US envoy delivers Independence Day message on freedoms with Atatürk, Kennedy quotes

US envoy delivers Independence Day message on freedoms with Atatürk, Kennedy quotes

US envoy delivers Independence Day message on freedoms with Atatürk, Kennedy quotes

U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone (C) speaks alongside Turkey's Defense Minister İsmet Yilmaz, (R), and EU Minister Egemen Bağis, during an early celebration for Independence day in Ankara, July 3. AP photo

U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone called for freedom of expression and assembly, quoting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, and former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, during the Independence Day reception held today in Ankara. 

“The United States stands by the Republic of Turkey and her democracy, and we reaffirm our support for all Turkish citizens’ freedom of expression and of peaceful public assembly,” Ricciardone said during the event attended by Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış and Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz.  

He also praised the ongoing debates on ideas within the society, saying it showed the distance Turkey had come since his first visit in 1979. He added that the United States listened to the Turkish people “across the social and political spectrum.” 

“And as I listen – literally out the window of my residence, down to the crowds in Kuğulu Park and John F. Kennedy Caddesi – I hear the echo of the words spoken by the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” Ricciardone said in an apparent reference to protesters in Ankara who have gathered to support the Gezi Park demonstrations over the last month.

“Ataturk said: ‘Currents of thought cannot be refuted by coercion, violence or power. On the contrary, they are only strengthened. The most effective means to confront a developing trend of ideas is to pose contrary ideas; to counter thought with thought.’”

‘A nation afraid of its people’

Quoting Kennedy, Ricciardone said confronting new ideas was one of the United States’ most important qualities. 

“As President Kennedy put it: ‘We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people,’” he said. 

“These words of John Kennedy are so fundamental to the American spirit, and to the core values we profess with our Turkish friends,” he added. 

The U.S. envoy also emphasized the importance of freedom of the press during his speech. 

“The liveliness of your debate demonstrates how far Turkish democracy has come since I arrived in 1979 on my first diplomatic tour. No modern democracy can thrive without free, energetic, and independent-minded mass media, and now, the new social media,” Ricciardone said.

Bağış and Yılmaz have both expressed their best wishes on the 237th anniversary of the U.S. declaration of independence.