Monday, 25 December 2017

King Willem-Alexander Christmas Speech - English Translation (2017)

Turning fifty and being able to celebrate with many people together is a fantastic gift. I am grateful that I have been able to experience this, this year.

Like most people, at the end of the year, I look back on the many beautiful moments. And at times moments of sadness and loss. And there were certainly moments like that for my wife and me too.

I also think back to the upheaval that I saw on Sint Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius, where a hurricane literally thwarted the lives of tens of thousands of inhabitants of our Kingdom. And to the courageous beginnings of reconstruction.

These images and stories will not leave me.

The small and personal touches with the big and the common at Christmas. These are days in which we seek shelter, at home or with family and friends, for the moment out of the uncertain world. Nothing else in our mind than Silent Night or the Top 2000. (Top 2000 is an annual marathon radio program, that plays the 2000 most popular songs of all time, from Christmas through New Year's Eve.)

But no matter how much we retreat comfortably in our own circle, the outside world stirs itself behind the windows. The big world behind the curtains is always audible and tangible and imposes itself on us, sometimes frightening, sometimes inviting.

"I proclaim to you great joy that will come to all the people," says the angel to the shepherds. A proclamation to 'all the people' ... Christmas unites us strongly together.

That encourages us to think about our role in life. Is it: every man for himself and God for us all? Or do we ourselves have an active role in a larger whole? And if so, which one?

It is not always easy to keep believing in the community that we form together, not in a country with so much diversity as ours. A country of free people in which the answer to the question 'who am I?' never completely coincides with the answer to the question 'who are we?'

How can we live with those differences without indifference? Not attractive is a society in which more and more people retreat to their homes, with no sense of that community we share together.

It seems increasingly difficult to meet each other in daily life. The places where very different people have traditionally encountered each other - church, office, café, sports club, school - lose that connecting function more and more. Perhaps only the hospital is still a place where you come into contact with people with a different background and lifestyle.

Our communication via internet offers fantastic possibilities but does not automatically offer an open window to the world. It is often difficult to distinguish facts and fabrications from each other.

Nuance and empathy seem to suffer as well, and Twitter sometimes makes the debate bitter. More and more people keep their digital door close and take look for ideas that confirm their group feeling and opinion.

With all this, something essential is lost.

Three months ago my wife and I attended a dance performance by one of the greatest artists of our country: Hans van Manen. He turned 85 years old this year. He said 'curiosity is extremely important to mankind'.

Curiosity about the outside world. It is something I also hear a lot in conversations with people who are active in volunteering. They see their world grow when they contact with strangers. Often they find they have a lot in common.

Perhaps this is the beginning of an answer. Not looking for a wider Me, but to a greater We.

That search for a bigger one has always been a driving force in the history of our country and our democracy. It is not simple. It often comes in spurts and it requires diehards who continue against all odds.

A hundred years ago, in 1917, there was a breakthrough in a battle that had kept our country divided for a long time. Special education was given an equal position and the right to vote was extended to all men.

Women had to wait another two years before they could vote, thanks inpart thanks to Aletta Jacobs. She had been fighting for more than 35 years - half a human life. She celebrated the victory with conciliatory words.

"Just won by persuasion, we are inching ground, until finally, the fear of the new has to surrender."

Inch by Inch. This is how improvements are made. This way a larger one can arise. Not only in the world and in our country, but also very close in our own neighborhood.

The old Christmas song leaves no doubt that we belong together and are connected to each other.

Er is een kindeke geboren op aard
(A little child is born on earth)

't Kwam op de aarde voor ons allemaal.
(It came to the earth for us all.)

At Christmas, something very big appears to us as something very small. A Child is born. A child, without words, without guilt, without anger and without distrust. It offers us a new beginning. Our own lives are included in a larger context of hope and peace, in which we ourselves have a role - however small - to play.

I wish you all - wherever you are and how your personal circumstances are - a blessed Christmas.

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