April 6th, 2009 was a day of great symbolism and disappointment. Here in the United States a crowd of patriotic Hellenic-Americans gathered outside the United Nations to commemorate those Hellenes from Anatoliki Thraki who perished during the Hellenic Genocide (1914-1923), while on the same day, the President of the United States, Barack Obama made his first ever trip to the Republic of Turkey, the very nation which committed the Hellenic, Armenian and Assyrian Genocides. While in Turkey, President Obama visited and paid his respects to the founding ‘father’ of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal. The very same man whose hands were covered in the blood of millions of innocent Hellenes, Armenians and Assyrians, which he ordered exterminated. During this ceremony, President Obama was quoted as saying, “I am honoured to pay tribute to his name”. Honoured? A man with such high morals and ethics, like President Obama should not be ‘honoured’ to pay his respects to a mass murderer, would President Obama dare lay a wreath at the grave of Adolf Hitler, if such a grave existed?
President Obama’s sly diplomatic skills were put to the test while visiting Turkey. Although a firm supporter of recognizing the Armenian Genocide in the United States, he gently tip toed over the subject, careful not to use the word ‘Genocide’, as to not upset his Turkish hosts, yet during his campaign for presidency, then Senator Obama openly declared, “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide”. I guess truth, justice, and Human Rights are only good enough for drumming up financial support on the campaign trail.
The most disturbing aspect of this presidential trip comes with Mr. Obama’s handling of the indigenous Hellenic minority’s Human rights. Although a strong supporter of Hellenism during the campaign trail, Mr. Obama didn’t feel the need to meet with the religious leader of millions of Orthodox Christians around the world and in the United States, The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, something both his predecessors Bush and Clinton had done. Yet, he did feel it necessary to comment on the need to re-open the Halki Theological School, a Hellenic Orthodox Seminary that has been closed for several decades. Some within the Hellenic-American community, may hail this small comment on the need for the schools reopening as a ‘victory’, however, seeing that the schools re-opening is a key demand for European Union membership, his statement is as meaningful as ones parents reminding them that if they don’t finish their dinner, no dessert for you.
Perhaps I am too hard on our new President. Perhaps he will defend Hellenism and push for International Recognition of the Armenian Genocide, only time will tell. However, from where I am sitting, I wouldn’t hold your breath.