Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The View from Helsinki

President Bush attended a European summit last week in Brussels. He met with EU leaders, and each member was given time for a short speech. Finland’s president, Tarja Halonan (yup, a woman) was given one minute. She has not released a transcript of her remarks, but the Finnish press has speculated about what she said.

Even better, tho, was a collection published in the primary Helsinki paper, Helsingin Sanomat. The paper invited 10 people to write a one minute speech that they would have given in Bush’s presence. These ten columns represent a great cross-section of how others view our leader, and to some extent, our country. A few interesting examples:

“Monsieur Bush, we have underestimated the depth of the trauma caused in Americans by September 11th. After the terror attacks, the answer to the question ‘Who is my neighbour?’ has changed. …Everyone has the right to live in peace as a member in good standing of our human family. Hope brings mankind into bloom - lack of hope is our greatest threat.” Ari Vatanen, Member of the European Parliament.

"Values are not the property of nations or of political systems. They are common and universal. Values like home, faith, and motherland are sacred in Finland just as they are in the United States. I believe that they are familiar and revered principles in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. All over the world we see empowered other, negative principles, ones that do not stem from such values - inequality and intolerance come to mind as examples. These can be eradicated only by showing that the other values and principles are better. This demands patience and it demands time." Georgij Alafuzoff, Commodore, Finnish Navy, Finland’s liason officer at the Anti-Terrorism CentCom, Tampa, FL.

“The United States was the first multicultural and multi-faith democracy. Your country has, in admirable fashion, shown itself able to combine freedom, pluralism, and strength. In addition to the right attitudes, this has required great wealth. For the impoverished in the midst of his struggle through life, it is often hard to be pluralistic and tolerant. To prosperity and tolerance belongs the virtue of open-mindedness. A man of open mind knows how to put a damper on his own zeal and make room for others. He understands that offering gifts is often imposing on others, and can offend those less well-endowed. The man of open mind knows how to give considerately, without sermonising. We peoples of the North have often had to keep a cool head in problem situations. Patience is a virtue, and unnecessary gung-ho behaviour and rushing about brings harm to oneself and to others. Please, Americans, please learn moderation and open-mindedness. It will be worth the effort." Risto Saarinen, Professor of Ecumenics, Faculty of Theology, Helsinki

And so we are viewed.....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,
Great find.
I would really like to talk to:

Oona Louhivaara, upper secondary school student, 17, HELSINKI

What an interesting opinion. I have never seen sad, dissapointed and hopeful mixed into one thought.