Thorhild Widvey speaks to Brooklyn

This year’s parade guest speaker is Norway’s former Minister of Culture

Photo: Stiftelsen Tinius / Wikimedia Thorhild Widvey has been active in Norwegian politics since 1979, most recently as the Minister of Culture.

Photo: Stiftelsen Tinius / Wikimedia
Thorhild Widvey has been active in Norwegian politics since 1979, most recently as the Minister of Culture.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Every year, the 17th of May Parade Committee in Brooklyn searches for a person to speak at the parade ceremony. Over the past 60 years of the parade, speakers have run the gamut from clergy such as the Rev. Billy Graham in 1957, to politicians from both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1990, Norway was represented by the Hon. Albert Nordengen, Mayor of Oslo, while Minnesota State Senator the Hon. Hubert H. Humphrey was the orator from this side of the pond in 1964.

On the national stage was Vice President Walter Mondale, and on the global stage several respected representatives from the United Nations have spoken: H. E. Edward Hambro, Norwegian Ambassador to the UN; Jan Egeland, Under Secretary General of the UN; and the Honorable Trygve Lie, First Secretary General of the UN.

Those involved in popular culture have not been excluded. In 1998 Jane Hanson, Anchor, WNBC, spoke on the theme of the New York City Centennial. More recently the beloved radio announcer and former quarterback Boomer Esiason was a populist breath of fresh air when he was the parade honoree in 2010.

Joining these ranks will be Ms. Thorhild Widvey. According to Barbara Berntsen, Parade General Chair, “Ms. Widvey is such an asset to our parade. As the former Norwegian Minister of Culture and Churches, she was the perfect fit for this year’s parade theme ‘Saluting Norwegian Immigrants.’ We look forward to greeting her on parade day. We invite all to come out and join us on the grandstand in Leif Ericsson Park to welcome her and hear her message.”

It should be an interesting one, as Widvey has had an amazing breadth of experience in Norwegian politics. She was born in the historic city of Karmøy, Avaldsnes, the location of Norway’s oldest royal town. This is where the famous Vikings King Harald I, King Haakon the Good, and King Harald Fairhair, as well as Olaf Tryggvason, the king credited with making Norway a Christian Kingdom, ruled. The place seems to have been fortuitous, as Widvey’s CV is dense and almost all of her professional life has been tied to government.

She trained to be a physical therapist but became involved in local politics early in her career. For 10 years, from 1979 to 1989, she was a municipal council member for Karmøy. Within her term she also served the Norwegian Sporting Association of People with Disabilities as the Deputy Leader for two years.

Widvey continued climbing up the ranks, first serving on the county level for Rogaland from 1987 to 1989. After she won her bid as a member of the Norwegian Parliament in 1989, she served two terms. She also served as the Social and Health Committee in Parliament from 1989 to 1993 and on the Transport and Communications Committee from 1993 to 1997.

As a member of the Conservative government, she worked with the second Bondevik Cabinet from 2002 to 2003 as the Deputy Minister of Fisheries. She then went on to become the Minister of Petroleum and Energy, and finally served as the Minister of Culture in 2013 to 2015.

I asked Widvey how she feels about coming to the Syttende Mai Parade in Brooklyn as keynote speaker: “I am looking forward to being the guest speaker at Brooklyn’s 17th of May Parade. Since I was a little child, I’ve heard about the U.S. Our relatives, my grandfathers on both my mother’s and father’s side, worked in the U.S. My father was a sailor and he told many stories about the Brooklyn that he visited when he was in New York. I know many Norwegians found homes in Brooklyn and I know that May 17th always has been a special day for you all. I look forward to being the May 17 guest speaker.”

This article originally appeared in the May 6, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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