Kaljulaid: If we do not shape our own future, it will be done for us

President Kersti Kaljulaid delivering a speech at the Rose Garden in Kadriorg. 20 August 2018. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

In a speech at the Rose Garden reception in Kadriorg dedicated to the 27th anniversary of the restoration of Estonia's independence on Monday, President Kersti Kaljulaid addressed key factors in building the country's future, including education and culture, but also stressed the importance of the people's involvement in politics and the democratic process.

Recalling the decades-long era of Soviet occupation to precede the restoration of Estonian independence in 1991, Kaljulaid said that words spoken by Soviet-era dissident Erik Udam at the founding of the Estonian National Independence Party characterised Estonians well.

"He said, 'Maybe we have little experience, as we were forced to live under duress — for their entire lives, people my age and younger haven't been able to be politically active in a free country. Because of this, we may stummble, we may err, but I have no dout that we're all led by a sincere desire to do our part for our homeland. That desire is unselfish and I hope that our endeavours will not be without results.'"

According to the president, Estonians today are much more experienced and successful people, and democracy is not new to them. "It is not futile to hope that this coming autumn, winter and spring will generate many good ideas about which political strategies can shape the best of possible futures for us," she said.

She noted, however, that the people of Estonia have to talk and have discussions about the future. "The best way to ensure that society develops in a consistent manner is to think things through with the electorate," she said.

Kaljulaid described healthcare, social protection and education as the three pillars upon which the future of Estonian society rests. She also admitted that the social sphere tended to be neglected in the early years following the restoration of Estonian independence, but added that Estonia's economic success now obliges its people to focus on taking notice of others as well as supporting and helping them.

"We cannot offer our kids all the knowledge that they will need on a daily basis 30 years from now anyway," said the Estonian head of state. "But we can give them a compass of democratic values. In this way, we can help ourselves cope as a society, in society, no matter what the future holds for our children — be it arduous adaptation to climate changes or exciting new technologies."

Kaljulaid also stressed the importance of the people's involvement in politics and the democratic process.

"We have to debate our future," she said. "Those who care about Estonia's future cannot say that they do not like politics. If we do not shape our own future, it will be done for us. If too few people in Estonia want to engage in Estonian politics, our future as a country will truly be in serious danger. If we do not want to think creatively about our future, the future will start seeming more frightening that it actually is."

According to the president, however, the age of scientists, scholars, writers, engineers, journalists, teachers and doctors in Estonian politics is not over. "On the contrary, we need you," she continued. "The democratic process is just as torturous as the creative process, just as complicated as a scientific experiment, and just as risky as a brain surgery — but just as necessary. Actually, whether there will be another cool party or simply the rustling of oak leaves here one hundred years from now depends on us."

Read the president's Rose Garden speech in full here.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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