“I did not expect to respect a U.S. President,” said Mutlu Sen, the Blgi student who took part at the meeting of Turkish university youth with Barack Obama in Istanbul last week. But he admits that the encounter changed his feelings. “During the conversation, he behaved so sincerely that I thought for a moment that I was listening to a friend,” sad Sen.
President Obama wound up his state visit to Turkey with an Istanbul city tour and a meeting with some 100 students from various universities at the impressive Ottoman Armory, Tophane-i Amire, now a cultural center affiliated with the Mimar Sinan University.
Mutlu Sen, a 3rd year Financial Mathematics students from Istanbul Bilgi University also said that there were no strict rules imposed on the students participating at the meeting. They were only told not to stand up abruptly when President Obama approached them to shake hands. “That was probably for security reasons,” said Sen.
“As a post-imperialist country and the center of world capitalism, I did not ever expect myself respecting either the U.S. or its presidents,” explains Sen his feelings before the meeting. But he adds that Obama impressed all the participants by his modesty and sincerity.
“The atmosphere he created was so genuine that the student crowd felt respect for him and also hope for world politics in the future,” said Sen.
“Maybe it was an image-building session for the U.S. But whatever it was, I felt that the president was not putting on an act for us,” he added.
Sen thinks that the president’s persuasiveness stems from his realistic assessment of both his personal and governing capabilities. According to Sen, Obama refrained from making big promises like achieving world peace in a short time or stop global warming immediately. “In fact he made a point of attracting the ordinary people’s attention to these issues,” he said.
Obama’s approach to world problems was factual and the modest way in which he expressed his belief in democracy are signs that he is going to make changes in the world order instead of establishing a “one-man dictatorship,” Sen underlined.
“There were no challenging questions”
Sen complained about the lack of challenging question from the participants. “Only 6 of the 99 participants had the opportunity to ask questions to the president because of time shortage,” he said. “I guess, that is why we cannot blame the students,” he added.
Sen also explained that the Bilgi students who participated at the meeting with Obama were selected by the Bilgi Youth Studies Unit. “The U.S. Embassy commissioned the unit to select the students,” he said.