The 19th of May represents a major national holiday in Turkey. Established personally by Ataturk, as the “Youth and Sports Day,” the Ataturk Society of America (ASA) celebrates the occasion by sponsoring lectures and honoring high achievers among the Turkish Youth — especially those living in the United States. The lecturer this year was Dr. George Gawrych, author of an excellent new book, “The Young Atatürk: From Ottoman Soldier to Statesman of Turkey.” In a superb talk, Gawrych showed why Turks are amply justified in regarding Ataturk as the “greatest Turk of them all.” After proving his mettle and genius as a military leader, he founded the secular Republic of Turkey and launched reforms that included the equality of genders. His overarching credo called for “governance by science and reason rather than by superstition and dogma.”

This year’s recipient of the Ataturk Youth Award was Dr. Canan Dagdeviren, who divides her time between Harvard and MIT, teaching and carrying out research in engineering in medicine. Her studies involve flexible materials with piezoelectric properties and has already brought her recognition as “One of the top thirty-five innovators under 35 in Science and Technology.” Ms. Dagdeviren gave an inspiring synopsis of her own life and passion for science.

The occasion was celebrated at American University’s School of International Service on May 20, 2017.

The day of celebrations ended with a birthday dinner for Atatürk.