Burak Guvensoylar

A New Hope

Recently, Burak Guvensoylar — our friend, colleague, and fellow co-founder of the Congressional Tech Staff Association (CTSA) — departed this world for the next. His service was filled with stories about his kindness, enthusiasm for his work, and his love for sharing it with others.

Burak didn’t just leave us with happy memories to fill the hole from his absence in our lives; he left us with an example to follow, a way to live life purposefully with love and passion for something bigger than ourselves.

Burak was big into Star Wars. He was seldom without his signature Darth Vader coffee mug that had a little battery-powered stirrer at the bottom, and one of the most unexpectedly touching parts of his service was the piano rendition of the Force theme. The composition is always powerful, but in that context it was filled with an odd, deeply affecting mix of hope and heartbreak.

In A New Hope, Luke Skywalker has finally found his purpose and mission, and his guide in Obi Wan Kenobi. Obi Wan was a true Jedi down to the marrow of his bones and had come to impart that truth to Luke. Just when it seemed like they would be on their quest together for the long haul, Darth Vader corners Obi Wan and it seems like hope is lost. Then, a moment of clarity: Obi Wan warns that it won’t be so simple to take him out. The action slows as Obi Wan raises his light saber and the Force theme quietly begins to play again, and he vanishes as Vader impotently tries to strike him down.

As a group of staffers trying to follow the same path — tech nerds coming to Washington to shape our world for the better — Burak is our Obi Wan. It’s easy to fall into conventional D.C. thinking about policy and the relationships involved as a means to an end. It is easy to be cynical about “networking.”

But Burak is an example of an alternative, better way to live.

Anecdote after anecdote at his funeral carried the same core message: we loved him because he really cared about what he was doing and the people he was trying to do it for. He exemplified that ethos and perpetuated it in his interactions. He encouraged us to follow the things we were passionate about. He looked out for us and helped us find opportunities and make a community.

Even as he was facing his own all-consuming battle, Burak kept working to make tech policy better and support his fellow staffers. Up until the day he bravely stared Vader in the face and left this plane of existence, he spent most of his energy not on himself but on others and his mission. The core values that drew us all to him won’t just be carried on by his friends and family — they are baked into the fabric of the Congressional Tech Staff Association he helped create. Those of us who are part of it, past present and future, will carry his legacy with us and do our best to live up to his standard. And we hope you will, too.

-CTSA Officers and Founding Members