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H.M. The King's speech on Sweden's National Day 1998, Skansen

06/06/1998
 
Dear people of Sweden,
This year has particular significance for me. I am therefore delighted to be speaking on Sweden's National Day here at Skansen, this unique, miniature version of Sweden.
 
Every year, The Queen and I are usually invited to commemorate National Day somewhere in Sweden, before returning here to Stockholm for the Skansen celebrations. This is only natural for us, since Sweden is so much more than just her capital.
 
This year has been different, for two good reasons. Firstly, a number of activities have been arranged in connection with my 25th jubilee. Secondly, Stockholm is the 1998 European Capital of Culture. Due to the particularly rich cultural offering in Stockholm right now, we wanted to show ourselves and our foreign visitors the breadth and exclusivity of our cultural heritage, and thereby of our national identity.
 
Now, as I look back on 25 years as King of Sweden, I can see that this has been an extremely eventful quarter of a century. The global situation is very different today to what it was in 1973 when I ascended to the throne. Back then, the Cold War was at its coldest. The whole world lived in a balance of terror, maintained by two superpowers with an enormous arsenal of nuclear weapons. Sweden found herself in the middle of these two superpowers. Today, it is easy to forget the feeling of vulnerability that controlled our thoughts and our actions.
 
Large-scale nuclear disarmament has begun, although an unexpected reversal in recent times now threatens this positive trend. The Iron Curtain has come down, and the former Eastern European states are now experiencing rapid changes. We can now see more clearly than before that some of these countries are our close neighbours. We assist them, as best we can, in this dynamic and promising transformation, and we look forward to an ever growing network of contacts within culture, tourism and commerce.
 
European cooperation provides a firm footing for increased contact within all areas. This also improves the conditions for resolving major global problems. I'm thinking not only of economic and political issues, but also of the environment, the fight against drugs and children's rights. Greater cross-border cooperation brings with it better opportunities for success.
 
However, there are still breeding grounds of crisis and war in many parts of the world, including in Europe. These conflicts are often due to different groups and peoples being unable to agree on their history. The long shared history that we can enjoy here in Sweden is an invaluable privilege. We are also fortunate enough to have avoided war on our own soil for the past 150 years. My own ancestor, King Karl XIV Johan, laid the foundation for this long uninterrupted period of peace in an admirable manner.
 
In many ways, 1973 was a dramatic year. My grandfather, King Gustaf VI Adolf, passed away and left a great void, both within his family and across the nation. Just like this year, 1973 was a general election year and political feelings ran high. It is only natural for conflicts of opinion to be exaggerated during an election year. Debate is a vital part of the democratic process.
 
However, on a day like today, when we honour our nation and all the positive things she stands for, it may be appropriate to tone down these conflicts of opinion and to promote solidarity. After all, there is more that unites than divides different groups and individuals in our country. Not only is Sweden a beautiful country, it is also a wonderful society in which to live and work. One of the many pieces of proof is that we Swedes have an average life expectancy that is higher than in most other places around the world.
 
Many people from other countries have come here for various reasons, particularly since the Second World War. During the 25 years that I have been Sweden's Head of State, more than half a million people have become Swedish citizens. We all have a responsibility to ensure that new Swedes are made to feel truly welcome, and that Sweden is their home country. A jubilee is a time for remembering and looking back. But it is more important that we also try to look forward. Today, democracy is more widespread in the world than even before in human history. As I see it, the great overshadowing threats we face in the future are the risks of various types of damage to the environment. All kinds of investments in improving our environment are therefore both important and necessary, not only for us but also particularly for future generations.
 
According to a recent opinion survey, the top priority for today's young people in terms of the future is environmental improvements. However, a full 90% of the young people asked say that the future looks bright.
 
What the future will look like depends largely on these same citizens of the future. The values they hold in life will shape tomorrow's Sweden.
 
These values are not necessarily formed by what we parents think and believe. Friends, schools and the mass media are also important sources when it comes to our children's world view and norms. Together, we all have a great responsibility to show that compassion and respect for other people and ideas forms the foundation for a democratic society. It is essential to say no to all forms of violence and oppression.
 
Our Sweden, to which we pay tribute today, has evolved with these ideals as its guiding stars. Let us continue to defend all that is good in our fine, Swedish society. As the nation's Head of State, I want to continue to work "For Sweden — With the Times".
 
Our blue and yellow flag is an obvious symbol of Sweden. It is a symbol of everything we value and share: peace, freedom and tolerance. Let us also see our flag as a symbol of clear, blue lakes and the shining golden sun in pure, clean skies.
 
I now propose a toast to our nation and her future: To Sweden!