New year’s address by the President of the Republic
People of Estonia,
Tonight, at this hour – when one year becomes the next; when one thing fades as another takes form – it is fitting to recognise that now, in our 20th year of new freedom, we have truly come of age. First and foremost, this is related to what is around us.
Now we must become a part of a world that has come of age, too. We must do so wisely, striking a balance; with a respect for our achievements, and our worth. Let us remember that our freedom – that whitest of white ships we awaited for a full 700 and then another 50 years – is the freedom to go, and to go freely, wherever we wish.
We bear no guilt for the fact that we are free. We must not bow to the belief, to the bitterness of the slave mentality, that freedom has left us impoverished. If we are free, we are free to come and go as we please.
When you come of age, you realise that freedom is something you must also learn to cope with. And this knowledge is expressed in the conviction that we have truly coped better with something than we might otherwise have done.
But is that really the case? It can’t be! I don’t believe it! We laugh at our own; we pay good money to others to impart their ‘wisdom’. And we are wounded by every arrow of criticism that is fired at us – even those that are dipped in the poison of jealousy.
With seven hundred years of history on our backs – a burden we shoulder for no real reason – we doubt ourselves, as if expecting to be sent out into the fields to toil, with the meagre livelihood and ever-present threat of ‘whipping boy’ status such serfdom entails.
We are not free because of the clemency of others: we are free because we want to be. That is why we no longer need to erase the sins of the present with the myths of the past. And that is why those who put their fatherland up for sale today, one piece at a time, should not flaunt the fight for freedom of yesterday.
We go into this winter better prepared than in many other years. We must use that strength to cast aside all that is false. We must say to the liars and to the grifters: there is no place for you here.
We must use that strength to hold on to all that is right and constant – to our families; to our nation; to honesty, and to honour.
And we must realise that so far we have coped well. Not those who govern us, above all: we ourselves, since it was we who elected them.
This gives us the moral right to denounce those to whom we have entrusted the preservation of our values but who have come to view this as their own personal currency; all the more so when they have the conceit to peddle our shared values for their own gain. It is the role of the state to ensure, after all, that the value we accumulate in our lives is upheld and fostered.
How should we approach the new and the unknown in a situation where we have no idea whether Europe, coveted by us for so long, will bring us salvation or vexation?
In my view we should rely on common sense with the equanimity that maturity brings, and on our experience as a nation. We should put away our childish things. We must stop bemoaning that the world does not understand us. We must stop excusing our mistakes with claims that we were not the only ones to make them. And we must understand that while no profession taints a person by default, certain professions must remain untainted.
It is within our own power to make our lives better, since we stand on solid ground. We should all, each of us, strive for this, starting with the simplest things:
Never do harm to others.
Never – never – drink and drive.
Anyone who uses a false name, or no name at all, to vilify others, is a reprobate.
Animosity and jealousy hurt us, as a country and a nation, because we are all now free to choose a life where there is no hatred.
Trust empowers you to work for the good of the country – not for your own benefit.
People of Estonia,
The candles on the trees will soon go out and the sparks from the fireworks will soon fade in the sky, but the stars will remain – as will the light in our eyes, and in the eyes of those we love. I know of things that change, and I believe in things that will remain with me for the rest of my life. Let us recognise the beautiful moments within ourselves, and around us. We should value their importance, and hold them in our memories.
Love those who are important to you and who are dear to you. Look after one another – all of us!
Happy new year. Long live Estonia!