By Brittany Urick ’10
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan presented his vision of a new global order in a Sept. 23 address at Richardson Auditorium. Erdogan carried an air of charisma as he outlined the political, economic, and cultural changes required to construct global solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues, including wars, the financial crisis, alternative energy sources, climate change, and terrorism.
Erdogan placed special emphasis on the importance of upholding universal norms through the implementation of international law, staking a claim that certain documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are wonderful in theory but ultimately meaningless unless their principles are enforced.
The prime minister, whose remarks were delivered in Turkish and translated for the audience, addressed Turkey’s role within a new global order, highlighting the commitments to institutional reform and modernization that his party, the Justice and Development Party, has made since the turn of the century.
“The constructive and peaceful policies we implement in our region are important not just for us, but are important in serving global peace.”
— Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Given Turkey’s geographical significance at the juncture of Europe and Asia and between the Christian and Muslim worlds, the republic has an opportunity to become an increasingly influential regional and global power. Its relationship with the United States, which President Obama deemed a model partnership in April, has developed beyond a strategic relationship. Erdogan said that he hopes this powerful synergy continues to grow. “The constructive and peaceful policies we implement in our region are important not just for us, but are important in serving global peace,” he said.
Erdogan, a former professional soccer player, was skillful in his delivery, weaving humor and Turkish adages into a speech that gave color to sobering topics. He also spoke about controversial issues in his political and personal life. In 1998, Erdogan received a prison sentence for reading what he described as a poem written by one of the leading poets in Turkey at the time of the foundation of the republic. (The poem was controversial because it related to the secular/Islamic split within Turkey, a topic that has been something of a taboo.) Erdogan encouraged his audience to embrace risk, just as he had in his willingness to sacrifice his freedom in order to disseminate ideas.