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Turkish Cultural Center Friendship Dinner

By Henry Levy; Photos by Gloria Starr-Kins

When the Turkish Cultural Center chose the name “Friendship Dinner” for its annual gala it was certainly appropriate, relevant and echoed the philosophy of this vibrant organization. Turkey and America are good friends. The Turkish people and the American people, whether here or in Turkey are also genuine and long lasting friends.

This year’s event was held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel with about one thousand guests. It was held at the conclusion of Ramadan which ensured that everyone had a healthy appetite [Muslims fast during daylight hours for the entire month of Ramadan]. The keynote speakers could not have been better chosen as they were Senator Hillary Clinton and the Prime Minister of Turkey, Hon. Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Senator Clinton, making a return appearance from the 2006 Dinner, was warmly welcomed and her positive remarks about Turkey were greatly appreciated. She referred to the fact that the bridge between America and Turkey and the American and Turkish people will grow stronger and sturdier over the years to come building on an already solid relationship.

Prime Minister Erdogan gave a very positive message that religious and cultural diversities were viewed by Turkey as an “alliance of civilizations, not a clash of civilizations.” He also spoke of his global vision and promoted the stable investment conditions in Turkey as an opportunity for those businesspeople at the gathering to be aware of and profit from.

Other recipients of awards were Ray Kelly, Commissioner of the NYC Police Department and Mark Mershon, Assistant Director in Charge of the NY field office of the FBI. Among the honored guests were  Consul Generals from many countries, NY elected officials, members of the press, prestigious universities, non-governmental organizations and the business community.

The Turkish Cultural Center [TCC] was formed only two years ago as a private not for profit organization. Its stated goal is “not only to promote Turkish Culture and heritage but also embrace our American heritage and unite in the global effort to bring together the voices of tolerance and goodwill within and beyond our community.”

The TCC is located at 560 Lexington Avenue in New York City. They can be reached at 212-696-1060 or to learn more and become aware of all their programs visit them at:

The evening was a wonderful celebration among friends. These days, in the world in which we live, one can not have too many friends. It is especially important to cultivate positive relations with Muslim countries, in particular those who may be able to influence others and show by example how all people, regardless of religious and cultural orientation, can coexist, mingle and learn from each other in the spirit of peace and understanding. 

1. Turkish PM, Hon. Recep Tayyip Erdogan;
2. PM Erdogan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Babacan & US Sen. Hillary Clinton;
3. US Sen. Hillary Clinton;
4. Haldun Yavas, Exec. Dir. Turkish Cultural Center presenting award to Mark Mershon, Asst. Dir. NY Office of FBI;
5. Ekmelletin Ihsanoglu, Sec’y Gen. of Organization of Islamic Conference & Baki Ilkin, Turkey’s UN Amb.
6. Ray Kelly, Commissioner of NYPD;
7. Zeynep Babacan, wife of Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Minister;
8. Felix Augustine, Consul Gen. of Haiti;
9. Ivan Surkos, Consul Gen. of Slovakia & wife Lubica;
10. Dr. Gabor Horvath, Consul Gen. of Hungary & wife Gabriella Lonkai;
11. Stein Willusteid, Exec. Dir. of World Conf. of Religions for Peace & wife;
12. Osmo Lipponen, Consul gGen. of Finland;
13. Julia Machado, Consul Gen. of Angola; 14. Dr. Brigitta Blaha, Consul Gen. of Austria.