17th of May greetings from Norwegian Ambassador Kåre R. Aas


Kåre R. Aas

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun
Ambassador Kåre Aas with HRH King Harald of Norway on a visit to Tacoma, Wash., in May 2015.

Dear readers of The Norwegian American,

So another 17th of May—Norwegian Constitution Day—is upon us. A day that is always cause for celebration for any Norwegian—or Norwegian American. As Ambassador of Norway to the United States since 2013, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of attending Constitution Day festivities in various parts of this great country. For this year’s celebration, I’ll be in Seattle, where they have a lot of big things planned.

By the time you read this, I will have had the pleasure of delivering a keynote address, on an early May visit to Seattle, on climate change action and green shipping, important environmental initiatives that are important to both the United States and Norway.

I will be about to attend the May 5 inauguration of Seattle’s Nordic Museum (formerly known as the Nordic Heritage Museum), at its stunning new home along Ballard’s working waterfront, in the heart of the city’s historic Nordic community and one of its most dynamic neighborhoods for arts, culture, restaurants, and nightlife.

First established in 1979 by a dedicated group of Nordic Americans, it’s the only museum in the United States that showcases the impact and influence of Nordic values and innovation in contemporary society. Its core exhibition, Nordic Journeys, tells the story of 11,000 years of Nordic history and culture, across all five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The museum’s mission is to share Nordic culture with people of all ages and backgrounds by exhibiting art and objects, preserving collections, providing educational and cultural experiences and serving as a community gathering place.

The fact that the museum has extensively remodeled and just had a grand reopening tells you all you need to know: Nordic Americans are proud of their heritage and strongly support efforts to promote it. The numerous 17th of May celebrations, large and small, all across America bear witness to the Norwegian segment of that pride.

That you are reading this in a publication called The Norwegian American speaks volumes. First, it attests to your interest in Norwegian heritage. Second, the publication’s name hints at the deep bonds between the two countries.

I think it’s important to remember that, first and foremost, the 17th of May is a day for children. We don’t celebrate with shows of military might or other displays of bombast. We celebrate with children’s parades and marching bands. With hot dogs and ice cream. So many hot dogs and ice cream.

I hope we will always keep that family-friendly sense of fun as part of our national day.

But there’s also a more meaningful reason we chose the 17th of May as our national day of celebration: it’s the anniversary of the signing of our constitution. The fact that we as a nation choose to celebrate a document on our national day says a lot about what we stand for as a people.

Signed on May 17, 1814, the Norwegian constitution is the second-oldest still in force in the world. Only the American constitution, on which ours is loosely based, is older.

It’s no coincidence that the Norwegian and American founding documents have much in common, for our countries have many similarities.

We believe in the sovereignty of the people. We believe in the separation of powers. We believe in individual human rights.

While these truths may seem self-evident to Norwegians or Americans, sadly they are still foreign concepts in some parts of the globe. So we must continue to work together to spread those ideals until they apply to all people, everywhere.

I’m confident that the bonds of trust and friendship between the people of our countries will only be further strengthened and deepened in the years to come.

I hope that this 17th of May, you will have an opportunity to attend a celebration near you. I hope you will have your fill of hot dogs and ice cream. But I also hope you will have a moment to reflect upon the ideals that are set forth in the document that inspired this day, and the document that inspired that document. The Norwegian and American constitutions, linked by history, linked by a belief in fundamental rights, are a testament to our countries’ unflagging belief in the rule of law, and in our people.

May we continue to work side by side to make the world a better place. Gratulerer med dagen.

This article originally appeared in the May 4, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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