A statesman turns 80

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Veteran diplomat and politician Thorvald Stoltenberg is the father of both a doctor, the prime minister of Norway and a daughter who’s a recovering heroin addict but who helped put the issue on the public agenda. On Friday Stoltenberg celebrated turning 80 by saying that he never thought he’d have such exceptional and different children, or such a good wife.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (right) published this photo of himself with his father on social media Friday, in honor of his father's 80th birthday. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet/Flickr.com

“Nor did I ever think I’d become foreign minister,” Stoltenberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday. His career has, in fact, included so much more, from a top spot in the Labour Party to years of diplomatic postings around the world and being an ambassador, to peace brokering in the former Yugoslavia, serving as the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees and heading the Norwegian Red Cross.

Stoltenberg spent much of his July 8 birthday at NRK’s headquarters in Oslo, being interviewed, accepting congratulations and handing out hugs. He’d already celebrated in advance with his entire family, all three generations, spending a week on Mallorca. Now it was time to greet the public.

“I’ve hoped to live to be 80 since I was 18,” he told NRK. He got his wish, and folks were literally standing in line to extend their greetings.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg published a special message to his father via social media, saying the family’s three-generational celebration in advance was “a good experience.” The prime minister who followed in his father’s footsteps as a politician for the Labour Party wrote further: “I have learned a lot from you, both as a father and a member of society. You are always concerned about people, showing care and thoughtfulness. And you are equally concerned about the work for peace and reconciliation. I’m proud of that.”

Both Stoltenberg and his wife Karin, also active in the Labour Party, remain active. Karin Stoltenberg has held local roles in city politics in Oslo lately, and Stoltenberg has been back in the news as he keeps working for dignity for drug abusers. While one of their two daughters and a son went into public service (Camilla Stoltenberg is a doctor and director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Folkehelseinstitutt, while Jens has been prime minister since 2005) his third child Nini got hooked on drugs. It’s been a long-time worry for all the Stoltenbergs and Thorvald himself was called on to head a commission looking into new forms of drug treatment. Its conclusions may lead to counseling instead of prison terms.

He claimed he viewed Friday as a normal day. “I have so much to celebrate every day, so there’s no big difference,” he told NRK.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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