Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 15, 2010 – Istanbul Journal

It is my last evening in Istanbul and my last personal blog on this trip. I will write about the conference on our work blog. You can read that early next week on

Today was the workshop. I presented a three hour session on Supply Chain Physics, a concept I have coined to enhance communication across the various functions in the organization and thus foster improvements. It was very good. The attendees were very engaged and asked great questions.

I got to see my friend Nurhayat Ulucan. She was supposed to come by for lunch but work and traffic had here coming by just as lunch was ending and I had to start my workshop. She drove an hour for a short visit. I really appreciate her doing that. She worked at Colgate and had a short term assignment in New York where we became acquainted. It was really good to see her again, see photos of her son, and hear how life after Colgate has been for her.

The most interesting part of this day was during lunch. Jim Ayers, another speaker from the US, and I sat at a table with two ladies: one a professor of engineering and the other a management consultant with a Big 4 firm. Both ladies had spent several years living in the United States. When they learned I was Armenian, they both commented on the meetings in Washington DC between Sarkisian and Erdoğan. They asked where I stood on these issues. I stated my position as politely as I could and it was clear that we disagreed but agreed to disagree. Both ladies related a very interesting story about coming to the US and living experiencing their first April 24th. Their stories were the same and independent. They were shocked and surprised at how their country was being portrayed. They were taken aback and unaware of any of this history. As a result, they both began to read and learn.

I do not think they were reading Taner Akcam, Richard Hovannisian, Michael Arlen, or Ahmet Altan. Basically, they believe that this issue is mostly one championed by the American-Armenian Diaspora. In a sense, we are the vanguard of the movement. But it is not just us. It is the entire Diaspora: the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those that survived. If the Genocide issue were somehow resolved, they wondered what the Diaspora would have to rally around. They also both gave the argument that it was a time of war and many people on both sides were sadly killed. There are a lot of gaps to be bridged and closed. If I learned nothing else on this trip, it is that perceptions right or wrong exist on both sides. I reflect on my own trepidations, mostly unfounded, about coming here. I really understood, intellectually, that there would be no issues with my last name, being Armenian here, or speaking Armenian openly for long periods of time.

I really believe there is a winner-loser psychology going on here. A hundred years after the facts, the winners don’t really take things as seriously or gravely as the losers. I have likened this before to the Americans and American Indians and I believe it is apropos. As an American, I feel bad about what was done. I cannot even say what we did as my people were not in any way involved. I feel empathy but I cannot see me taking a big stand. It is history. I am sure there are large numbers of American Indians who do not see it the same way. It all sounds eerily familiar.

It was a great experience. Istanbul is a great city and I had a wonderful visit. I look forward to making another trip here soon.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad it was you who was confronted with the 2 ladies. You are inordinately a kind and gentle man. I'm not sure I would have been so cool.