Occasionally, delegations of state legislators from Virginia, and other states, have been the guests of governments of friendly nations for the purpose of improving communications and economic development opportunities. Taiwan and Israel were among the earliest to suggest that exchanges would be beneficial to both the host and the visiting parties.
In addition to the Taiwan trip, this year two different legislative delegations visited Turkey. A total of 14 legislators and several spouses visited Turkey. My wife, Nancy, and I were privileged to participate in the second visit. Participants paid for their own travel to and from the host country. Living and in-country travel expenses were paid for by the American-Turkish Friendship Association. The first Turkish visit, which took place in May 2010, included several Virginia Senators as well members of the House of Delegates and their spouses. The second visit that included one Senator and three delegates from Virginia, as well as a representative of the Mayor of the District of Columbia. Delegate Betsy Carr of Richmond and Delegate Harvey Morgan and his wife, Mary Helen, and Senator Chap Peterson and his wife, Sharon, attended the second trip, that included visits to important cultural, religious, educational and government sites.
We were all impressed by the organization, as well as the extent and variety, of the Turkish experience. We spent considerable time visiting important institutions and historic sites of our host country. We spoke with national and local elected officials, discussed domestic and foreign policy issues, and visited with students, faculty, think tank staff and business leaders. Our stay included tours of educational institutions, grand mosques built more than 1000 years ago, the Topkapi Palace made famous in the U.S. as a site in the James Bond movie, “From Russia with Love,” a 1,000-year old lighthouse that is still in service, and other historic sites of the Christian and Moslem faiths, including Ephesus, where Mary, mother of Jesus, spent her last days..
We visited, a very impressive new high school for gifted students. The principal spent considerable time with us, explaining how the students were selected and how the new school was funded. It reminded some of us of our charter schools
We enjoyed a boat ride on the Bosphorous Strait and visited the unique community of Cappadoccio, where families lived and worked in caves thousands of years old. .
We also visited the Turkish Parliament, spent the afternoon with the Mayor of Sile, a busy port city.
We visited families in the port city of Ezmir and we also spent the evening on the compound of a family whose business is manufacturing and distributing Pelikan pens throughout the world.
Our final site visit was to Capadoccio, a community begun before the birth of Jesus, whose residents inhabited and expanded desert edifices created long before from wind and water. The residents of this ancient community expanded these cave-like structures to house and defend thousand of Turks.
The families, individuals and leaders we met were very proud of their Moslem heritage, as well as their commitment to being a secular democracy and maintaining and enhancing their friendship with the United States. I am hopeful and optimistic that visit like ours will help to improve opportunities for cultural and educational exchanges between the U.S. and Turkey
Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org