Good morning, people of Estonia!
Happy Independence Day to you all, here in the courtyard of Toompea Castle, and at homes, listening to the radio or watching TV. And greetings to all our people everywhere in the world who are following us through the Internet. It is great to see you here today and feel the joy of being together, and to continue one of the most beautiful traditions of our state –the solemn hoisting of our national flag at the Tall Hermann Tower at the sunrise of the birthday of our state.
The Republic of Estonia is 95 years old today. During that time, we have not always been able to fly our tricolour flag here at Toompea or display it on our houses. Unfortunately we have not had the possibility to do that on every birthday of our state, but only half of the times.
But in March this year we will be able to say that the new time of freedom is longer than the previous one before the great war. We look back in time and thank those who have worked in the name of making Estonia a free country, a land where free people live. Let us respect everybody who, during those times when displaying the blue, black and white was a crime, carefully kept out national colours in a safe place – they were sheltered and honoured in hundreds of thousands of hearts.
Recently the question whether the Estonian language and the Estonian people will survive has fuelled passions. Is the fact that many Estonians have gone abroad to study, to work or just to seek their fortune a sign of tragedy, or is it a natural way of using one’s freedom? I am convinced that as long as most of us carry Estonia with us in our souls, both at home and abroad, our language, our ideas and our nation are not in danger.
In 1937, Ernest Hemingway wrote in his novel “To Have and Have Not”: “No well-run yacht basin in Southern waters is complete without at least two sunburned, salt bleached-headed Esthonians who are waiting for a check from their last article. When it comes they will sail to another yacht basin and write another saga. They are happy too.” [End of quote.]
When I was young, I very much admired those Estonian world travellers and I, too, was attracted by distant lands. Today also it is no wonder to find an Estonian in every corner of the world. We have reason to be proud that in almost every container port of the world you can see navigation equipment with the label “Made in Estonia”.
The success stories of Skype and many other Estonian products prove that, in spite of harsh competition, it is possible to achieve global success without leaving your native land.
The engine of success, at least in the sphere of technology, is not casual luck or extraordinary talent, but a mind open to modern ideas, professional commitment mixed with ingenuity and eagerness.
In April, a small but very smart satellite that was completed as the result of many-years effort of the Estonian students, will be launched to orbit from French Guiana. Paraphrasing the well-known quote by Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the surface of the Moon: that’s one small satellite, one giant leap for our state – Estonia will join the space-exploring states.
Estonian scientists, athletes and artists have been successful ambassadors of our country and our people all over the world. Actually every Estonian who travels around in the world is an ambassador of our country. One can always meet somebody for whom a fellow countryman of ours is the first person from Estonia whom they see and talk to. Such ambassadorial duties are pleasant and dignified.
Estonia will develop if we ourselves are ready to make the world around us better. The fundamental value of developing civil society is changing of thinking and attitude. In the White Hall of the Riigikogu, we recently awarded the outstanding persons of our civil society, the people who have unselfishly served our society, stood for civic freedoms, increased the coherence in society and encouraged the young people.
I will give you some examples. The founders of the social enterprise Abikäsi (‘Helping Hand’), two young men, noticed what others have overlooked, and helped many people with special needs to find jobs.
Often it is said that life in the rural regions is dying out. But during its fifteen years of activity, the Estonian Village Movement Kodukant has managed to prove to all of us that the villages where the community acts together shall live. In this way many people find the way back to their roots.
Estonian people and Estonian culture will survive as long as our thoughts and choices are free. If we have the possibility to leave and the possibility to return. I can say from my own experience, and I think most of you will agree with me, that the Estonian people have very strong feelings for their homeland, no matter where they are.
Borrowing an image from the poet Juhan Liiv – like a bee leaves the beehive and returns to it, a human being can also go away and come back. Because his soul longs for fatherland, “and flies towards the beehive”.
No matter if we are here or far away, it is the duty of us all to keep and protect this beehive – our Estonia, our fatherland.
Happy Anniversary of the Republic to everybody!
Long live Estonia!
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