President Sauli Niinistö and his spouse, Jenni Haukio, attending the Finland 100 gala in Washington D.C. on Saturday, September 16, 2017. Picture: The Embassy of Finland in Washington

“‘Together’ is the very essence of our independence. It always has been,” said President Sauli Niinistö in his speech at the Finland 100 gala at the Finnish embassy on Saturday, while touring the United States with his spouse, Jenni Haukio.

“At first sight, it (the word ‘together’) may look like the exact opposite of the word ‘independence’,” Niinistö said and continued that “a closer look” reveals differently. “Together” begins at home, within our borders, in our communities. As a nation of 5.5 million people, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind. Pulling together has served us well throughout our history, in good times and bad. Equality between genders, in opportunities and in education provide the backbone for the resilience of our society. The backbone of what I have called participatory patriotism,” he said.

According to Niinistö, the power of “together does not stop at the water’s edge.” “For Finland, international cooperation is critically important. Our prosperity is built on free trade and an open world economy. Our security is strengthened by international institutions and the rules-based order. And working with our partners, we give back in equal measure. Our companies and investments create jobs abroad. Our civilian and military experts contribute to security beyond our borders.”

Niinistö reminded the listeners that “we are living in dangerous times.” “There are forces trying to sow division in our societies and between different countries in the world,” he said. “We need to be firm and decisive against those who threaten us. But we also need to be very careful to minimize collateral damage when doing so. Maintaining unity is crucial, nationally and internationally.”

Niinistö said that anniversaries can easily be reduced to thinking about the past only. But indeed, “We Finns have every reason to be proud of our history — but it has not always been easy,” Niinistö said. “Turning a poor, agrarian country into one of the most stable, successful and competitive societies in the world did not happen miraculously overnight. It has been a result of sacrifices, perseverance — or what we call sisu (guts) – and vision.”

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[alert type=white ]”Turning a poor, agrarian country into one of the most stable, successful and competitive societies in the world did not happen miraculously overnight.”[/alert]

But past achievement alone does not carry us very far. “Completing our first century as an independent nation should make us to think about the next century, too. We need to make sure that all the qualities that have brought us this far are fit for the future. In a rapidly changing environment, a fair amount of innovation and renewal will be vital as well,” said President Niinistö.

On September 18-21, President Niinistö will be attending the opening week of the 72nd Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

On Monday, President Niinistö will meet with UN Secretary-General António Guterres and attend the UN Reform Event chaired by the US President Donald Trump. On Tuesday, President Niinistö will attend the summit on a Global Pact for the Environment chaired by the French President Emmanuel Macron. President Niinistö will deliver Finland’s National Statement at the General Debate of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly on Wednesday.

He will also deliver a speech at the HeForShe event organized by UN Women, the United Nations agency for gender equality and women’s rights.  On Thursday, President Niinistö will deliver the keynote speech at the Zero emission summit on Citizens’ Role in Mitigating Climate Change.

Picture: The Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C.

President Niinistö will conclude his tour in the US by traveling to Minneapolis from September 21 to 23 as part of the celebrations for the centenary of Finland’s independence. Niinistö will attend the main event of the FinnFest festival of Finnish Americans and the concert of the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Music Director Osmo Vänskä on Friday.

In addition, the President will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of Minnesota and he will speak at an event of the Economic Club of Minnesota.

Minnesota is one of the most important areas of Finnish immigration into the United States.

Source: The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland