wobensmith praised the even, noting “this event is a wonderful example of how the U.S. can improve business relations with others.” He also presented a Citation, signed by Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan, recognizing the 5th Annual Turkic American Convention.
Congressman Al Green (Texas’s 9th) took the podium to thank the organizers of the event and praised their efforts to build long-term relationships. Robert Aderholt (Alabama’s 4th) welcomed the guests and urged everyone to redouble their efforts in increasing the trade volume between the U.S. and countries represented at the gala. Representative Henry Cuellar (Texas’s 28th) underscored the high participation, saying “[this] shows respect we have for Turkey and the U.S. as great partners.”
U.S. Representative Brendan Boyle (Pennsylvania’s 13th) made a statement by reiterating that he was a “proud supporter of Turkic communities.” Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania’s 8th) thanked the Turkic community in his own district for their supportive constituency.
Representative Doug LaMalfa (California’s 1st) praised the gala and said “[these] positive relationships we are building tonight are very important.” Dana Rohrabacher (California’s 48th) noted that “Turkic people will play an ever more important role in years to come.”
Hakeem Jeffries (New York’s 8th) emphasized the level of relationship between Turkey and the U.S. by saying “what is good for Turkey is good for the United States, what is good for the United States is good for the world.” Representative Bonnie Watson-Coleman (New Jersey’s 12th) stated that she was looking forward to learning about issues that were important to the guests at the gala.
Congressman Bill Keating (Massachusetts’s 9th) gave encouragement to the guests by noting “you are the voices we listen to. We will work together and make Turkish and U.S. economies better.” Alan Grayson (Florida’s 9th) underlined that Turkey represents the future of the Middle East and Central Asia. Congresswoman Robin Kelly (Illinois’s 2nd) also said that Turkey ought to be a role model for the rest of the world.
Some distinguished guests from various countries also took the stage to share their ideas with the audience. Ahiska community leader Sarvar Tedorov noted that justice is really important and that the U.S. has shown its commitment to justice by hearing his community’s concerns. Dr. Joni Apakidze, Rector of the Sokhumi State University, thanked the organizers and the guests for the event. Independent Member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey representing Izmir, Hon. Ilhan Isbilen remarked “we are all aware that the world is need for this kind of gatherings.” Manoj Gursahani, Vice Chairman of the U.S. India Investors Forum, took the stage to thank everybody for organizing a great convention. Ambassador of Uganda, Her Excellency Oliver Wonekha said “I bring Uganda to the relationship of Turkey and the U.S.” Member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey representing Bursa Hon. Aykan Erdemir (CHP – Republican People’s Party) noted that he was glad that he had a chance to participate at the convention. Ahmet Ciger, Vice President of TUSKON thanked the Turkic American Alliance for its efforts to promote dialogue. Member of the Parliament from Mongolia, Hon. Ganbaatar Sainkhu said that his country wished for the handshakes that were happening in the room that night. Her Excellency, Liberata Mulamula, the Ambassador of Tanzania to the U.S.