A 17th of May greeting from the ambassador
Gratulerer med dagen!
ANNIKEN RAMBERG KRUTNES
Norway’s ambassador to the United States
For the first time since 2019, Norwegians are able to celebrate the 17th of May as it is meant to be celebrated—with family, friends, and the whole town or city coming out to celebrate with parades, eating, singing, marching bands, games, and speeches. It is cause for celebration that we can safely gather again on the most important day of the year for Norwegians!
Typical 17th of May speeches often reflect upon the values underpinning Norwegian society: democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. This year, those values are threatened in a more fundamental way than we have seen for a long time.
This year, Russia invaded Ukraine, one sovereign nation initiating an act of war against another, utterly ignoring the diplomatic options that were open to it.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a brutal attack on a free country and an innocent people who are now being subjected to unimaginable suffering,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in a statement.
Around the globe, we see violations of countries’ sovereignty and curtailment of people’s fundamental human rights, which is why we need our allies, our rights, and our belief systems more than ever.
In 1814, at the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars, under the Treaty of Kiel, Norway was promised to Sweden as part of the spoils of war. Inspired by the wave of Enlightenment thinking that was sweeping Europe and America at the time, Norwegians said no. They felt that they deserved to have their own personal freedoms, sovereignty, and control over their own destiny.
Norway declared its independence. Taking major cues from the U.S. Constitution, ratified 26 years earlier, Norway’s 112 founders quickly developed the document we celebrate on the 17th of May, the one that would provide the blueprint for Norway that endures to this day.
Our constitution says that we are a country that values the individual. That human rights are worth defending. That people matter more than the state.
These ideas may feel like common sense now, but at the time they were drafted, they must have seemed radical.
Our society is built on reason and truth, and it is steeped in openness and tolerance, and our founding document reinforces those ideals.
Today, the American and Norwegian constitutions have endured while others have come and gone. Of course, Norwegian society has changed in many ways since 1814, and our constitution and government have changed in kind. One change is that members of a Norwegian cabinet answer to our Storting (parliament), the national assembly elected by the people every fourth year. If the cabinet or individual members do not have the confidence of our Storting, resignation follows.
We sometimes take for granted our ability to speak out against our own governments, our freedom to move freely about our own countries, or our right to a trial — rights our constitutions give us, rights that people in some countries will never know.
This is what we mean when we say the United States and Norway have a shared set of values.
It is fitting because our countries’ fates have been entwined in so many ways.
Norway sees America as its closest friend and ally. We are, and always will be, deeply grateful to the United States for its assistance during and after World War II. We stood together during the Cold War, and we’ve stood shoulder to shoulder in recent conflicts around the globe. We are both founding members of NATO and take our commitment to the transatlantic alliance very seriously. Both countries are providing aid to Ukraine.
This 17th of May, I hope you will do all of the traditional 17th of May things: march in a parade, wave flags, and eat too many hot dogs and too much ice cream. But I hope you will also take a moment to contemplate the ideals that this day stands for, the freedoms we as Norwegians, as Americans, and as Norwegian Americans enjoy every day.
This article originally appeared in the May 6, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.