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«Our youngsters deserve our admiration», says Kaljulaid to Estonian nation

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Kersti Kaljulaid, Estonia, New Year

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has addressed the balance between the youthful international view of young people and the tradition-keeping way of more experienced generations in her New Year’s address.

Here is Kaljulaid’s speech in full as published on the Estonian President’s official web site:

«Fellow citizens of Estonia,

2019 has been a year in which, among other things, the old have been taught a thing or two by the young – here in Estonia as well.

In the past it has been deemed effrontery for youth to consider themselves wiser than their elders, but some internationally respected indicators going by the name of a famous leaning tower only recently proved that our younger generation are smart, and growing smarter all the time.

In fact, they are among the cleverest in the world, and not in a figurative sense.

Our youngsters, those who were born in 21st-century Estonia, who have grown up in an international environment – since even the littlest members of society become citizens of the world as soon as they discover the Internet – and who share their thoughts and ideas with their peers all over the globe, deserve our admiration for just how smart, bold and intrepid they are.

The youth of Estonia know how to be global citizens and yet remain assuredly Estonian: at the same time international and also home at the Song Festival.

And yet perhaps the swift currents of history, which are flowing faster all the time, are leading us to a point where only the young – who by their nature have not only the skill, but also the courage to trust the future, to look forward to it rather than fear it – will stay comfortably afloat in these rapidly flowing waters.

I must admit that neither myself nor others of my generation are probably as optimistic. But maybe that is needed for balance in society: dialogue between conventionalism and impetuousness can produce the best future, where there is room for everyone.

Of course, society can be divided down the middle in more ways than just ‘young’ and ‘old’. We have grown used to such division, and to standing in opposition. But there is true value for society in defining opposites, and that value is created when we start to see those opposites as complementing one another. Belonging to this group or that group does not make us opponents. Different interests, different attitudes to the present or to the future are valuable in themselves.

Steady dialogue can continue for decades before it produces any results, as the large numbers of Russian-speaking parents now seeking to enrol their children in Estonian-language schools in Ida-Viru County shows.

Indeed, calm dialogue between those who place their faith in technology and have a more global outlook and those who contribute to the preservation of traditions has produced the Estonia we see today.

One group seeks to drive us forward towards ever greater prosperity, while the other is skilled in holding on to what makes us happy: a green, flavourful and patterned Estonia. Neither group could imagine the country without the other.

Even the passionate debate about Estonia’s forests ensures that in making decisions we should, in the longer term, continue to find the middle ground, with the opinions of neither group leading us astray.

Or arguments about whether wind can become Estonia’s new oil shale, and how to find workers to guarantee the further growth of the economy as salaries continue to grow.

All of this combined, is what makes life good in Estonia: life in a time of peace in a country with a flourishing economy, where there is room for both youthful idealism and the balance that comes with age. The future is always the sum of these two approaches. Perhaps, if we can see the value in opposites and differences, whether at home or afar, history will give us the chance to grow as a country and as a nation in the new year, too.

Happy New Year, my beloved Estonia!»


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