New Year speeches true to tradition

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Norway’s monarch and prime minister held their traditional New Year’s speeches, with commentators noting they were heavy on the “feel good” factor. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg even claimed that that “the American Dream” is alive and well, in Norway.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg made what some commentators noted may be his last New Year's speech on national broadcaster NRK, given his government's poor showing in current public opinion polls. He didn't mention the upcoming national elections in September. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg made what some commentators noted may be his last New Year’s speech on national TV, given his government’s poor showing in current public opinion polls. He didn’t mention the upcoming national elections in September. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

The prime minister, who addresses the nation on national television and radio at 7:30pm on January 1st, and the king, who speaks on New Year’s Eve, generally avoid political issues and appeal instead to the hearts of Norwegians and the success of their social welfare state.

Stoltenberg stressed, for example, how well off most Norwegians are in general, compared to others around the world, and how it’s all based on fellowship and a simple “contract” between individuals and the state: “Everyone must contribute according to their ability, and everyone will get what they need.” He described Norway as land made up of “5 million individuals, woven together through mutual trust,” and daring to have an ideal of “an inclusive, secure country” of equal opportunities.

“The Americans have their dream, we have the Norwegian model,” Stoltenberg said, speaking from his official residence behind the Royal Palace. “Our way may not sound so exciting, but it provides more security. When we combine freedom and security, more can fulfill their own dreams.” He said he thinks it is “easier to fulfill the American Dream in Norway than in America. We should be proud of this … it makes us who we are.”

Stoltenberg, whose mother died last fall, started off his speech by noting that 2013 will mark the centennial of women’s right to vote in Norway, and hailing strong women over the decades before and after that right was achieved. He did not specifically mention the death of his mother, who was a champion of women’s rights and helped form Norwegian laws that made it easier for women to work outside the home, but he did name pioneering strike leader Fernanda Nissen, the late athlete Grete Waitz and former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. Such “courageous women” are the role models, he said, for the “bold vision” Norwegians have for their country.

Some commentators noted that it may have been Stoltenberg’s last speech as prime minister after two four-year terms in office, since his coalition government parties are running behind the opposition in public opinion polls. National elections will be held on September 9, and a new conservative coalition is keen to take over. Stoltenberg didn’t mention the upcoming election, saying only that Norway ‘is not a perfect country, but it is a good country” that’s “moving in the right direction” before he moved on himself to mention some specific role models and various events of the past year.

For the full text of Stoltenberg’s speech, click here (external link).

King Harald, meanwhile, also spoke of individuals he’d met throughout the year, and thanked Norwegians for “the close encounters” both he and his family “are so lucky to experience.” He noted how both he and Queen Sonja had turned 75 during the past year, and that his sister Princess Ragnhild had died. “I want to express thanks for all the greetings we have received, for all the warmth we have felt from the people through both joy and sorrow” during the year, he said.

He then went on to urge Norwegians to “be the best” they can, regardless of “how difficult life can be.” While he was “born to fill a pre-determined role,” doing one’s best, he feels, “is the most important role we all have.” He urged parents to spend more time with their children, for Norwegians to value their elderly “who have a lot to contribute,” and to be better at consulting youth also.

He also stressed a need to look at integration with “new eyes,” because people “shall be different.” In order for various cultures to live together, he said, it’s necessary “to respect everyone’s differences, agree on basic human rights and are able to talk together.” No single persons shall be able to dictate to the majority that wants fellowship, instead, King Harald said, “various cultures should be able to live side by side and enrich one anothers’.”

The king also tackled the issues of loneliness, lauded the bravery and compassion of individuals who have spontaneously helped others in dramatic situations, and praised the “everyday heroes” he meets himself, also those serving Norway overseas in both the military, foreign service and humanitarian organizations.

For the full text of King Harald’s remarks, click here (external link, Norwegian only).

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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