The King’s New Year’s speech 2020
KING HARALD OF NORWAY
Translated by Lori Ann Reinhall
This evening, I want to first and foremost send a warm greeting to everyone who is affected by the landslide accident in Gjerdrum. This terrible event has made a deep impression on all of us.
I sympathize with you who are entering into the New Year with sorrow and uncertainty. With you who have lost your homes and who, at this moment now, are heartbroken and do not see a way forward.
At the same time, I would like to commend the authorities, emergency services, and all civilians for the great efforts they had made under very demanding conditions. You still have a lot of hard work ahead of you. And, once again, we see people mobilizing to help their fellow human beings in need. It makes me feel both proud and moved.
This catastrophe that has affected so many people comes at the end of a year that has been difficult for all of us.
That is why I am also sending warm thoughts to all our people this New Year’s Eve— from Svalbard to Lindesnes, from the coastal communities in the west to the border villages in the east. My thoughts are with you who are working and studying abroad. And with all of you who wish you were somewhere else tonight. Who are missing someone you love.
To all of you who feel alone this New Year’s Eve:
You are not alone in feeling this way.
To all who are worn out and worried about the future:
I understand you so well.
It has been a year of disappointments, cancellations, and postponements.
A year when we had to put a lot on hold.
But then we can hope that we have a lot to look forward to!
We are together living in a pandemic—but it has affected us so differently.
For some, it was the year when dreams shattered, a job disappeared, and what was painful before became even worse.
Others experienced that their families became more united and that we learned to appreciate the small things in life in the here and now.
For most people, it was probably a combination of most things.
I would like to thank you all tonight.
Thank you for giving up family birthdays and graduation celebrations, wedding parties, those good hugs, and cherished traditions.
Thank you for singing from balconies, shopping for elderly parents, and staying away from each other—out of sheer compassion.
The queen and I miss hugging our children and grandchildren just as much as other grandparents.
But then, we hope from the bottom of our hearts that we will get a lot back in the New Year!
This January, we will have been king and queen for 30 years. Throughout this time, traveling around Norway and meeting people has been what has given us the greatest joy. We have sorely missed these meetings this year. But instead, like everyone else, we have kept in touch with people in other ways. Among other things, we have received many letters.
We received some of the most touching on the 17th of May. Then we received several thousand drawings and greetings from schoolchildren in the capital—since they could not march past the palace this year. Several of the children put into words exactly what many of us felt:
“I miss everything social. This was a bit brutal,” wrote a girl in the third grade.
“I can bake a cake alone, but I need a friend who can eat it,” wrote another.
And I think we can all agree with 8-year-old Alva:
“I’m looking forward to everything being normal again.”
May 17 was for many—after all—a day of joy all over the country. We had hardly dared hope for that. Precisely this year, there was every reason to celebrate a little more than usual, since we were marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation. And just then, our values, everything we have built upon and created together, were put to the hardest test since the war.
We have now shown that we have a government of the people that also works in a time of crisis.
Which is built on mutual trust between the authorities and the people—and between people.
We have seen courage and action in situations where difficult choices had to be made.
We have seen the importance of managing our values with wisdom and prudence over time. This has given us financial strength when we have needed it the most.
We have experienced an impressive show of will, creativity, and the ability to think in new ways when entire industries were paralyzed almost overnight.
And we have shown that we are willing to sacrifice much of our own for the good of the community.
For each other.
We are in a serious situation—both in Norway and in the world. But crises force changes that can also be both good and necessary—even if they are painful.
History has shown us this time and time again.
For a short while, we saw blue skies and clear water in some of the most polluted places on earth. This image stays with us.
It gives us hope, it shows us opportunities—and at the same time, gives us a responsibility.
So, dear all—where does the road go next?
We must most likely be prepared to face a new year with uncertainty and difficulties, but also with good reason for optimism.
The vaccines have brought hope to the entire world.
At the same time, it will still be difficult times for large parts of our society and economy. We will still have an unusual everyday life. It is OK to be scared, sad, and anxious.
We must be generous with each other—and with ourselves. For the days as well our mood and courage will fluctuate for all of us. It is completely natural.
I think many people have gotten a little tired of the word “dugnad’—the spirit of volunteerism—now at the end of the year. Usually, dugnad means making an effort for the community, which might end with a cup of coffee or a hot dog, well satisfied after everybody’s effort. But we are not used to taking part in marathon volunteerism as individuals, with no end in sight.
Still and all, dear ones: it is precisely this ability to make something happen together that has helped us through—both now and in the past. Now we must try to conjure up new strengths that we may not have known we had—in ourselves and as a society.
And we have to take care of each other.
I have especially concerned about our children and those who are young.
When it gets longer between the guard posts, a lot of suffering and loneliness can slip under the radar.
Vulnerable young people are extra vulnerable when they lose their network—or the one who usually looks out after them. The coach, the teacher, the father of a friend
Now we must be each other’s “one.” The one who stops and looks, who picks up the phone and asks how things are going. There are now many in our country who feel that life is somehow slipping away from them. Both young and old think these are bad times.
For young people, the void without social contact is completely unnatural.
For the elderly, every day is precious.
While we wait, as we continue to endure and live out each day as best we can, I am sure we will learn something important that we can take with us even after this is over:
I think many of us have recognized how good everyday life really is.
Isn’t it the everyday life we miss the most?
We miss the good, regular chores, and activities we have taken for granted. To be able to gather with friends, colleagues, and family. To let us touch each other and get excited about shared experiences in a community center or in a football stadium. We miss the spaces: the chat at the coffee machine, the casual encounters at the store. It is often in these spaces that valuable meetings between us take place.
We have also learned something else important: We can endure more than we think. It gives us inner security and strength—both as individuals and as a nation. We will keep this in mind when the next test of strength comes.
I cannot say that everything will be fine, or that everything will be as before.
A boy asked me in a letter: “King Harald, are you over a 100 years old?” To that I can answer: No, I’m not quite that old. But I have been involved in a lot throughout a long life, and I can promise you:
What we are facing now will pass.
We have come through great trials before.
One day, we will look back and ask each other:
How in the world did we do this?
Then we will know within ourselves that we made it because we brought forth all the best—in each of us, in our society, in our democracy.
We must know within ourselves that we got through it because we never gave up hope.
For to hope, that is a way of life.
Hope is will, hope is action.
Hope is to set our eyes on something that makes sense to us—and follow it.
This hope will carry us all into 2021.
I wish each and every one of you a happy New Year!
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 15, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.