17th of May Greetings from Ambassador Kåre R. Aas to readers of the Norwegian American Weekly

Photo courtesy of NAW Ambassador Kåre Aas was kind enough to meet Nils Anders WIk and hear his plight, but was ultimately unable to help.

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun
One example of the connections between our countries: Ambassador Aas humors NAW at an event at Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum, meeting with Nils Anders Wik.

Dear Readers,

At the Norwegian Embassy, we talk a lot about the strong ties between the United States and Norway. This isn’t just some abstract ideal; it’s something we put into practice every day. Whether we’re talking to members of the Norway Caucus in Congress, hosting policymakers for a symposium, or meeting with members of the American business community to discuss ways to further improve U.S.-Norway economic ties, the relationship between our two countries is always at the very top of our agenda.

You probably know that a big part of what an embassy does is to help people with passports, visas, and other consular matters. What you might not realize is that we also put a lot of energy and effort into preparing for a large number of Norwegian officials who visit D.C. throughout the year.

In recent months, our elected officials have kept us very busy. Just this year, Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende has visited Washington, D.C., on three separate occasions. Most recently, the Foreign Minister arrived in D.C. to participate in the World Bank Group’s Spring Meetings and to have bilateral meetings with many U.S. officials.

On the same day, Minister of Finance Siv Jensen and Minister of Children, Equality, and Social Inclusion Solveig Horne also arrived in Washington, after attending meetings in New York. Although we were very busy, the visits were a great success and helped further strengthen the U.S.-Norway relationship.
At the end of May, we will have one particularly notable guest; His Majesty King Harald will visit Washington State and Alaska.

Clearly, you can see, the level of collaboration between our countries is very high.

Although each of these visits has its own purpose, at its core each one illustrates a central truth: Norway has much to learn from America—and the reverse is also true.

Last year around this time, we were celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution. There were several Norwegian events around the world that helped celebrate this important document that has meant so much to our democracy. It was a wonderful celebration that I enjoyed very much.

I would argue that this year’s 17th of May is equally important—and so is next year’s, and the one after that. Not because of a particular milestone, but simply because of what the 17th of May represents: a chance to celebrate the things that truly matter in life. While the date honors the signing of our Constitution, Norwegians around the world celebrate the day as it honors our families, our friends, our communities.

We celebrate the 17th of May not with military parades or shows of nationalistic fervor, but with children’s parades, games, and a lot of ice cream. It is a day of happiness and joy—and the weather is always perfect.

Last year was the first time I celebrated the 17th of May in America. I traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to join in on their parade, games, and other planned festivities. This year I will be in Chicago and look forward to being somewhere else in the U.S. next year. What a delight it is to interact with people all around America, who are so proud of their shared Norwegian and American heritages.

That wonderful heritage is exemplified by the publication you’re reading right now, the Norwegian American Weekly. While there were once more than a hundred such publications in the U.S., there now remains only one. I look forward to each new issue as I always learn something new about the interactions between our two countries.

Gratulerer med dagen, as we say in Norway! Happy 17th of May to each and every one of you. I wish you a very happy and prosperous year, and as always, I look forward to meeting as many members of the Norwegian American community as I can.

Gratulerer med dagen!
Very truly yours,
Kåre R. Aas

This article originally appeared in the May 8, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.