President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson delivered his annual New Year address yesterday from his home, Bessastaðir. In the address he discussed many notable events of 2017, as well as his hopes for Iceland in the coming year.
Guðni opened his address by talking about Birna Brjánsdóttir, the young woman whose disappearance and subsequent murder united the nation in grief during January’s dark days. The president recognized the hard work of search and rescue teams as well as members of the public who lent a hand after Birna’s disappearance. He also pointed to how the tragedy unified the nation. “We hoped together, and searched together, and feared together, and many of us prayed together,” he stated.
Guðni also recognized the countless women who spoke out against gender-based violence as part of the #metoo movement. He did not neglect to recognize “our girls and boys” on the men’s and women’s national football teams who have had record-breaking success over the past year.
The year 2018 marks one century since Iceland became a sovereign nation. The president looked back at the year 1918, whose events filled Icelanders with hope. That year, however, brought cold weather, an eruption, and the Spanish flu, “but here we are still. Together, we can look back proudly on the past century. And we, who are younger, can thank those who are older for their considerable contributions for our benefit.”
Guðni pointed to recent surveys which reveal modern Iceland as one of the happiest nations and believes there is reason to look to the future with optimism, while still being realistic and humble. He referenced the changing structure of the Icelandic economy, which relies less on fishing than ever before, and is now recognized for innovation and technological development. He expressed hopefulness that Icelanders could tackle global problems such as plastic build-up in the ocean, saying the voices of a small nation can be heard when they are backed by knowledge and evidence.
The president stated that as the tourism industry grows, both Icelanders and visitors share the desire to enjoy this land to its fullest. He suggested it is possible to contribute to a constantly changing world while simultaneously taking care of nature. He also encouraged Icelanders to take advantage of the current economic boom to save and invest, rather than embracing materialism.
Finally, he encouraged Icelanders to enjoy the valuable Icelandic language and work to insure its future in technology.
Readers can watch the address in its entirety here.