Friday, January 3, 2014

The Grooming Of Illinois Policymakers: Susana Mendoza

Following up on Dan Mihalopoulos's excellent piece on Concept, I thought I would do a series of short posts on public figures appearing on the CMSA website in the little testimonial video section. I've watched all of these videos--- they all have exactly the same format and are basically just political figures saying the generic types of things that political figures say in schools, except that they're really, really focused around the same questions. There are very few surprises, although there are some.

What I'm going to do is link each of these testimonials with the travel connections and other connections, and tie it back into Sharon Higgins' work (starting on page 11) detailing the Gulen Movement's talent for cultivating political figures.

Let's start with Susana Mendoza, our city clerk, who visited CMSA in early 2012 and answers the same questions everyone else answers. It's a bland sort of interview--- the only interesting bit is that she's clearly been fed the "100% acceptance rate to universities"* bit. Here she is:

Yes, yes, that's very nice. They've been working on Mendoza for a while. The Turkish American Society of Chicago and the Chicago Turkish American Chamber of Commerce, along with the Niagara Foundation, sponsored two junkets for her in 2008 and 2009, when she was the representative for Illinois' 1st House district in Springfield,

Mendoza later went on to sponsor HR0173 in 2011, which honors Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish imam who is currently in a death-struggle with the Turkish prime minister and who recently wished in a sermon that God would bring fire upon the houses of the people troubling him. Here's Mendoza's resolution itself, which I believe passed unanimously. I wish someone with press credentials would ask her where the text of this came from:

HR0173LRB097 11142 KXB 52563 r
2WHEREAS, The members of the Illinois House of
3Representatives are pleased to recognize Fethullah Gulen for
4ongoing and inspirational contributions to the promotion of
5global peace and understanding; and
6WHEREAS, A Turkish scholar, author, poet, preacher, and
7educational activist, Fethullah Gulen has inspired a worldwide
8social movement that promotes humanistic values and service and
9is known as the Hizmet Movement or the Gulen Movement; and
10WHEREAS, Based on the principle that each human being is of
11value, regardless of background, faith, or culture, the Gulen
12Movement offers a multifaceted approach to seeking world peace;
13it places a strong emphasis on intercultural understanding and
14the embracing of differences; it values compassionate acts of
15care and concern; and it promotes the importance of education
16in laying the groundwork for fostering better relationship
17between diverse populations; and
18WHEREAS, The Gulen Movement emphasizes the core concept
19that peace is a function of tolerance and dialogue; it offers
20"Living to let others live" as the foundation of a life of
21altruistic service and calls on the younger generation to
22combine intellectual enlightenment with spirituality to make

the world a better place; and
2WHEREAS, The strength of the universal values promoted by
3the movement has led to the creation of the Niagara Foundation
4in Chicago, which promotes academic research as well as
5grassroots activity as a means to bring about positive social
6change and dialogue; Fethullah Gulen and the movement for
7social justice he inspired are truly deserving of recognition
8for their impact on our global society; therefore, be it
11we commend Fethullah Gulen for his dedication to working
12towards a better world through education, service, tolerance,
13and the free exchange of ideas and extend to him best wished
14for continued success in all his endeavors; and be it further
15RESOLVED, That a suitable copy of this resolution be
16presented to Fethullah Gulen as a symbol of our respect and
I imagine that 2009 junket was a fairly orchestrated thing, given the panegyrical nature of that 2011 resolution. They probably rang a little bell in Saylorsburg when it passed. Mendoza was at one time a member of the House Trade and International Relations Committee; I can't tell from the record if she ever worked on Turkish-Illinois trade beyond the praise-be-to-Gulen resolution. It's a weird resolution, you have to admit.

After the 2009 trip, Mendoza made a phone-in appearance on Samanyolu TV, a Gulenist media outlet.

IL State Rep. Susana Mendoza interviewed on Samanyolu TV from Turkish Federation on Vimeo.

It all has the look and feel of your standard trade-relations type of junket follow-up, but in this case, the host organization is more in the business of advancing the goals of a transnational social-religious-political organization that is currently now in a tense competition with the actual Turkish government. Mendoza's appearance on Samanyolu is another feather in their cap.

 Incidentally, Mendoza's mom was evidently on either the 2008 or 2009 trip as well, which is always nice.

                                                                                  --Sharon Higgins

Mendoza's speech at the Niagara Foundation is here.  She says "irregardless" in this speech, which I adore. I probably voted for her.

Recently, as Sharon writes above,  Mendoza extolled the virtues of the Turkish American Society of Chicago in a nice letter. The society was sponsoring a student cultural/language event, --- and we'll be getting into these events in detail later, but you can read about it on p. 6 here. 

I have nothing against Ms. Mendoza; she seems like a decent person, and she's really only one of dozens of people being lobbied heavily to have positive feelings toward the worldwide Gulen Movement. She's certainly someone the Movement would try to cultivate; I usually think of her as the city clerk from UNO. She kicked off her campaign at an UNO school, surrounded by UNO stalwarts. She's got a grand from the d'Escoto window operation

and during her time in the legislature, she had a very compatible agenda. Right around the time of her Turkish delight, she co-sponsored SB612, which doubled the number of charter schools in Illinois set the ball moving on the ridiculously undemocratic state charter commission (the very commission that would later overrule CPS and install another Gulen school in McKinley Park).  A number of her co-sponsors on that project also found themselves being escorted around Turkey by Gulenist organizations.  She co-sponsored the 2009 voucher bill. That must have been an impactful year for her.

Like I say, she's not a bad person; she has many admirable positions. I don't think of her as an education politician--- outside of the vouchers and charters, there isn't much. I can't even find a reference to any other school visits besides charter schools, although surely there must have been some.

But she's certainly someone who's in the Gulen rolodex and being cultivated as a friend of the Movement. I won't be surprised if they give her one of their many awards in the near future.  And I point this out because the Movement is highly, highly secretive; it is extremely controversial overseas. It is devoted to a religious figure who is a central figure in an unfolding national power struggle in Turkey.  And its members run taxpayer-funded charter schools here in the city and around the country.

And I find that to be the most interesting thing about them.

Not sure who's next on the docket; there's a veritable parade of public figures recording generic video spots for CMSA available. If I've left out anything about the grooming of Susana Mendoza, please chime in.

By the way, it isn't clear to me that any of the Illinois public figures who have been circulated through Turkey on these junkets actually have to declare publicly any of these gifts of travel expenses. I don't think they do. Does anyone know?

                                 I have written a great deal on this college-acceptance metric in the past, as have others, but let me just say that if this metric is the shiny objects that makes you fall in love with charter schools, then critical thinking is not a strength of yours. 


I'm not criticizing the videos. They serve their purpose, I'm sure. They're not hugely awesome marketing pieces per se, but that's not their entire purpose, is it? Some of them appear to be filmed by kids, and I say kudos to kids for being involved...although when I think about the goals of the worldwide Gulen Movement, I think I'd rather just see kids talking about things they're learning rather than repetitively grilling strangers about how great their school is. The whole connection between children and the murky influence-building agendas of adults is one of the things that's got me looking harder at this entire issue.

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