King Harald’s New Year’s speech
“What will it take for us human beings to live well together?”
HIS MAJESTY KING HARALD V OF NORWAY
This question has infinitely many answers. But I think one is more important than many others:
The ability to empathize with other people’s lives.
I think it is crucial that we take the time and effort to really listen to other people’s experiences—with a desire to understand. If we allow ourselves to be touched by them, it affects the way we think and act. Both in our close relationships and in larger communities.
We are facing a new year—with both hope and anxiety.
Unfortunately, the end of this year did not turn out as many of us had hoped and hoped for. Disappointment and insecurity characterize the everyday lives of many. Occasions we had been looking forward to must once again be postponed. This also is the case for us in the royal family.
In 2022, many of us may need to return to quality moments with people who mean something to us.
Good conversation. Maybe we need to discover openness and hospitality within ourselves again. Strengthen old friendships and forge new ones. Bring out our finest china and invite each other over!
When we are cut off from social life for a long time, it does something to us. It’s not just going out and embracing the world and people again. Like most things, this also requires some practice. I hope that in the new year we can meet with each other. And I hope that we can instill new courage in one another.
This summer, we marked that 10 years have passed since the terrorist attacks on our government buildings [in Oslo] and on the island of Utøya. New stories have been told, and many sides of the story have come to light. That was necessary for us to get a more complete picture. And to move on together—hopefully a little wiser.
Taking in all of this requires the ability for us all to empathize with each other.
This is also the case with the pandemic. Because we have been affected so differently, each in our own way—both within our country and elsewhere in the world.
This evening, I would like to extend a warm thank you to the health-care sector: Thank you for the vital work you do for us, day in and day out, in this long, heavy race. We are all deeply impressed by your efforts!
We can hope that we as a world community are learning something along the way: about how dependent we are on each other. And that what is happening on the other side of the earth is of great importance to us here in Norway as well. I hope that this realization will bring us into more solidarity with our fellow human beings. And I hope that our shared experience will strengthen cooperation between us in response to the challenges that affect us all.
Tonight, I send a special greeting to all Norwegians working elsewhere in the world, both on land and at sea. You who are reminded every day that we are all woven together across nationalities. Those who daily experience the value of international cooperation. There are probably many of you who are working abroad—but also far too many here at home—who are missing some of their loved ones tonight.
By listening to each other with respect and with a sincere desire to understand, together, we can create an even better society.
In October, I was in Kautokeino during a ceremony where a historical treasure of great value to the Sámi people was returned to the Sámi, to where it belongs.
It was a reminder of the importance of culture, language, and history for a people’s identity.
It also reminded me of something that always strikes me in conversations with Indigenous peoples—whether it is in Norway, Canada, Australia, or the Amazon:
For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples have depended on an interaction with nature and all living things to survive.
They possess valuable knowledge that is important to all of us. Large societies and Indigenous peoples around the world benefit from listening to each other and working together to safeguard what must be a common goal: to manage the earth’s resources in a way that allows the generations after us to live good lives.
Both as individuals, a nation, and world community, we need protection that can withstand shock—both from within and without.
What we have inside of us, no one can take from us.
It’s the only thing that is ours alone forever. That is why it is so important to be aware of what we spend our time and attention on, what nourishment we take in on all levels.
Every day, we are all faced with choices that do something to us.
It’s like the old myth of the Cherokee people:
A grandfather told his grandchildren about the battle that is constantly being fought inside him. It’s a fight between two wolves. Between good and evil forces. The grandchildren asked: Which of the wolves wins? And the grandfather replied: The one I choose to feed.
Some of what gives us inner strength can also be found in our cultural heritage, no matter where we come from. The legacy we carry within us from literature, songs, and stories conveys ancient wisdom that can be good to have when push comes to shove: stories about people who have been in the same situation as ourselves. Stories about the eternal dilemmas we have always faced. I also believe that everything that reminds us of what we humans have in common helps to give us strength.
Like we all need to be seen by someone with a loving look.
And that we all depend on the kindness and goodwill of others.
One of the most valuable pillars for both individuals and society is volunteering.
Let 2022 be the year of volunteering. This good force in Norwegian society has suffered during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the most disadvantaged have been particularly hard hit: drug addicts, the mentally ill, the elderly, children, and young people.
At the same time, we have seen inspiring examples of people who have made a big difference: the father who started a tour group with neighboring children who needed a break from home. The Afghan youth who started shopping for the elderly in the local community. The experienced adult woman, who night after night listened carefully to lonely young people on the helpline.
In 2022, we can all help by giving volunteering a real boost.
I would encourage everyone to find something that is right for you—small or big. The possibilities are endless. Everyone needs something or someone, and everyone has something to contribute. This is how we build strong communities—which is our best protection in the face of difficult times.
It is a gift we give to ourselves—and to each other.
Tonight, I want to say to all of you—whether you feel sadness and longing, anxiety and exhaustion, or joy and anticipation.
I hope we can enter the new year with time and energy for what strengthens us:
By listening to each other with interest and empathy.
By finding our way back to friendships and good conversation.
By believing that each and every one of us can mean something to the lives of others.
Translated by Lori Ann Reinhall
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 7, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.