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President of the Republic at the Ceremony for Awarding Decorations

Around this time 25 years ago, in his first Independence Day speech as president, Lennart Meri said the following: "I saw Estonia as if for the first time: it is a new land, full of hope and potential, but also a land burdened with worries. At the moment, we live on idealism more so than bread. The bearer of this idealism is the older generation, which knows and remembers that Estonia, between the two world wars, was transformed into a powerful and dynamic republic only through hard work. Idealism is also borne by the Estonian youth, just as at the time the Manifesto was proclaimed."

The concluding words of Meri's address were borrowed from August Ots, a pre-war parish elder from Saaremaa: "A man must work so hard that he does not need to cut his fingernails."

Since then a new generation has been born: the children of 25 years ago are now in this hall. The youth of the 1990s have reached a mature middle age. And our grateful thoughts are with the older generation, the one referred to by President Meri, with those who are still with us today and with those who have passed on.

One Generation of Work.

You, the people who have gathered here today, are a beautiful embodiment of this work and of its fruit. All of you have built Estonia like you would build a home – whether your tool is a compass or a plane, art or music. This is work well done, because you have put your heart and soul into it. It does not matter if you did what you did in return for a salary or during your free time in the evenings and at weekends. Thanks to your work there are more friends, more knowledge, more security, more memories in this home. And this is how it should be in a proper home. Compared with the time 25 years ago there is definitely more bread, but not less idealism.


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