Two new organizations started operations to help promote Turkish American interests in the US. Lincoln McCurdy, TCA President talked to TUKROFAMERICA.
The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) is an educational charitable organization based in Washington, DC, with Lincoln McCurdy serving as its president. TCA’s primary objective is to educate the general public and other interested parties.
In carrying out its mission, McCurdy and TCA’s Vice President Guler Koknar work closely with other Turkish American organizations in the US in educating their members on the US political system whereas in Washington, DC, TCA maintains a dialogue with the leadership of the Congressional Turkish Caucus about educating Members of the US Congress on issues that are important to Turkish Americans. TCA, for example, has provided a grant to the Congressional Study Group on Turkey to organize seminars about US-Turkish issues and visits to Turkey for congressional members.
In May of this year, a trip to Turkey was organized for six members, most of whom had never before been to Turkey so that they may gain better information about the country. The bi-partisan group included Representatives Edward Whitfield (R-KY), Co-Chair Congressional Study Group on Turkey, Dan Burton (R-IN), Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Stephen Cohen (D-TN), Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL).
According to McCurdy, all the members were positively impacted by their Turkish trip. Another trip is currently being planned for minority members of congress to visit Turkey where they will also participate in a special program on the Mediterranean Coast about the ancient Lycian Confederation and its contributions to the American Constitution. Regarding issues of importance to Turkish Americans, McCurdy says that TCA has been active in informing congressional members on the importance of having balance in foreign policy debates. As part of its education program, TCA has provided copies of Guenter Lewy’s book, The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey—A Disputed Genocide, that presents a balanced perspective of this controversy to members of congress.
TCA also informs congressional members of the personal successes of those Turks who are residing in America and of their contributions to American life. Upon the request of TCA, Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL) included in the Congressional Record a tribute to the great Turkish American Ahmet Ertegün for his role in promoting jazz and African American musicians, and breaking down racial barriers in the nation’s capital. Working with Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY), TCA distributed copies of the documentary film, Atlantic Records--The House that Ahmet Built (a film that was prepared by PBS/Public Broadcasting Service on the successful life of music producer/composer Ahmet Ertegün), to the 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus. As a result of TCA’s educational activities on Capitol Hill, there is a growing interest among members of congress to join the Congressional Turkish Caucus.
McCurdy says that with a good team effort between local Turkish American organizations throughout the US and TCA the current number of 64 “congressional friends” can increase even higher. McCurdy while speaking at workshops outside of Washington on the importance of being in contact with Congress is encouraging Turkish Americans to ask their representatives to join the Turkish Caucus.
He points out that due to a coordinated effort between TCA and Turkish Americans in Georgia, Congressman David Scott representing Georgia’s 13th congressional district recently became a member. In carrying out its long term objectives, TCA has established a scholarship program that is aimed towards preparing interested Turkish American students for a career in public affairs. The program provides up to ten students each year with 5000 dollar scholarships at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Another program that TCA is currently setting up is to provide grants for American minority students, especially African Americans, to study a semester abroad in Turkey. Some 20 grants of $2,000 each will given to qualified students.
TURKISH COALITION USA POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE
As McCurdy had highlighted, there was a need to establish a political organization since the Turkish Coalition of America and other Turkish American nonprofits, as educational charitable organizations, were prohibited by law to engage in political activities. For this reason, the Turkish Coalition USA Political Action Committee (TC-USA-PAC), was established to fill the vacuum.
In accordance with the US law, TCA and TC-USA PAC are independent of each other and maintain separate entities. TC-USA PAC began its operations in February 2007 and operates without a paid staff in Washington, DC. It supports the election of political candidates who are proven friends of Turkey, both Republican and Democrats alike, and who engage in a meaningful dialogue with Turkish Americans.
McCurdy also points out that TC-USA PAC is laying the foundation for the next Turkish American running for federal office by providing a forum that didn’t exist before. McCurdy explains the reason why the PAC is focusing its support on the congress: “Turkish Americans have a very weak base in Congress.”
The immediate goal, however, is to raise money from the Turkish American community in order to make political contribubtions to the campaigns of Turkish Caucus members. TC-USA PAC, as of July, has contributed to some 25 congressional campaigns. “This is the first time that such endeavors are being made,” says McCurdy. Due to TC-USA PAC’s activities, Turkish Americans, who are regarded as a relatively new US immigrant group, have begun to make their presence felt in the political arena. As the 2008 election approaches, the role of this Turkish American political action committee becomes even more important.
TC-USA PAC’s initial successes have inspired Turkish Americans, living in other states, to organize poltical fundraisers in their local communities. TC-USA PAC keeps an unofficial account of money raised for congressional candidates from these efforts on its website. Turkish American fundraisers for congressional candidates, for example, have been held in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Over $300,000 have been raised during the first half of 2007, although small in comparison to other ethnic groups this figure is a milestone for Turkish Americans. Turkish Americans have also been busy in raising money for presidential candidates. $105,000 was raised in Chicago last June for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
McCurdy, being the real dynamo behind TC-USA PAC’s efforts, states that the candidancy of Oz Bengur who ran for Congress in Maryland in 2006 had contributed to the growing interest in politics by Turkish Americans. Although Bengur may not have won the election, he did succeed in increasing the awareness in the Turkish community on the need of being politically involved. McCurdy strongly believes that the activities that are being undertaken by both the Turkish Coalition of America through public education and TC-USA PAC in the political arena will create in a few years a climate where there is more balanced discussion on issues that impact Turkey and Turkish Americans and greater recognition of the achievements of Turkish Americans in all fields. He also predicts that there will be a Turkish American in the US Congress in five years.
MEMBERS OF THE TURKISH CAUCUS
Rep. Robert Wexler – Co-Chair D-Florida/19th Rep.
Ed Whitfield – Co-Chair R-Kentucky/1st
Rep. Kay Granger – Co-Chair R-Texas/12th
Rep. Robert Aderholt R-Alabama/4th
Rep. Gresham Barrett R-South Carolina/3rd
Rep. Joe Barton R-Texas/6th
Rep. Howard Berman D-California/28th
Rep. Charles Boustany R-Louisana/7th
Rep. Dan Burton R-Indiana/5th
Rep. G. K. Butterfield D-North Carolina/1st
Rep. Steve Chabot R-Ohio/1st
Rep. Ben Chandler D-Kentucky/6th
Rep. Howard Coble R-North Carolina/6th
Rep. Bud Cramer D-Alabama/5th
Rep. Henry Cueller D-Texas/28th
Rep. Lincoln Davis D-Tennessee/4th
Rep Norm Dicks D-Washington/6th
Rep. Lloyd Doggett D-Texas/25th
Rep. Phil English R-Pennsylvania/3rd
Rep. Eni Falmeoveaga D-American Samoa
Rep. Virginia Foxx R-North Carolina/5th
Rep. Paul Gillmor R-Ohio/5th
Rep. Alcee Hastings D-Florida/23rd
Rep. Rush Holt D-New Jersey/12th
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. D-Illinois/2nd
Rep. William Jefferson D-Louisiana/2nd
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson D-Texas/30th
Rep. Tim Johnson R-Illinois/15th
Rep. Tom Lantos D-California/12th
Rep. John Lewis D-Georgia/5th
Rep. Betty McCollum D-Minnesota/4th
Rep. Mike McIntyre D-North Carolina/7th
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks D-New York/6th
Rep. Brad Miller D-North Carolina/13th
Rep. Dennis Moore D-Kanasa/3rd
Rep. Jim Moran D-Virginia/8th
Rep. John Murtha D-Pennsylvania/12th
Rep. Ortiz Solomon D-Texas/27th
Rep. Bill Pascrell D-New Jersey/8th
Rep. Mike Pence R-Indiana/6th
Rep. Joe Pitts R-Pennsylvania/16th
Rep. Todd Platts R-Pennsylvania/19th
Rep. Earl Pomeroy D-North Dakota/At Large
Rep. David Price D-North Carolina/4th
Rep. Adam Putnam R-Florida/12th
Rep. Nick Rahall D-West Virginia/3rd
Rep. Jim Ramstad R-Minnesota/3rd
Rep. Silvestre Reyes D-Texas/16th
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen R-Florida/18th
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger D-Maryland/2nd
Rep. David Scott D-Georgia/13th
Rep. Pete Sessions R-Texas/32nd
Rep. Chris Shays R-Connecticut/4th
Rep. Mike Simpson R-Idaho/2nd
Rep. Ike Skelton D-Missouri/4th
Rep. Adam Smith D-Washington/9th
Rep. Cliff Stearns R-Florida/6th
Rep. Tom Tancredo R-Colorado/6th
Rep. John Tanner D-Tennessee/8th
Rep. Gene Taylor R-Mississippi/4th
Rep. Bennie Thomson D-Mississippi/2nd
Rep. Henry Waxman D-California/30th
Rep. Heather Wilson R-New Mexico/1st
Rep. Joe Wilson R-South Carolina/2nd
Turkish Coalition of America (TCA)
Turkish Coalition USA Political Action Committee (TC-USA PAC)
WHO IS G. LINCOLN McCURDY?
G. Lincoln McCurdy has over 30 years of leadership and management experience in both U.S. government service and the private sector. He has extensive experience in dealing with bi-national boards; working with senior officials of the governments and military of the United States and Turkey; leading trade/investment missions and U.S. congressional delegations to Turkey; co-sponsoring activities with the State and Commerce Departments, Environmental Protection Agency, Smithsonian Institute and National Public Radio; and fundraising.
He served as the senior advisor to the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New York in 2005 and 2006. McCurdy was the president and chief executive officer, 1998 - 2004, and executive director, 1989 – 1998, of the American-Turkish Council (ATC) in Washington, the leading business association in the United States devoted to the promotion of U.S.-Turkish commercial, defense and cultural relations. He received ATC’s Distinguished Career Award in 2005. Before joining ATC, Mr. McCurdy served in the American Consulate General in Istanbul as the Consul for Commercial Affairs, 1980 – 1984.
In this capacity, he received the Department of State’s Meritorious Honor Award for “re-establishing American pre-eminence in the Istanbul International Business Community.” After government service, he consulted in Istanbul for five years for the Bank of Boston and several Turkish companies. In the late 1970s, he worked at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC, organizing trade shows in Brazil. G. Lincoln McCurdy received his B.A. at Hanover College in Indiana and holds a M.A. in International Management from The George Washington University.
He is also a graduate of the Foreign Service Institute’s Turkish Language and Culture Program. In May 2001, Mr. McCurdy received Hanover College’s Alumni Achievement Award. Mr. McCurdy is a board director for the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT). He is an advocate for smart growth and played a key role in beautifying I-66 in Arlington, Virginia, in the 1970s. He is married with two daughters and enjoys yoga, gardening, biking and travel.
Reprinted with permission of Turk of America Magazine - www.turkofamerica.com