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USA: The King's speech at St. Olaf College

Speech given by His Majesty King Harald at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota during an official visit to the United States 13 - 22 October 2011.

Distinguished guests,
Dear friends,

Thank you for another unforgettable day here at the wonderful campus of St Olaf College. This is the third time the Queen and I have the honor of visiting you, and once again I am struck by the charm and the peacefulness of the campus and the surrounding Minnesotan landscape.

It has been said that God created the land, while people created the cities. If that is true, Northfield and St. Olaf has been lucky both with Gods and men’s work. Such a beautiful place must also harbor good people.

There could not be a starker contrast to the tragedy that struck Norway and our young people in particular, so hard on 22 July. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, the American people, for your support and compassion in the wake of those terrorist attacks.

Change is certain, - progress is not. We all, people and countries share a common future, its risks and responsibilities, its hope and progress. To most of us, impacting the world seems like too much of a challenge. But in one way or another we are all born with a desire to do good and leave a legacy.

One Norwegian who lived after these principles was our national poet, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. He was a tower in his own country and an important nation-builder. On his tour of America in the early 1880es he was also in contact with Bernt Julius Muus, the founder of St. Olaf College.

Bjørnson’s project in life was to be true and to live in truth. He was always concerned with the living conditions of ordinary people in society and he stood up for injustice and unfairness. “The good deeds will save the world”, Bjørnson said. He lived as he talked.

My heart has always been touched by the words and deeds of men and women who are dedicated to making a difference. Norwegians who came to America have made that contribution. They have made an extraordinary impact in the process of building this great country in a number of areas, - not the least in higher education, of which you are a brilliant example.

Life teaches us that we do not live our lives in an isolated manner. What we say and think and do is reflected in the lives of others. And what our forefathers have said and thought and done before us is likewise reflected in our lives today. Norwegian immigrants are great representatives of these fundamental values.

During World War II I had the privilege to live in this country myself, since my family was forced to flee Norway. President Roosevelt reached out, and the United States provided my mother, my sisters and me with a safe harbor. While we missed our home and the rest of our family tremendously, we have fond memories from the five years we spent here.

My family were not the only Norwegians to look to America for safety and a better life. Many of you are here today because your ancestors moved to America in the Great Migration. Thanks to their explorer spirit and hard work, between five and six million people in the US call themselves Norwegian Americans. Your lives and your presence here today, is a testimony of our shared traditions and cultural heritage.

Let me commend St. Olaf College for your achievements during the years. Today I know that you are regarded as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation. Indeed you reach out far beyond the classroom and into society at large with your famous choir and other important aspects of the institutions life.

A community’s voice is also heard in the stories it tells and the documents it leaves behind. The Norwegian American Historical Association, housed here at the College, has done a remarkable job of collecting, organizing, and displaying information about the lives and hardships of the Norwegian immigrants. At the same time as showing us the past, the Norwegian American Historical Association also sheds light on our present.

Strong connections continue to bind America and Norway together. Student exchange, love stories, letters and visits across the Atlantic still contributes to the development of our strong ties. I wish you all the best in preserving these values.

The Queen and I thank you for the warm welcome we have received here at St. Olaf College. We both look forward to further deepening the bonds between this great institution and Norway.

Tusen takk!

 

14.10.2011

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