On October 13, 2011, Their Majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway visited Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. During the 30 minute royal convocation, held at the Center for Faith and Life, the reigning couple were treated to fantastic performances by the Luther College Symphony Orchestra and Nordic Choir. The reigning couple were also presented with the Spirit of Luther Award which “…recognizes individuals who have provided significant sustained service to the college. Nominees should be persons who have demonstrated a personal commitment to Luther’s mission, quality, and character.”
A highlight during the ceremony was His Majesty King Harald’s speech in front hundreds of students as well as faculty:
It is indeed a great joy and privilege to be back here at the beautiful campus of Luther College. The Queen and I have fond memories of earlier visits here, and find it quite appropriate to start our tour of the Midwest together with you. The peaceful and inspiring atmosphere of Luther College, however, is a striking contrast to the acts of terrorism that hit Norway so hard on 22 July. I would like to thank you, the American people, for your support and compassion in the wake of these terrible events.
Over the years I have had the great pleasure of visiting the United States many times. My first visit, however, was under trying circumstances. During the Second World War my mother, my sisters and I came here, while my father and grandfather took refuge in London together with the Norwegian Government. I was three years old when I arrived, and by the time I returned to Norway five years later, I had come to view this country as a second home.
There are a number of common values that bind America and Norway together. Both of our countries share a fundamental respect for dignity, liberty and social responsibility of the individual. We honour self-determination, and we pay tribute to our founding fathers, and those who have fought to defend our shared history.
Both our countries work for world peace, justice and human rights. Every year there is a tremendous focus on the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. I know that this is reflected here at Luther College and the other Norwegian American Colleges in the Midwest, through the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Who knows, one day Luther College might even offer the world a candidate for the Nobel Prize, as a result of this important work.
In a globalized world, where we all are interdependent, we need each other in our common struggle for lasting peace based on justice and dignity of all. Let us never forget that it is after all easier to wage war than to make peace. As our great explorer Fridtjof Nansen once said: “We do not get war unless people want it themselves. War is not an effect of a natural catastrophe. It is a result of man’s will. It is their own shame.”
Immigrants who came from Norway to America took a grand portion of Norway with them. This is perhaps more obvious in Decorah than any other place in America. Thanks to institutions like Luther College and Vesterheim Museum you have managed to preserve this heritage.
The Vesterheim Museum tells the stories, dreams and hardships of the thousands of Norwegian immigrants who settled in the New World to build a better life for themselves and their families. I see a clear parallel between their stories and the stories of the refugees from poor countries that are dreaming about a better future in our two countries today.
Part of the Vesterheim Museum is dedicated to Elisabeth and Vilhelm Koren, who founded Luther College 150 years ago. The history of this college is truly impressive. At the same time you have formed a powerful intellectual and emotional link between the United States and Norway since the beginning of the Civil War. And it continues to do so, as the University of Oslo and Luther College continuously are exchanging students and ideas, cultures and traditions.
The Queen and I are grateful and honoured to be here today and to receive the Spirit of Luther Awards. Thank you for preparing such an impressive program for us and for giving us such a wonderful reception.
Let me congratulate Luther College with the first 150 years, and wish you every success for the next 150!
Soon, it was time for King Harald and Queen Sonja to visit the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum where they were given a tour of the exhibit by Norwegian-American sculptor, Sigbjørn Asbjørnsen.
Tomorrow, their majesties will visit St. Olaf College as well as the Mayo Clinic.
To view photos please click the links below: