Prime Minister Stoltenberg’s New Year’s Address

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Guri Dahl

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Guri Dahl

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg addresses the country in honor of the New Year.

Fellow countrymen,

Two months ago, little Danica was born in Manila.

She is world citizen number seven billion.

In a few months’ time, a baby will be born who will bring the Norwegian population up to five million.

What will become of these two infants?

What kind of future awaits them?

These are the kinds of questions parents ask.

These are the kinds of questions parents have asked, throughout the ages and all over the world, in their first encounter with their newborn child.

At this magic moment, a lifelong contract is formed.

A contract of love that endures all things.

That is what makes it so infinitely distressing when a young person dies.

No parent should have to lose a child.

Many people were deeply affected by the events of 22 July last year.

Fathers, mothers, siblings and grandparents had to follow their loved ones to their graves.

It was heartbreaking.

I have thought of the survivors and the bereaved every day since 22 July.

How are you coping?

Why did this have to happen?

Five months on, we still need more knowledge in order to understand what happened.

2012 will bring new answers.

First, there will be the trial of the man responsible for these atrocities. Then, the commission will give its objective and balanced account of the events of 22 July.

This means that we will have to relive those tragic events.

I am confident that we will be able to do this.

Because the Norwegian people made history last summer.

First we were paralysed by the bomb attack and the shootings.

Then something happened.

We picked ourselves up, shook off the fear and reaffirmed our commitment to democracy.

We demonstrated this in processions where people carried roses and torches.

In funerals, churches and mosques, and as we gathered in front of TV screens.

We were united as one nation.

At this, life’s darkest moment, people discovered the best in themselves.

This has strengthened my faith in the goodness of humanity.

In hope.

And in the power that lies in the will of a nation.

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Children were also born in Norway on 22 July.

One of them was Thomas.

Today, he is a happy and contented little boy living in Lillehammer.

Thomas will have to live with the fact that his birthday will always be associated with tragedy.

We must make sure that that isn’t the whole story.

We must show that this crisis also brought out the warmth and dignity of the people of our country.

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Thomas and Danica will grow up on opposite sides of a shared world.

Our task is to show that there is far more that unites them than divides them.

That we grow as individuals when we are willing to learn from one another.

That we become stronger when we manage to respect differences.

That we achieve most when we dare to trust each other.

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One day, Thomas and Danica may become friends on the Facebook of the future.

Thomas will learn about Manila.

And Danica will see pictures of something completely new to her: the ski jumps in Lillehammer.

This is the Internet at its best.

At its worst, the Internet enables those holding totalitarian views to speak freely and unchallenged from the dark recesses of the World Wide Web.

We must respond with firmness whenever we encounter this.

We must use knowledge to expose them for what they are.

If we are to take responsibility for the future, we must speak out against extremism.

I urge you all to be good digital watchdogs.

Not in order to censor opinions or stifle debate.

We must be able to listen to views we find disturbing.

Views that may be irritating, provocative or even shocking.

But we must argue against them.

We must respond.

When we say “no, you’re wrong”, we are exercising freedom of expression in a responsible way.

We already do this around the lunch table at work.

Now the time has come to do so on the Internet.

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The first day of the New Year is almost over.

In 2012, we will continue to focus on the big issues:

Fighting global poverty.

Promoting peace.

Combating climate change.

We owe it to future generations.

These are overwhelming tasks.

It is easy to think that we can’t make a difference.

But we can.

Read Prime Minister Stoltenberg’s speech in its entirety at government.no.

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