Updated: Dec 8, 2019
I would like to share a story that is incredibly fitting for today’s event. The small stories will explain the vision and inspiration behind ATILA. The hero of this story is a man named Ahmet Ertegun. Ahmet was born in Istanbul in 1923 to Turkish parents. Ahmet’s father, Munir Ertegun, was a career diplomat, and his mom was a musician. While his father served as an ambassador of Turkey in London, the United Kingdom, Ahmet’s brother, Nesuhi Ertegun, took him to a concert where Duke Ellington was performing. His brother introduced and cultivated a love for Jazz in young Ahmet. In 1935, Munir Ertegun was appointed as an Ambassador to the United States. This was a period in which D.C. was so segregated.
Young Ahmet, while he came from an affluent family, spent most of his time interacting with black musicians in the Howard theater neighborhood of D.C. To support Ahmet's love for Jazz and black artists, his father would invite all the musicians to the Turkish Embassy, and everyone would enjoy beautiful Jazz. Fast forward, he opens a store and starts his career in the music production business. Then he founded what is known today as the Atlantic Records, which later discovered legendary musicians like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Ruth Brown, and more. Not only did he discover these musicians, he also guided them to design their own styles that represent their talent.
When he discovered “Ray Charles”, he flew him over to New York. After listening to him perform, Ahmet, in excitement, said, "Ray Charles, you are my man!" Ray Charles was so moved, and he said: “No body spoke to me like that.” The two men hugged, and a friendship was formed. Ahmet, although he went to some of the most prestigious schools in London, Maryland, and D.C., said that the best education that he received was on the streets of D.C., having the opportunity to engage with the greatest artists of his time. I wish ATILA to be a platform similar to Ahmet’s experience in the neighborhood of D.C., where people can form the best friendships and gain exceptional knowledge. The icon's life, his dedication to his career, and bringing the most beautiful music to the world have profoundly influenced me.
Ahmet is also a philanthropist and founded the American-Turkish Society(“ATC.”) The ATC has played a critical role in fostering a relationship between the United States and Turkey. I hope ATILA will be an addition to the ATC and cultivate a stronger bond between not only the American and Turkish communities but also between Americans and the entire Turkic community.
Turkic languages share the same roots, and they have some of the best expressions. In English, we say “Bless You” and the response is, “Thank you.” In Turkic languages, we wish a person long health and the response to that is, “I hope you are there with me.” How beautiful is this expression? I hope this very concept of “I hope you are there with me” drives ATILA. First, this expression evokes togetherness. Second, when we uplift and support each other, we remain friends and stand with each other when we hit a milestone and celebrate achievements. Third, I hope ATILA members help and support each other because we wish the other person succeeds and thrives together with us!
Because of my international upbringing, I have friends all over the world. One of my best friends, Amy Woolfson, a British barrister, had an interesting observation of my friends circle in America. She would meet my friends and say, all of your friends are American, but their roots are from somewhere else. This is so beautiful. This is what America represents for me. Not only does it allow you to remain in touch with your roots, but it also encourages it. Therefore, I envisioned creating a community for the Turkic American legal community. This is where the “American” element of the American Turkic International Lawyers Association originates. ATILA will only succeed with all of our American friends’ help regardless of your origin.
As we expand, I hope you are all there with me!
I'd like to share my speech from the inaugural event of ATILA hosted on November 7, 2019.