King Harald’s New Year’s Eve speech 2022
“We have to recognize that we need each other.”
His Majesty King Harald V of Norway
The Royal Palace, Oslo
We human beings need to know that we can do something to make life as good as possible—both for ourselves and for the people we love. This is especially important in troubled times, when each and every one of us are faced with challenges that are difficult for us to do something about. One can easily feel powerless.
But it is precisely then that we must lift our gaze to gain perspective—and to recognize that we need each other. It reminds us that we are not alone. It gives us strength. And that gives us hope.
This year’s message on World Mental Health Day was precisely this: We need each other—look up. I hope we can also carry this message with us into the new year.
On an evening like this, we may especially feel that the lives we all live are very different.
Many have everything they need—and more. Others struggle to make a go of everyday life, and they worry about the future. Some of you are with a lot of people tonight, others are alone. You can also feel lonely in the middle of a group of people. Some have lost a loved one this year and are struggling to find their way forward.
Others have experienced the joy of coming together. Some are celebrating the New Year in Norway for the first time, while others are celebrating the evening abroad. Many are where they want to be, while others are filled with longing and yearning. In any case, we are a large community of people who are bound together by invisible ties.
We have put a year with a lot of drama behind us—drama that we still find ourselves in the middle of.
With Russia’s brutal warfare in Ukraine, a new seriousness has come over our part of the world. Many are troubled, both here in Norway and in our European community. At the same time, we see how Norwegians are contributing—through humanitarian work and in other ways—to help people in need.
This makes me both proud and happy.
All over our country, people have gotten new neighbors. Refugees are now establishing their new lives in Norway in the hope of safety and well-being—with good help from many who want them to find to a good life. I hope that everyone who is creating a new home in Norway will experience the warm and safe haven they want for themselves and their loved ones.
We who are alive today have grown up in a privileged era, where much has gone the right way—both in the world and in Norway. During this time, more people have steadily emerged from extreme poverty, and more democracies have emerged.
We have almost expected the world to continue moving forward. Unfortunately, we cannot take this for granted. Over large parts of the world, we now see that democratic freedoms are being weakened. Poverty is increasing again. More people have become refugees because of war, conflict, and climate.
And the climate is now the most serious issue. We must do everything we can to protect our Earth—both to protect people’s homes and to preserve the fantastic nature in which all living things are connected.
This is indeed a sphere where we need each other. Because we are all equally dependent on our Earth. And climate change does not stop at countries’ borders. I sincerely hope that we will now be able to act in line with the seriousness of the situation.
In Norway, we have had a steady increase in prosperity over the past decades.
Nonetheless: Today many are worried about the future. I feel for everyone who is now experiencing new burdens—after two onerous years with the pandemic. I hope for better times for everyone who is struggling and filled with worries.
It is time to see each other now.
Imagine if each day we could ask a person who we meet along the way, “What can I do for you?”
Imagine what good experiences and moments that could lead to! It costs nothing, just a little everyday courage and extra thoughtfulness.
Maybe this question could be a lantern we carry along with us through the new year to give each other some light on dark nights? In the long run, it is simply for the best for all of us that everyone obtains the best possible circumstances.
I want to send a special greeting to our children tonight. Remember that each and every one of you has something completely unique and valuable that is yours alone, that is only you. Something special you can use for the best in yourself and those around you.
And then, it’s not something sick or abnormal to be in pain for periods, to be tired, and to feel that you just can’t cope. That’s how it is for all of us—throughout life.
It is perhaps extra important to say this tonight when there is war in Europe, more difficult times in Norway, and people are struggling. The history of the world, the history of Norway, and the life stories of individuals are full of stories about falling—and rising again. This is the rhythm of history and of life itself.
We fall, and we rise—again and again.
But we rarely do it alone. We need each other.
And we must look up. Both beyond our country and in solidarity with other people. And in our own lives.
To meet the gaze of others who need us, but to also seek out the gaze of those who can help when we ourselves need it. It is a strength to be able to ask for help when we need it.
Dear all, throughout the past year, we have experienced a new unity in the West and Europe. Across other lines that divide us, we have managed to stand together in a community of values and security. Our part of the world has recognized that we need each other. That we are both stronger and safer together. It brings hope in the situation we are now in and for the future.
In Norway, we have also been reminded of our government of the people and the values upon which we build our society. We have been reminded of the value of our democratic freedoms. What it means to be able to say what we mean without risking our own lives. To be able to believe in what we want. And above all: how good it is to live in a land of peace.
Our democracy begins here: with the trust that we wish each other well. That we work for a common good that embraces as many people as possible. And with the ability to empathize with other people’s lives, with people who have a different reality than our own.
In order to achieve this, everyone must know that they are being listened to.
I believe in talking with one another. To take time to try to understand—and to receive each other in the best of faith. It can be tiring, but it’s worth the effort in the long run. In this way, we can preserve and strengthen the Norway we have built together.
And everyone can contribute by recognizing that we need each other—both in the world and in everyday life. By looking up. And by asking: What can I do for you?
I wish everyone a very Happy New Year!
Translated by Lori Ann Reinhall
This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.