Heavy fog spoiled the New Year’s fireworks in Oslo, but the monarch and the prime minister carried on their tradition of delivering New Year’s speeches as usual over the holiday. Speaking from their residences in the capital, both called on Norwegians to basically just be nicer to one another in the year ahead.
It’s the only day of the year when Norway’s two top leaders directly address the nation in relatively short speeches aimed at inspiring and comforting Norwegians. This year, their content was remarkably similar.
“Let us use 2015 to give each other time for a good conversation, to pay attention to one another and to say nice things to one another,” King Harald V urged his national television audience on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “We need each other’s listening presence.”
The 77-year-old monarch based most of his remarks around those he registered earlier in the year when he’d had a visit at the Royal Palace from a group of small children attending a local day care center. In the spirit of Norway’s bicentennial year, the children had written their own “constitution” based on what they thought was important. The king chose to dwell on three portions of it: “We shall say nice things, older children shall help younger children, and everyone must take care of our world.”
King Harald, standing behind his desk and reading off hand-held notes, linked the children’s “constitution” to an ongoing campaign against the bullying in Norway that has spread to social media. “Communication on the Internet has unfortunately lowered the barrier for what we allow ourselves to say about and to each other,” the king said. “It’s painful to hear all the stories about bullying, both at school, on social media and at the workplace.” He urged the bullies that “you have other sides in you that you can use for something good.” He urged the victims of bullying to “talk with someone, and hang on to that person you are.”
Prime Minister Erna Solberg also began her speech by claiming that “we human beings are here for each other,” from parents’ raising their children to a neighbour’s helping hand and a colleague’s supportive words. She hailed the Norwegian health care workers who have traveled to west Africa to help ebola victims, emergency workers who helped flood victims in Norway and the Nobel Peace Prize winners who work for children’s rights to go to school.
Solberg, who also delivered her New Year’s speech standing, dwelled on the problem of bullying as well, relating the story of a 13-year-old boy who committed suicide after years of being bullied. “Children, youth and adults must contribute to stopping bullying and exclusion,” Solberg said, adding that parents also “must take responsibility for how our own children behave.”
On more political matters, Solberg also spoke of new health care initiatives, Norway’s need to diversify its economy away from oil and the need “to make a difference” in the international effort to limit climate change. “Norway’s emissions will also come down,” she said. She referred to the “international crises” of last year, calling Russia’s behaviour towards Ukraine “unacceptable, dangerous and a clear violation of the rule of law” while noting how “brutal” Islamic extremists “have frightened an entire world.”
King Harald must refrain from political statements but mentioned that 2015 will mark 70 years since the end of World War II, when his own family had to flee Norway after it was invaded. “We cannot take peace for granted,” he warned before summing up what the day care center children had defined as important. “I hope we can manage to bring out more of the child in all of us,” he said.