Hope for the holidays
A Christmas greeting from Ambassador Anniken R. Krutnes
When I first arrived in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2020 as Norway’s new ambassador to the United States, the world had been turned upside down. We were deep into one of the worst stretches of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of cases was skyrocketing, with little sense of light at the end of the tunnel.
Luckily, this past year, improved conditions allowed me to perform one of the most significant aspects of my job as ambassador: travel to different parts of this vast and varied country. I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Seattle and parts of Alaska. I was struck by the friendliness of the people, the natural beauty of the landscape, the variety of things to do, and the culture. These things cannot be fully experienced through a screen. A Zoom call cannot capture, for example, the majestic sweep of Puget Sound, the hustle and bustle of the port in Anchorage, or the breadth and scope of the recently opened National Nordic Museum.
This is the time of year when we get to unwrap shiny new things and a time to gather with the people important to us. At the embassy, we’re still unwrapping our shiny new gift: a fully revamped embassy building.
Renovations on the chancery displaced us for a couple of years, but it was worth the wait. The building had not been updated since the 1980s. It was simply no longer suited for use as a contemporary office and meeting space, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo decided that the work could not be put off any longer.
Our formerly cramped and dated embassy is now expansive and airy, with increased meeting space and room for entertaining. Now we can boast a magnificently renovated structure in the nation’s capital befitting America’s status as Norway’s closest friend and most trusted ally.
A new Norwegian government was recently voted in, and it’s already hard at work building and strengthening the existing, impressive ties between the two nations. Several high-ranking ministers from Norway have scheduled official visits to the United States to meet with their American counterparts, with many more to follow.
While some measure of diplomacy can be achieved through a computer screen, much of the best work is done face to face. The opening of our new embassy will provide us the means to bring experts and policymakers together, where they can make and strengthen interpersonal connections, instead of squeezing them into tiny boxes on screen.
All of this is, of course, subject to change. Only time will tell how the pandemic will play out. New variants are presenting new challenges. It is my fervent hope that we can rise to meet them and continue to cut down on cases.
That the United States was among our Norwegian public servants’ first destinations when travel restrictions began to loosen is testament to the strong ties between our countries and the value we place on working together on a range of issues—in particular, climate, global health, the green transition, and democracy, which are all high on our shared agenda.
It used to be that at the holidays we wished for extraordinary things. The pandemic has helped remind us to appreciate the beauty in the everyday. My holiday wish for you, the readers of The Norwegian American, is simple: I hope that you are able to find happiness and comfort wherever you are. I wish you a wonderful holiday season.
God jul og godt nyttår!
Anniken R. Krutnes
Ambassador of Norway to the United States
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 17, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.