Crown Prince Haakon has spent the past two years visiting schools all over Norway and talking about dignity. On Wednesday, around 200 high schools nationwide planned to celebrate “Global Dignity Day,” an annual climax to the young royal’s attempt to instill feelings of self-worth in Norwegian youth.
The crown prince launched his effort to reach out to Norwegian teenagers in 2008, after being part of an international initiative in 2006 that aimed to “promote the universal right that all people have to live a dignified life.” Today, Global Dignity Days will be held in 40 countries around the world.
The annual climax comes after a series of “Dignity Days” held around the country. At a typical “Dignity Day,” Crown Prince Haakon arrives at a school and students assemble for two hours, to listen to his inspirational message and discuss dignity in general.
His goal is to boost respect, tolerance and dignity across cultural lines, and thereby reduce bullying at the same time.
“I think everyone appreciates getting the crown prince for a visit,” Astrid Søgnen of the state education department told newspaper Aftenposten. She said she was impressed by his ability to converse with students during the first Dignity Day at Russeløkka School in Oslo.
The Dignity Day programs also offer a forum for students to share their own thoughts on dignity, and “be seen” by their peers and their teachers. Officials at the national athletics federation (Norges Idrettsforbund) are supporting the project, providing volunteers who also will work with students on promoting dignity and respect. Crown Prince Haakon held a speech for federation members on Monday.
The crown prince hasn’t been without his critics, however, even over such a seemingly benign topic as dignity. Philosopher Einar Øverenget points out that the royals are supposed to remain non-political, and discussions on respect and tolerance, for example, can quickly become political. He also worries that the crown prince’s dignity project can undermine public debate on dignity.
Undaunted, Crown Prince Haakon planned to spend Global Dignity Day himself with students at Bodø Videregående Skole (high school) in Nordland Country, along with another partner in the global initiative, philosophy professor Pekka Himanen of Finland. Crown Princess Mette-Marit planned to take part in Global Dignity Day events at Sogn Videregående Skole in Oslo.