200 years of the Norwegian Constitution 200th Birthday
A remarkable book and exhibit explore the link between the US and Norway’s constitution
Christine Foster Meloni
The Norwegian Constitution was signed in Eidsvoll on May 17, 1814. Norwegians and Norwegian Americans alike have been enthusiastically celebrating this momentous occasion every year ever since. Syttende Mai is dear to all of our hearts.
May 17, 2014, was particularly special as it marked the Constitution’s 200th birthday. This was commemorated with festive events around the globe. But many special events also took place throughout the year.
The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C., observed the end of 2014 with a festive reception at the embassy. Guests were treated to a birthday cake topped with 200 blazing candles, traditional holiday gløgg, and lively music by the Dupont Brass Band.
The highlight of the evening was the introduction of the bilingual book, 1814–2014 Rødt, Hvitt og Blått: Norsk grunnlov, Amerikansk inspirasjon/Red, White and Blue: Norwegian Constitution, American Inspiration, and its accompanying art exhibit.
The man who deserves credit for the idea is Trond B. Olsen, Publisher of ART PRO forlag AS. Olsen has worked for many years with the Norwegian American Foundation to disseminate knowledge and art between Norway and the U.S. Among his other major achievements are books and art exhibits commemorating two Norwegian centennials, the secession from Sweden (2005), and the death of Ibsen (2006).
The publication of this splendid book was a major achievement that involved impressive planning and execution. Olsen, Editor Gudleiv Forr, and Co-Editor Eirik Bergesen, along with the many individuals involved, deserve high praise.
The book consists of two parts. The first contains 18 essays by historians, social researchers, and politicians, while the second presents works by ten of Norway’s leading contemporary visual artists. All were asked to reflect on the Norwegian Constitution.
The eighteen essays shed light on the history of the Norwegian Constitution, the influence of the U.S. Constitution, and the significance of both documents today. Some representative titles are “Liberty, equality, and fraternity” by Ambassador Kåre R. Aas; “American Inspiration in the Norwegian Constitution” by Ola Mestad, professor at the University of Oslo; “My Norwegian-American Experience” by Walter Mondale, Vice President of the United States 1977-1981; “The Freedom of Religion that Disappeared” by Dag Thorkildsen, professor at the University of Oslo; “The Loyal Younger Brother: Norway’s Relationship with the USA” by Eirik Bergesen, writer, former diplomat; “With a Heart for the Old Country: The Significance of the Bicentennial of Eidsvoll for Norwegian America” by Sverre Mørkhagen, writer; “Should the Constitution be Interpreted Literally?” by Morten Ruud, Special Advisor at the Department of Justice; and “The EU and the Norwegian Paradox” by Eric Oddvar Eriksen, political scientist and Professor at the University of Oslo.
The 40 remarkable works of art are striking and varied, from traditional to abstract. These works were on display for the guests to contemplate and appreciate. A few representative examples from the extraordinary exhibit can be found at grunnlovsboken.no/?page_id=77.
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 9, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.