Official visit to the US: Speech in Seattle
Ladies and gentlemen,
On this my official visit to Washington and Alaska, it is a real pleasure to be back in this great city. The last time I was in Seattle was 20 years ago. The Queen and I greatly enjoyed meeting representatives of the large Norwegian-American community in, and around the city. We visited the beautiful Sons of Norway lodge on the waterfront at Poulsbo, and Pacific Lutheran University – where the Queen received an Honorary Doctorate.
Tomorrow, I will be visiting PLU again – to join in the celebration of its 125th anniversary. I look forward to speaking with students and faculty there. Someone told me I might even receive an Honorary Doctorate myself!
This time I am travelling without the Queen, but I promised that I would convey to you her warmest regards. It is good to know that many of the kind and hospitable men and women we met back in 1995 are here again tonight – thank you for coming.
I also have good memories from our tour of the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard. This afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting Ballard again. I met with some of the Norwegian heritage pioneers of the large Seattle-based Alaskan fishing industry at the Pacific Fishermen Shipyard. The shipyard story is extraordinary – and so are the men and women behind it.
I also saw the refurbished mural at Bergen Place together with your Mayor. It warms my heart to know that Ballard, with Bergen Place, is the site of an impressive 17th of May Parade every year. The fact that thousands of Norwegian-Americans celebrate Norway’s National Day here, every year, is a testament to the strong and longstanding ties between Norway and Washington State.
And the ties are as strong as ever: More than 450 000 Americans here in Washington have a Norwegian heritage. Many of these are members in the approximately 60 Norwegian American organisations – and quite a few also read the Norwegian American Weekly, which has been published continuously since 1889.
When Nazi Germany invaded Norway in 1940, 75 years ago, my family was forced to flee from Norway. President Roosevelt and the American people reached out to us, and gave my mother, my sisters and myself a safe home in the USA. I am deeply grateful for the generosity and hospitality we felt throughout those five years in the United States. Your country has had a special place in my heart ever since. Then, as now, our countries stood shoulder-to-shoulder in promoting our common values of freedom, democracy and human rights.
Shared values and cultural similarities make it easier for business people from our countries to succeed in each other’s markets. Norwegians who have settled here, have shaped one of the region’s main industries – the fishing industry, with activities worth billions of dollars. Today, there are several Norwegian companies that are important in Washingston’s vibrant business sector. Our business people and entrepreneurs are modern-day pioneers, creating jobs and developing new technologies – thus contributing to welfare.
One of the reasons for this success is that these businesses are standing on the shoulders of those hard-working first generation Norwegian-Americans. People like Knut Einarsen, born in Norway in 1914, whom I met again today. He moved to the US, worked in construction for 36 years, and as a halibut fisher for 34 years. At the age of 100, he is still going strong and visits the Kaffistua at the Leif Erikson Lodge at least twice a week.
But not only in business: Historically, Norwegian-Americans have also made their mark in a number of areas – not the least in local politics, as well as on the national level in DC.
It is easy to understand why so many Norwegian immigrants chose Seattle as their new home. With the backdrop of hills and mountains and the closeness to the ocean, it looks very much like parts of Norway. I also know that you are no strangers to wet weather. All of you who have been to Norway’s second largest city will probably agree: It makes perfect sense that Bergen and Seattle are twin cities.
Our cultural bonds and your warmth and generosity make it easy for a Norwegian to feel at home here in Seattle. And, as always when I am in America, I greatly appreciate your hospitality. Thank you for everything you have done for us.