Turkish Cultural Center honors four from Vermont at the first ever Friendship Dinner & Peace Islands Institute Award Ceremony
Turkish Cultural Center Vermont (TCC VT) and the Peace Islands Institute (PII) jointly hosted the first ever Friendship Dinner & Award Ceremony at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel & Conference Center on Wednesday, November 20, 2013.
Ms. Ashley Clark emceed the historic event at which the Honorable Governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin was the guest of honor.
The first speaker of the evening, TCC President and Council of Turkic American Associations’ Regional Director, Mr. Eyup Sener welcomed the more than 150 distinguished guests in attendance.
Following Mr Sener’s remarks, the 2013 Peace Islands Institute Leadership Award was presented to Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin. In his acceptance speech, Gov. Shumlin noted that the Turkic population of Vermont is steadily increasing in number and that the Turkic community is a great example to the rest of the state of how different cultures can successfully cooperate with one another.
He went on to praise TCC VT’s leadership in laying the groundwork for economic and educational projects currently in progress and expressed his appreciation for the Peace Island Institute’s Honorary President, Mr Fethullah Gulen’s intellectual contributions which have inspired these Hizmet activities or efforts to be of service. Governor Shumlin also took great pleasure in announcing the good news that TCC VT would soon open a center in Burlington.
Keynote speaker of the evening, Dr Jon Pahl of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, spoke at length about the Hizmet or “Service” movement currently inspired by Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen. Dr Pahl illustrated the concept of hizmet with anecdotes from his own life and underscored how this popular movement has contributed greatly to the quality of everyday life in countries across the globe.
He shared how his son Justin, who currently enjoys living in Istanbul as a Christian, was able to counter fear and ignorance on a recent trip home to the U.S by pointing out to his family that Istanbul has about 12 times the population of Philadelphia, but only a third of the number of murders per year.
Vermont Senator, Mr. Christopher Bray shared his impressions of a trip he made to Turkiye in June, saying how moved he was by the hospitality of his Turkish hosts throughout the visit; he encouraged those present who haven’t experienced such a trip to consider visiting Turkiye at their earliest opportunity.
Next, the Consul General of Turkey in Boston, the Honorable Burak Kararti underscored the importance of cooperation between Turkiye and the U.S and commended the Turkish Cultural Center for taking the lead in activities promoting dialogue between the two nations. The Consul General closed his remarks by quoting the Sufi mystic Mevlana(widely known as Rumi) on the topic of unity and cooperation.
TCC VT Advisory Board member and State Representative of Vermont, Ms. Jean O’Sullivan related some of her personal experiences from past visits to Turkiye and Azerbaijan. She went on to stress the important contributions the sister-city relationship Burlington has established with Umraniye (a borough of Istanbul, Turkiye) will make to each of their respective communities.
The Peace Islands Institute Award Ceremony continued with an introductory video presentation about the PII’s Honorary President, Mr Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen movement inspired by his activities for peace.
The 2013 PII Community Service award was presented to the Honorable Attorney General of Vermont, Mr. William Sorrell, who visited Turkiye over the summer.
The President and Publisher of the Burlington Free Press, Jim Fogler was awarded The 2013 PII Media Award for his track record of principled and exemplary publishing over the past few years.
The final speaker of the evening, TCC VT Advisory Board member and Saint Michael’s College Professor of Education, Dr. Aostre Johnson, was also the recipient of the 2013 PII Education award. Dr Johnson pointed out that she learned about the worldwide Hizmet or “Service” movement from schools affiliated with it; it is her view that the current generation of students attending these schools will be making important contributions to world peace in years to come.
The first ever Friendship Dinner & Award Ceremony jointly sponsored by The Turkish Cultural Center Vermont and the Peace Islands Institute came to a close following a commemorative photo-taking session.