New Year’s Greetings from Ambassador Kåre R. Aas to readers of The Norwegian American
Sometimes it feels like just yesterday that I began my term as Norway’s Ambassador to the United States, but the calendar tells me that somehow it has already been three years. It’s amazing how quickly the time can pass, isn’t it? That’s why I find that it’s a good idea to take time at the end of the year to look back at the 12 months that have passed, as a reminder of how far we’ve come.
In the past year, as in all years, we’ve celebrated the Norwegian–American relationship. The bilateral relationship between Norway and America has, in my opinion, never been stronger.
As I’m fond of pointing out, the U.S. Census shows that there are more people who identify as Norwegian American than there are people living in Norway! I find that fascinating. What better way to illustrate how thoroughly interconnected our two nations truly are? Our countries have extremely close ties, shared values, and intertwined histories.
For proof of how important Norway considers its ties to America, look no further than the official visits of members of our government. In 2016, our Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Minister of Defense were among many notable members of the Norwegian government who paid official visits to the United States.
Foreign Minister Børge Brende and Defense Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide visited America many times, most recently in December, and will return in the New Year to meet with the incoming administration. Norway considers America our closest and strongest ally, and the ministers’ frequent visits are proof of the importance of the relationship.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg was invited to the White House in May for the U.S.–Nordic Leaders’ Summit, an unprecedented meeting of the minds, invited by President Obama. This was a nice acknowledgment that the Nordic countries have certain ways of doing things—economically, politically, and socially—that might be of interest to other nations.
Those who are interested in learning more about those ways might consider picking up a copy of Nordic Ways, a book of short, insightful essays written by distinguished authors from all five countries representing a broad spectrum of Nordic life. Published earlier this year, it’s an engaging, informative read, featuring essays by more than 50 experts from all walks of life.
In 2016 we’ve also seen steadily increasing seafood exports from Norway to the United States. This is very good news! Norwegian salmon, cod, and halibut make excellent additions to any dinner. Rest assured, however, that this is not a one-way trading relationship: I try to do more than my share of sampling the local cuisine in every part of America I have the good fortune to visit as part of my official duties.
Another Norwegian export of which I’m particularly proud: chess. The young prodigy Magnus Carlsen continues his dominance of the game, with his successful defense of his World Chess Championship against Sergey Karjakin one short month ago. I had the great pleasure of hosting Magnus at my residence in D.C. earlier this year, with the chance to take him on in a game of chess. Sadly, I didn’t win—but I’m proud to mention that I hung in there for 15 moves.
As I alluded to earlier, I’ve done a lot of traveling this year, to many parts of the United States, which has given me the chance to meet so many wonderful, fascinating people. As much as I enjoy Washington, it’s always nice to get out and meet people from other parts of the country, to see how they work and live, and to learn what they’ve got on their minds. In 2016 alone, I visited Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, South Carolina, Texas, New York, Illinois, Washington State, Alaska, Minnesota, Ohio, Florida, and California. I look forward to further travels in the year to come and hope to have the chance to meet many of you readers.
We’re now wrapping up the Embassy’s 20th annual Norwegian Christmas in Washington, D.C., where we have an enormous, beautiful Christmas tree on display right in the middle of the city’s Union Station. We had a beautiful ceremony at the end of November where we gave the tree to the citizens of America, as we do every year, as thanks for their assistance during World War II and for their friendship ever since. The tree and the ceremony are excellent symbols of the close relationship between our countries and epitomize what the term “Norwegian American” is all about.
Thanks for a wonderful 2016. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, safe, and prosperous 2017!
Kåre R. Aas
Ambassador of Norway to the U.S.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 30, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.