On Wednesday, December 11, 2014, the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Turkic American Alliance (TAA), the Council of Turkic American Associations (CTAA), the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians (TCAE) and the Kazakh American Friendship Council (KAFC) co-organized the First Annual U.S.-Kazakhstan Convention. The theme of the Convention was “Successful Strategic Partnership.”
The Breakfast and Opening Ceremony took place from 7:30-9:00am at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. The Ceremony was moderated by Kemal Oksuz, President of TCAE. H.E. Kairat Umarov provided the welcome address, followed by remarks from Senator John Cornyn, Rep. Henry Cuellar, Rep. Stephen Lynch, Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department Rose Gottemoeller, Rep. Pete Olson, Senator Serik Nugerbekov of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, Rep. Steve Stockman, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, TAA President Faruk Taban, Rep. Grace Meng, Rep. Mark Meadows, Rep. Pete Gallego and Rep. Doug Collins.
Highlights included Rep. Bridenstine thanking Kazakhstan for its significant contribution to the U.S. during its war efforts in Afghanistan. As a Navy pilot, Rep. Bridenstine flew over Kazakhstan on numerous occasions. The Congressman also highlighted Kazakhstan’s important humanitarian initiatives, such as sending peacekeeping troops to Iraq in 2003 to help in demining and water purification projects.
Rep. Meadows stated that the mutual respect, trust and friendship between Kazakhstan and the United States are what will make both countries prosperous, and that while we should recognize Kazakhstan’s past, we must focus on its future. This was a sentiment echoed in most of the remarks throughout the ceremony. For instance, speakers recognized Kazakhstan’s history, both ancient and modern—its resilient trade for two thousand years along the Silk Road despite being a landlocked country, and its enormous democratic and free-market achievements following its independence from the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, these remarkable successes are far outshined by its potential, as stated Dr. Taban in his speech during the ceremony.
Such potential lies in Kazakhstan’s outstanding commitment to arms control and nuclear nonproliferation and Kazakhstan’s invitations to host the International Science and Technology Center, the International Atomic Energy Agency fuel bank and the Astana Economic Fora, among other items mentioned by the distinguished speakers. Additionally, Dr. Faruk Taban in his speech addressed the importance of the education of Kazakhstan’s youth through initiatives such as the Bolashak program, which sends its brightest students and leaders to universities around the world, including 800 here in the U.S. in 42 different universities.
Dr. Taban also paid homage to the late Nelson Mandela: “Imagine, just a quarter of a century ago, Kazakhstan was simply an idea, and one of the most important leaders of our time was imprisoned in South Africa. Today, we celebrate the remarkable achievements of Kazakhstan as an independent, post-Soviet republic, while also mourning the loss of the great Nelson Mandela, who, if I may quote President Obama, ‘now belongs to the ages.’ Both enshrine the global values of democracy and freedom. They are sources of great inspiration to the global community.”
Following the Breakfast and Opening Ceremony, the Convention continued with the Panel Sessions.