On Sunday October 16, 2011, Their Majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway paid a visit to Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The reigning couple were greeted by the president of the college as well as others. Soon, they attended a worship service at Hoversten Chapel and finally a private reception was held in their honor.
In the late afternoon, their majesties attended yet another reception hosted by the governor of Minnesota, Mr. Mark Dayton. Three and a half hours later the reigning couple attended an official banquet hosted by the Norwegian ambassador, Mr. Wegger Stronmmen, at the Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis. During the event His Majesty King Harald gave a speech:
It is indeed a great honor to address such an impressive audience at this wonderful dinner here in the Twin Cities.
As you, in this country, were preparing to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that struck your nation so hard on 11 September 2001, Norway was brutally hit by terrorism on 22 July this year. I take this opportunity to thank you for the generous support and compassion you have shown in the wake of this tragedy. This reminded us once again why the United States will always have such a special place in the hearts of all Norwegians. And it reminds us of the values we share.
My personal bonds to the United States have developed since my early childhood, when I spent five years here with my mother and two sisters during World War II. I have visited regularly since then, and my fascination and admiration for this beautiful and complex country is still growing.
The Queen and I are particularly fond of this part of the United States. Minnesota is perhaps the most Norwegian of all the American states. We are therefore delighted to be here again and to visit the welcoming and charming cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, together with all the other exciting places that are included in our extensive program.
Many of your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents sought a better life in America. It is easy to understand why so many decided to settle in this particular area. People here are warm and open-minded, the prairie is open and welcoming, and the network of rivers and lakes make the soil fertile.
Nevertheless, starting a new life in a foreign country far away must have been tough for most of them. During our time here, The Queen and I have had the pleasure of visiting many institutions that are doing an important job documenting and conveying to future generations the stories of the Norwegian immigrants.
Your ancestors were dedicated, hardworking pioneers. Several were explorers in the great Norwegian tradition. This year there are two important anniversaries in this context: the 100th anniversary of Roald Amundsen’s journey to the South Pole, and the 150th anniversary of the birth of his mentor, the great explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen.
Norwegians who came to America have made an extraordinary impact in the process of building this country, and your history is full of examples of dedicated people who have left “footprints on the sand of time”. You have been contributing to all aspects of American society, in a number of areas – like education, politics and business life. Every one of you should be proud of what you have accomplished in this great country.
Present here tonight are many people and organizations that continue to strengthen the bonds with the past and keep our common traditions and cultural heritage alive. I am deeply impressed by the achievements of the Norwegian immigrants and their descendants.
I am particularly grateful to you, Vice President Mondale, for all that you have done to maintain the bonds between our countries, both as a devoted politician and as Norwegian Consul General here in Minneapolis. We appreciate the pride you take in your Norwegian ancestry and all that you have accomplished over the years.
I am also grateful to the institutions of higher education in the Midwest, with strong Norwegian ties, such as Concordia , St. Olaf, Augsburg, Augustana and Luther College. You do all a great job, enriching young minds and encouraging close international collaboration.
And I am grateful to the Sons of Norway and the many other organizations that preserve Norwegian heritage and traditions. Norway looks to its Sons and Daughters in the United States as a bridge between our two cultures.
Our countries’ efforts are at their best when we combine them. We work together to achieve development, peace, democracy and human rights in countries around the world. We share a common interest in combating climate change. And Norwegians have fought shoulder to shoulder with Americans throughout the history – in the US Civil War, in the 99th Battalion in World War II, in the Balkans and today in Libya and Afghanistan.
We are gathered here tonight to celebrate what it means to be Norwegian and what it means to be American. There is something special about each and every one of you, a reflection of your combined Norwegian and American heritages.
I wish you all the very best in preserving these values as well as taking care of the pride and awareness of your Norwegian ancestry. I am confident that these special bonds of friendship will stay alive in the future.
To watch a video clip as well as to view photos please click the links below:
Photo courtesy of: Kongehuest