Kaljulaid: Every child and teenager in the country has demonstrated bravery

President Kersti Kaljulaid.
President Kersti Kaljulaid. Source: Mattias Tammet/Office of the President

Children have previously been among those acknowledged for their bravery, but this year, every child and every teenager in the country has demonstrated that bravery, President Kersti Kaljulaid said in a speech marking Children's Day on June 1. ERR News is reproducing the president's speech in full.

Best friends of children, children of Estonia,

This year, we are experiencing June 1 a little differently, just as we have experienced every day a little differently since March 12. In quite an extraordinary way, children have had to contribute just as much to saving people's lives as adults have. Children, like adults, have had to give up a lot that they enjoy so that there is as little sadness as possible in society due to the coronavirus.

Of course, children have stood out previously as life-savers, too. Almost every year, when medals are awarded for such bravery, at least one or two of the recipients are children or teenagers. This year, every child and every teenager in the country has demonstrated that bravery. To all of you young people I say a big thank you!

Children form the most genuine part of our society. They believe in goodness, more strongly than we adults do, when life has shown them its best side — offering them a safe home and school environment, safe streets, a safe city and a safe country.

Nothing should be allowed to sully the hope that children have, the excitement they feel on growing up, or make them doubt that they also have rights and obligations as members of society just like everyone else — and that the freedom that comes from the balance between those rights and obligations is what will help them make their dreams come true. In some ways, how children and teenagers perceive their right in society to make free choices and to be supported in making those choices by the law, the cultural space around them and the customs they grew up with, is both a litmus test for society and a prediction of the future.

The more our young people believe that their own futures and the future of Estonia really do depend on them, the more courageous and enterprising they will be. The more we adults are able to admire and support our young people's endeavors to become better people and to make everything around them better, so much the better for the future of Estonia.

It is the young who hope to save the world. They have always wanted to do this, but the time is at hand when doing so has become unavoidable. Our generation can make this harder for them or easier for them.

First, we have to raise a generation that believes in itself.

Then we have to support their drive to save our planet.

This won't be easy ⁠— first, we will have to admit that we have failed to do so ourselves, that we are still contributing to climate change on a daily basis, that we have only just started seeking solutions and that not all of us even agree that this is something we need to be doing.

Moreover, we have to give our children the tools they need to save the world: a good education, but also a good legal environment that supports their desire to bequeath the world to their own children, our grandchildren, with even more hope.

And then we ourselves have to do everything right to ensure that our youngsters don't become disillusioned with society and that they see that decision-makers today are making choices with the future in mind and looking for ideas that shore up our future, as difficult as that is.

Children, friends of children, I truly believe that we are doing our best ⁠— as much as we are able to, in the certain knowledge that our children will do even better when their turn comes.

The coronavirus pandemic has placed a lot of responsibility on children's shoulders for the well-being of our society. Our children have done what they can, and so far we have managed to prevent the worst. But yes, this past spring has been a little different.

If we meet the future head-on with this knowledge ⁠— that everyone counts, that everyone can do their part and that nobody will be left behind because they seem weaker or less important than others ⁠— and if we don't forget it, then this spring will not just have been one of loss, but one from which we gained something truly valuable.

I wish you all — children, parents and grandparents — a lovely summer in the best of health!


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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