New Zealand Ambassador Roy Ferguson

Mr. Edib, President of Atatürk Society, Mr. Yavalar, Chairman of Ataturk Society, the Honorable Gingrich, the Honorable Livingston, Ladies and Gentlemen: It is an honor for me to be here today at this commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the birth of a great statesman. I guess some of you at least are wondering why the Ambassador of New Zealand is here. I hope that the message that I am about to read you from our Prime Minister, the Honorable Helen Clark, will make it clear why the great founder of modern Turkey has an important place in the history of my country. I could read the Prime Minister’s message to you.

“May I convey greetings to the members of the Ataturk Society of America on the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the birth of Kemal Ataturk.

Kemal Ataturk will always have a special place in history as that remarkable soldier who led the defence of his country on the Gallipoli Peninsula and who went on to found the modern Turkish republic. It is not only in Turkey that this great statesman is remembered. For New Zealanders the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, when the Australian and New Zealand Army Codrps – or the ANZACS – landed on the narrow beach at what is now called ANZAC Cove, evokes memories of the enormous courage against a valiant foe led by a brave and brilliant young patriot named Mustafa Kemal.

For New Zealand and other allied forces, Gallipoli was a military defeat. But it was a time of great personal sacrifice and bravery on both sides. Over the eight grueling months of the Gallipoli campaign, the opposing forces came to know each other – and there evolved respect for the tenacity of the other side, an appreciation of human qualities of the other.

Out of that tragic conflict, a new sense of nationhood was born; for New Zealanders, for Australians, and for Turkey . Between the peoples of New Zealand this ancient land of Turkey there grew a profound respect that has flourished into our warm friendship today.

That spirit of reconciliation with friendship was inspired by Ataturk’s famous words:
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…you are lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours… You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now living in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives in this land, they have become our sons as well.”

These words are engraved on the memorial to the ANZAC soldiers that stands today on the Gallipoli Peninsula . They also appear on the Ataturk Memorial at the entrance to the harbor in our capital city, Wellington . They recognize that true greatness as a leader comes not only from courage on the battlefield but also from the ability to forge peace and reconciliation after the conflict.

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister
Thank you very much.