Armenian News Network / Groong


Armenian News Network / Groong
April 12, 2010

By Kay Mouradian, EdD

MARCH 1914

The hands on the clock on the wall were nearing 4 o'clock. Glancing at the time, Henry Morgenthau quickly buttoned his suit jacket as his wife, Josie, stood in front of the mirror putting on another coat of lipstick. Morgenthau did not want to be late for this reception where he would formally introduce his wife to the American colony. Grasping his wife's hand, the American ambassador rushed his wife down the stairs from their living quarters to the entrance of the ballroom.

A middle-aged woman with a wide smile on her face reached for both of Josie's hands. `Welcome to Constantinople.'

`Josie,' Morgenthau said, `I want you to meet Dr. Mary Patrick. She is the President of Constantinople College for Girls.' He watched his wife release Dr. Patrick's strong grip and observed the two women as they greeted each other. Mary Patrick, energetic, slightly plump, aggressive and confident, reminded him of his wife.

`My husband has told me about you and his pleasant visits to your campus, Dr. Patrick. He says you are an inspiration.'

Mary Patrick looked as if she were about to blush. `Your husband is the one who inspires people. I haven't had a chance to tell him,' and she looked directly at the ambassador, `but after his talk to my senior class...he was passionate about the need for trained workers...more than half of my seniors now say they want to devote their lives to social service.'

`I'm touched.' Morgenthau said and placed his hand over his heart.

`Mrs. Morgenthau,' Mary Patrick said, `I look forward to visiting with your at my college.' She walked back into the ballroom and went straight to the buffet table. There was a lilting bounce in her steps.

Thirty minutes later, seventy Americans were feasting and milling around the ballroom. Muted sounds of conversation filled the room. Educators gathered at one end and chatted, missionaries grouped together and exchanged stories, and laughter from the smartly dressed business men was boisterous.

Morgenthau watched his American colony welcoming his wife. His face was radiant with pride. Josie was the center of attention. She was conversing with Dr. Gates, President of Robert College and he walked over to join them. He listened as Dr. Gates, with his academic voice, tell his wife how the college had started with a small private home fifty years ago.

`It's not small anymore, Josie,' Morgenthau said. When I first visited Dr. Gates, I was struck with the campus. The buildings are so American I felt as if I were in New England.'

Beaming, Dr. Gates responded. `Most of the American institutions in Turkey have that aura, but I like to think our campus is one of the most beautiful.'

`I look forward to an invitation,' Josie said.

`Soon,' Dr. Gates promised. `Most of our students are from Turkey, but some come from as far away as Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania. In fact, today, seven of the nine Bulgarian cabinet members are graduates of our college.'

`That's very impressive. It suggests an American influence in Bulgaria,' Josie responded.

`I don't think the Turks appreciate the influence,' Morgenthau said with a nervous laugh. `Remember the Balkan War?'

`We did not encourage our Bulgarian students to separate from the empire,' Dr. Gates protested earnestly and was obviously upset by the inference. His round face turned red. `If the way to rule a country is to keep the population illiterate, then I refuse to be an accomplice to that system of government.' He walked away in a huff.

Morgenthau was stunned. He started to follow Dr. Gates, but Josie gently pulled on his sleeve. `Let him cool off,' she said. They watched him approach Dr. Peet, the President of Bible House and treasurer of the American missions in Turkey. Within minutes, Dr. Gates returned with the mild mannered Dr. Peet.

`Ambassador, you struck a sensitive nerve, Dr. Gates said. My anger surfaced, and I should apologize.'

`That's not necessary.' Morgenthau reached out and put his hand on Dr. Gates shoulder.

`Our friend Gates,' Dr. Peet said and extended his palm toward his colleague, asked for my support.' His soft voice carried a gentle, but firm, strength behind his words. `Are you aware, Mr. Ambassador, that the Turks never make things easy for us? They have been and are still suspicious of our motives.'

`It is difficult for them to understand that we truly want to give education and hope to those who otherwise would never have that opportunity,' Dr. Gates added.

`I have seen the good works you do here,' Morgenthau said trying to ease the misunderstanding, `and, yes, I am aware the Turks cannot comprehend our approach to philanthropy. They can't accumulate wealth, so it is difficult for them to entertain the idea that people truly enjoy donating large sums of money to uplift humanity.'

`I hope you did not take offense to my behavior,' Dr. Gates said.

`I'm on; your side Doctor!' Morgenthau gave him a disarming smile and the tension was defused.

`Ambassador Morgenthau,' Dr. Peet said, `I have heard that you and Mrs. Morgenthau are planning a trip to Palestine.'

`Yes. I plan to visit the entire empire, probably in three trips, and my first is to the cities along the seacoast.' Morgenthau's voice took on the tone of a businessman assessing a new venture. `I want a better feel for the country. I need to meet the missionaries and visit their buildings. It's the only way I can properly represent them and their claims.'

`We are grateful for this attention,' Dr. Peet said. `It gives our missionaries credibility with Turkish officials.'

`That's part of my job.'

`My husband is a man who gets things done.' There was no concealing the tone of pride in Josie's words.

`My relationship with Turkish leaders is quite good,' Morgenthau said. `In fact, Talaat has notified the governors of my trip and has asked me to make recommendations where I see things that need improving.'

`Ambassador,' Dr. Peet said and nervously shuffled his feet, `if you plan to visit Palestine, have you considered getting permission from the Sultan to visit the Caves of Machpelah?

`The graves of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?'

`Yes. Did you know that non-Moslems are not allowed to visit the caves?' He hesitated and looked directly into Morgenthau's eyes. `Except for royalty and ambassadors and their parties.'

Morgenthau laughed and said, `Are you, a Christian, saying you would like to accompany me, a Jew, to the site when I'm in Palestine?'

`Well, it certainly is an opportunity I'd hate to miss.'

Morgenthau smiled and said, `Let me think abut it.'

Dr. Peet opened the door and a flood of requests to visit the hallowed site rushed through. Before Morgenthau and his wife climbed the side of Mt. Hebron, his little party had grown to a pilgrimage of 26.

Professor Kay Mouradian is a health and physical education specialist
retired from the Los Angeles Community Colleges. Her publications
include Reflective Meditation: a Mind Calming Technique, A Guide for
Those Teaching Yoga in the Community Colleges, and she has also
contributed publications in several magazines and newspapers. Her
first novel, "A Gift In The Sunlight: An Armenian Story", now in its
second edition, was inspired by her mother's remarkable survival of
the Armenian Genocide.
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