There are two Mustafa Kemals. One the flesh-and-blood Mustafa Kemal who nowstands before you and who will pass away. the other is you, all of you here who will go tothe far corners of our land to spread the ideals which must be defended with your lives ifnecessary. I stand for the nation's dreams, and my life's work is to make them cometrue."
Atatürk stands as one of the world's few historic figures who dedicated their livestotally to their nations.
He was born in 1881 (probably in the spring) in Salonica, then an Ottoman city, now inGreece. His father Ali Riza, a customs official turned lumber merchant, died when Mustafawas still a boy. His mother Zubeyde, adevout and strong-willed woman, raised him and his sister. First enrolled in a traditionalreligious school, he soon switched to a modern school. In 1893, he entered a military highschool where his mathematics teacher gave him the second name Kemal (meaning perfection)in recognition of young Mustafa's superior achievement. He was thereafter known as MustafaKemal.
In 1905, Mustafa Kemal graduated from the War Academy in Istanbul with the rank ofStaff Captain. Posted in Damascus, he started with several colleagues, a clandestinesociety called "Homeland and Freedom" to fight against the Sultan'sdespotism. In 1908 he helped the group of officers who toppled the Sultan. Mustafa Kemal'scareer flourished as he won his heroism in the far corners of the Ottoman Empire,including Albania and Tripoli. He also briefly served as a staff officer in Salonica andIstanbul and as a military attache in Sofia.
In 1915, when Dardanelles campaign was launched, Colonel Mustafa Kemal became anational hero by winning successive victories and finally repelling the invaders. Promotedto general in 1916, at age 35, he liberated two major provinces in eastern Turkey thatyear. In the next two years, he served as commander of several Ottoman armies inPalestine, Aleppo, and elsewhere, achieving another major victory by stopping the enemyadvance at Aleppo.