2006-10-23

H.M. Konungens tal vid invigningen av House of Sweden i Washington D.C. 23 oktober 2006

Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
Already in spring of seventeen hundred eighty-three, the Swedish Ambassador in Paris, Count Gustav Phillip Creutz, and his American colleague, Benjamin Franklin, signed a treaty of amity and commerce between our two countries. This was one of the very first international treaties ever concluded by the United States.
 
Although the Treaty itself is not valid any more, the key paragraph about “a true and sincere friendship" continues to be a major element in our relationship. I hope that this new building - the House of Sweden - will serve as a visible and striking symbol of this. It will no doubt help to stimulate a continued dialogue and exchange between our two peoples for generations to come.
 
This architectural masterpiece is created by Gert Wingårdh and Tomas Hansen. An important feature of the building is its location. Beyond the river and horizon, is the vast America. Today, just as when the first Swedish settlers arrived in this country some 380 years ago.
 
The House of Sweden stands indeed on historic ground. Long before the settlers came, this river was the main artery of the native people in this area through the motherland.
 
As this city emerged as the nation´s capital, this very spot was one of the most important commercial shipping ports in the world. Today, Washington is still a lively arena not only for commercial, but also for political and cultural interchange. Sweden is proud to contribute to this stream of activities.
 
The House of Sweden gives a warm welcome to visitors. The presence of water as you enter the building illustrates the special relationship, that most Swedes have to nature, to the archipelago as well as to our many lakes and rivers.
 
The architects have created an open and transparent house in constant interaction with its surroundings. Wood, glass and stone, combined with the abundance of light and public spaces, are other reflections of Swedish nature and culture. They are clearly visible, also for the people passing by outside. This openness and transparency gives you an idea of the values which are central also in our society and everyday life.
 
Let us look upon architecture as a tool of promotion and public diplomacy. During the next eighteen months, an exciting program will fill the House of Sweden. Exhibitions, seminars, and receptions will be hosted here. Swedish experts, politicians, entrepreneurs and many others will be able to meet their American friends and counterparts. All of this will highlight important themes such as design and architecture, water and environment as well as innovation and technology.
 
Hopefully, this house will encourage a free flow of ideas and an open dialogue on matters that are common challenges for all modern nations. Just like the United States, Sweden is a multicultural society, where people of different backgrounds, skills and cultures contribute to our national identity.
 
The relations between our two governments date back to the birth of the United States. There is also a deep-rooted bond between Americans and Swedes in general. During the second half of the nineteenth century almost twenty-five  per cent of the Swedish population emigrated to the United States. That means that around  twelve million Americans today claim Swedish ancestry. This is one of the main reasons for the strong ties between our nations.
 
The United States is also one of Sweden´s two major export markets. It is also the largest destination for Swedish direct investment today. At the same time, American companies are the biggest foreign employer in Sweden. Many young Swedes come here to study or work, and a large number of American tourists travel to Sweden.
 
Towards this background, the constant interchange of ideas and people between the United States and Sweden, I hope that this house will be a natural meeting point for American and Swedish interests. I sincerely hope it will  help to further strengthen the ties between our two nations.
 
To illustrate this wish for the future I will now proceed to the formal opening ceremony.
 
I hereby declare the House of Sweden inaugurated.