King calls for compassion

King Harald says “hope belongs to all of us” in 2019 New Year’s Eve speech

King Harald

Photo: J. Gomnæs / Royal Court of Norway
His Majesty King Harald V of Norway.

Translated by Lori Ann Reinhall
The Norwegian American

New Year’s Eve is an evening filled with hope and expectations.

We think about that which has been—and look to the future.

This evening, across our entire country, 5 million people are sitting here with unique lives of their own.

Some meet the New Year with joy and optimism, others with loss and anxiety.

Many of us go into the New Year with sorrow in our hearts. But hope belongs to all of us.

It is my wish this evening that hope will carry all of us into the New Year.

We have been deeply affected by the death of Ari Behn this Christmas. It has warmed our hearts to feel people’s compassion with the lighted candles at the Palace Square.

There has been comfort in all the good memories and beautiful words that have been shared about the father of three of our beloved grandchildren.

Sometimes life can no longer be endured. For some, it can become so dark that nothing helps. Not even the love of those closest to them. Some don’t see any other way out than to leave this life. Those left behind have to go on living. Poorer—without the one they loved. 

We know so little about what life can bring. The uncertainty makes us all vulnerable. The best we can do is to be there for each other, see each other, and remember to share a good word each other.

And carry each other if needed.

Tonight, my thoughts are, above all, with all those who are leaving the old year with a sorrowful emptiness left by someone they loved.

So now we are entering into a new year. A year when we, as a nation, will have the occasion to commemorate our recent history—and become more conscious of who we are and the fundamental beliefs we share.

Norwegian society is built upon trust. We have created a social order in which each to their own ability contributes to a common good to serve the best for the country and its people.

There, we share both burdens and benefits. 

There, we support one another through different phases of life.

Together, we see to that all children are able to go to school. That we get help when we get sick. That the elderly are taken care of.

But a society built on trust goes deeper than that: it also means that we can count on that we want the best for one another. That we don’t treat each other with distrust and suspicion. This is something we must protect. 

For it is built on a foundation of hard-earned experience for our country and our people.

Trust—and the ability to work together—was something that we, above all, needed when we had to rebuild Norway as a free country after the Second World War.

The five dark years of the war had created distrust and suspicion among us. In October, I was in Kirkenes to commemorate the liberation of East-Finnmark, which meant the beginning of the end of the war.

In the year that we are now entering, we will remember that it has been 75 years since the peace.

So what is the Norway that we have seen emerge during the course of these 75 years?

We have followed our country through an adventurous development of prosperity.

It is built upon natural resources, research, and creativity. It is built upon sound leadership. On the awareness that people need an education, work, food, and a home in order to contribute to society and grow as human beings.

It is built up by a people with strong fists and great endurance. With courage, vigor, and creativity. A people shaped by a harsh landscape and mighty weather.

And it is built by our need to feel a sense of belonging, to be part of something that is bigger than ourselves.

Today, we see a country whose culture has changed a great deal through the years. A country where our old tales and traditions, our art and religion have been woven together with other cultures that our newer Norwegians have brought with them. And with all that which a people who travel more and more bring back home from the rest of the world.

We see a country that, despite its small size, is a player in the global arena, with a voice that others listen to. We have seen a strong, great generation of youth emerge—who strive to use their knowledge and commitment to impact the development of society and the future we share.

We have become less like each other. Fortunately, through these years, we’ve understood that each and every one of us actually is a little different. As a population, we now come from all corners of the earth and will live together across age and gender, culture, religion, and orientation. Across city and country, political stance and different social circumstances.

Above all, I want to underline that which has made the greatest impression on us on our many trips around Norway:

We encounter a people who care about their fellow human beings. Who contribute as volunteers. Who fight for their local communities – and for the good of others.

We treasure these meetings as the most cherished narratives of who we are and what we are made of. For here we experience the life force that flourishes within individuals when they make the most of themselves.

We should do everything we can to find this force in one another and lift it forth. For the sum of each individual’s life force is the life force of society.

My generation has always taken part in this remarkable journey through the 75 years that has passed by since the end of the war.

I think we are in agreement about one thing:

We have been fortunate. And we have worked hard.

We still need luck and hard work to strengthen our country and one another on the road ahead.

Today we stand on the foundation of all that we have built together—and that we must protect.

For peace is fragile. Trust is fragile. And life is fragile. Of this we are constantly reminded.

Development also brings opportunities – which can be used wisely or unwisely. Technology is outpacing us and puts us in dilemmas that we may not be ready to face.

Chasing short-term profits can stand in the way of good choices that serve the common good of individuals, society, and the planet. And research shows us with more and more clarity that we have for too long exploited the earth’s resources more than it can endure.

We need to meet all the new possibilities given to us with sincerity. We need downtime for meaningful conversations about important topics in a time characterized by rapid change, tough debates, and global unrest.

At the same time, we need to step up to the challenges voiced by our impatient youth. We need to do all of this in order to not lose ourselves and one another. To not lose all the good that we have created together.

The question is: What serves us people and our common future best?

This is a matter of concern for us all.

We have different answers and may be deeply divided.

But we must just continue to search for the answers together. Around our kitchen tables. In the lunchroom. In classrooms. In politics. In the international arena.

For only together can we find the answers.

We have to live with the fact that we are different.

We have to come to terms with unpleasant facts.

We have to be able to see beyond our own little space.

We must dare to realize that our worldview may not be the only right one.

And we must come to terms with being challenged—yes, even hurt.

That is what it means to live together – both as part of smaller and larger communities.

A society with the freedom to be different has to be built on the premise that all people are of equal value. Like an ominous echo from the war, we know what happens when a society is based on an ideology that people are of different worth.

If there is one thing that we should take away with us as a lesson when we celebrate that peace that finally came, it is this:

That everyone is equal.

This may seem self-evident.

But if we really start to live by this, transformation can take place.

Then we can come together in the hope for a good life for all.

I wish everyone here at home and Norwegians around the world a happy New Year!

This article originally appeared in the January 10, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Norwegian American Logo

The Norwegian American

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