The Starfish Story - Original Story by: Loren Eisley - Ataturk Society of America (2024)

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…” I made a difference for that one.”

For those of us dedicated to public service the “starfish story” is the standard call to duty, knowing that each life you touch matters, even if it is only one. The Atatürk Society is dedicated to this principle. Over the years the Society has sought out individuals that have been touched by the vision of Atatürk, and has worked to teach others of the principles of Atatürk: that World Peace can only be achieved when everyone is counted and respected as equals. To date, the Society has promoted scholarly research, panel discussions, and other academic venues to further Atatürk’s vision of equality, scientific inquiry, and democracy. This Magazine, The Voice of Atatürk, serves not only as our official publication, it serves as a platform for global awareness and discussion of ideas that promote world peace. Every reader is encouraged to share articles, publications, or thoughts that further our mission. It is our firm belief that every voice matters, and every story inspires.

Determining what inspires others is a truly complicated task. To inspire an individual is possible, but yet a daunting task- ask any coach. To inspire an entire nation, is a remarkable task. To inspire individuals to be a nation, requires a miracle or genius. Since my time as President of the Atatürk Society I have heard many facts and stories about Atatürk that makes me believe that he was both, a miracle and a genius. I have also heard the terms “Kemalist” and “Atatürkcu” mentioned many times. I am yet to understand what they mean. Sometimes they are defined as opposite and conflicting thoughts, sometimes they are mentioned as the same ideals, and sometimes they are mentioned as a progression from one thought to the other. While there is a debate on which school of thought carries the ideology of Atatürk, the ultimate question is does it really matter? Is it enough to just talk about the principles of Atatürk?

A member recently asked me why we should bother with organizing discussions and other symbolic acts of carrying flags, or parading pictures of Atatürk. With all that is going on today, is it enough to just talk and walk. I honestly didn’t have an answer. Until another member shared his thoughts. The answer comes from understanding history. Our mission at the Atatürk Society is not to promote Atatürk, in and of itself. Our mission is to be vigilant about preserving the “truth” about who Atatürk was, and what his principles mean to Turkey and to society. The problem with “history” is implicit to the word choice itself. “History” derives from “his story” or “a subjective retelling of a story from a masculine perspective.” In the last year, I have noticed many articles being written about Atatürk that are raising questions about his role in “history.” In following the current discourse on Atatürk and his principles, the question to you as a supporter of Atatürk should be “why is the person making their statement?” what is the motivation for the article? What is the political context of the article? Realize that the proffered subject matter of the article is rarely the reason for its publication. It is my opinion that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk cannot and must not be viewed as something or someone that is distinguishable from the Republic of Turkey. He is the essence of what it is to be a Turk: he is each of us, and he is all of us that say “Ne Mutlu Turkum Diyene!”

We, the Board and membership of the Atatürk Society, will continue to promote scholarly debates to preserve Atatürk’s legacy, we also will continue in our duty as the children of Atatürk in promoting our mission of fostering world peace and secular democracy based on an understanding of Atatürk and his principles. We will talk the talk and walk the walk! We will continue to be steadfast in promoting his vision, and we will work tirelessly to ensure that his ideology is understood and preserved. In studying Atatürk’s lifework, I have no doubt that he was a believer in the “Starfish Story.” Atatürk, was a transformational leader that was able to create a nation one person, one village at a time. No matter how small or futile one’s actions may appear, actions matter. From Atatürk’s speech in Samsun to Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Talks and walks matter. One person, one life at a time, what we do matters. Not only will we continue to talk and walk, but we will work to make a difference in individual lives. This past year, with the support of our loyal friends and members, the Atatürk Society was able to make a real contribution in touching the lives of our “Mehmetciks” and their families. With your help we raised over $34,000.00. Thank you.

Iin the spirit of the “starfish story” and in partnership with the Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi, the Atatürk Society is hoping to expand its charitable and educational work by helping in the building of dormitories for girls in villages across Turkey. The simple truth is that many families are forced to give away their daughters as teenage brides out of economic necessity. Our goal, is to change the lives of these young girls! In the spirit of Atatürk’s vision of equality and democracy, we will work to change the life of one girl, one village at a time so that they can realize their potential. We are working on the logistics of organizing a national capital campaign, and in the near future you will be receiving our outreach brochure. When you receive it, I ask that you read it over, and if you believe like I do that it is vitally important to give every child a chance to learn, I ask that you give what you can to help us give these young girls a chance in life. Please ask your friends, your neighbors, your office mates, your children’s schools, your alma maters, and anyone else you can think of to help us in our cause. Every child matters. Every donation matters. Together we can help these young women the opportunity to be a living example of Atatürk’s vision.

Thank you for being a supporter of the Atatürk Society, and in believing in our mission.

The Starfish Story - Original Story by: Loren Eisley - Ataturk Society of America (2024)
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