Her speech from May 15, 2016
Dear guest, fellow Norwegians.
Most of the Norwegian national hymns describe the struggle Norwegians, as a people, has been through to build a life for themselves.
- Being rewarded by their freedom and in the beauty of the nature around them. I think in many ways this is also the story of Norwegians in the US.
I grew up at Karmøy, the historic island outside of Haugesund on the Norwegian west coast. Avaldsnes , the location of Norway's oldest royal town, where the famous Vikings King Harald l, King Haakon the Good, and King Harald Fairhair, as well as Olaf Tryggvason, the king credited with making Norway a Christian Kingdom, ruled.
My father was a sailor , and he came to visit the Norwegian Seamen church here in Brooklyn often, and told us about the Norwegian society here. Therefore it is very special for me being here today and celebrate together with you, it feels a bit like coming home.
I am truly impressed with the way you celebrate the Norwegian national day.
But most of all I am proud and honored to be able to celebrate this day with you.
And I would like to great you, the same way all Norwegians greet each other on this day. With congratulations:
Gratulerer med dagen!!
This is a greeting given in honor of the values we hold high.
Democracy – peace - freedom.
It is over 200 years since the Norwegian constitution was signed at Eidsvoll on May 17th .
In 1814 there lived about 900.000 people in Norway.
112 of them were chosen as representatives to the Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll.
Carsten Anker, who was the owner of the mill at Eidsvoll, lent out his house to this important work.
He was in the process of redecorating the house, and the dance hall on the second floor was not even finished.
But still.. there they were.
112 chosen men. Sitting on hardwood benches in an unfinished dance hall. - Making history happen.
We know now that the six weeks during which the constituent assembly was gathered at Eidsvoll, was a period of intense effort and frequent clashes between the delegates.
But the outcome was the most democratic constitution of its era.
The Norwegian constitution was greatly inspired by both the American and the French Constitution.
As you know, The US Constitution was groundbreaking in its time, by its proclamation of political freedom and human rights.
This was a key source of inspiration for the Norwegian constitution.
And because of this the American national day is still celebrated at the Norwegian constitutional building at Eidsvoll every 4th of July.
The constitutional building is now a museum and a center for democracy and constitutional history. Prior to 200 year’s celebration in 2014, the constitutional building was stripped down and redecorated to look as it did 200 years ago.
For the old dance hall, where it all happened, the conservators joked that this was not a “make over” but a “make under”.
The room is now as it was in 1814. It has plain white walls and hardwood benches.
For Norwegians the celebrations in 2014 was all about traditions and identity.
I think that most of us took some time to reflect on our common values. In a way we had an refreshed insight on what it means for us to be Norwegian.
This is something I believe that you know by heart.
You are Norwegians by blood and genes and traditions, but you are also Norwegians by choice.
Celebrating 17th of May means to cherish traditions.
One of our traditions is the traditional speech held in honor of the day. This is a speech that is supposed to remind us about the values we hold high.
I would like to honor, not only our common forefathers who gathered at Eidsvoll. I would like to honor your forefathers - the 900.000 people who have emigrated from Norway to USA through the last 150 years.
I think they must have been some of the bravest Norwegians that have ever lived.
In the middle of the 1880s about 30.000 people left Norway for USA every year.
I wonder how they all felt, when the ship left the docks back home, heading for open waters. Some of they had never been outside the valley or the villages where they came from, and some had never seen the ocean before. Now they were going to the other side of the world, all by their self. I suppose many of they were a bit scared. But probably there was a glimpse of adventure and hope there as well?
Because they all knew that whatever was waiting for them in America, meant more of a future then what they left behind.
My grandfathers on both my father and mothers side, left, but they came back and settle down back home.
Today Norway is considered to be a remarkably peaceful and safe place. Norway has been on top of the UN's list of developed countries for the 10th year in a row.
Had there been a similar index 150 years ago, the results would probably have been a lot different.
150 years ago Norwegians were the ones in desperate need of the chance to get a better life.
So the many who left Norway back then, left because they were hoping for a better future.
And for most of them their hopes came through.
Yours did as well.
Some of my relatives still live in the US, and it is always interesting to get to know about the family that is living here.
It might have been the bravest who left… and maybe is it this bravery that is the reason why so many Norwegians are so successful in what they do over here in the US.
Many large companies are dominated by Norwegian American interests. And I am amazed to see how you here in America mirror the development we have enjoyed back home and continue to show us the way in the interesting world we are living in today.
In Norway we have the expression “everybody has an uncle in America…”
Americans hold their heritage close to their heart and their identity.
But the bond across the Atlantic sea is, and has been, equally strong also from the old country.
Today we are living in the middle of the digital revolution.
A revolution that has brought people closer together.
Last year 350.000 of the visits at the Norwegian digital archives came from USA.
This means that 7 percent of the traffic on the website came from America.
The American novelist James Baldwin said
“Know from whence you came.
- If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”
I am touched and inspired to see how you cherish your Norwegian roots.
And I am impressed to see what Norwegians has made of themselves here in the states.
But most of all I am grateful for the close bond between the US and Norway. We share a common history – and a common future. Our prime minister just finished her visit to The White House and both B Obama and our Prime Minister Erna Solberg, underlined the good cooperation and deep friendship between Norway and America.
I understand that B Obama got to learn that there has been some changes since the Vikings first came to America and what he has experienced now from us.
From his gala speech at the White House, he said, “Now, we all know that our Nordic friends share a pride in their common Viking heritage. But I think we can all admit that the Vikings could be a little rough. They didn’t always have the best manners at the dining table. Their outfits were not always appropriate. But times have changed, and tonight, our Nordic friends are much better behaved. We are honored to have you here."
However there is actually a new Viking coming to America. With great interest for sailing, boatbuilding and Vikings, the project to build and sail the greatest Viking ship of modern times started.
The curator of the project, my good friend, Sigurd Aase, wanted this extraordinary ship to follow in the wake of one of the most challenging Viking explorations – the Viking discovery of the New World.
In late April 2016 Draken Harald Hårfagre, the world’s largest Viking ship built in modern times, left her home port in Haugesund, and sail off for a challenging voyage across the North Atlantic Ocean.
The aim is to explore and relive one of the most mythological sea voyages – the first transatlantic crossing, and the Viking discovery of the New World, more than a thousand years ago. History tells us about the Viking explorer, Leif Eriksson, who discovered America over 500 years before Christopher Columbus. The expedition is all about exploring the world, just like the Vikings did.
The project will, like Leif Eriksson, create intercultural meetings and inspire people to go beyond the horizon in a modern Viking saga. Along the traditional route, the ship will pass Viking settlements and new archaeological findings.
Reaching the American continent, Expedition America 2016 will sail on visiting ports in Canada and USA, and you will be able to meet her I New York when she' arrives in September this year.
I started my speech by saying that celebrating of our constitution day is a greeting given in honor of the values we hold high. Democracy – peace - freedom.
These values we still fight for in Norway but also around the world. We have a difficult situation in Europe with regional conflicts and many people that are leaving their country like some of the Norwegians did for many years ago. Despite the different reasons that make them leave, they are all looking for a better future. They are fighting for Democracy- peace and freedom. We are obliged to help them, just like America helped us in our hour of need. We will help them both in their own countries but also the people and refugees that come to Norway.
I am glad for having the opportunity to be here with you and celebrating May 17th.
And when we now celebrate and seek strength in our past, in our values principles of democracy, peace and freedom, we will move forward united and together.
Like our forefathers who set sail for a life full of promise and hard work, so shall we- again and again we seek wind in our sail and look forward to new shires full of hope, peace and opportunity.
And again Gratulerer med dagen !