Speech at the Nobel Banquet 2019

Speech by Ms Tone Wilhelmsen Trøen, President of the Storting, at the Nobel Banquet on 10th December 2019.

Your Majesties,
Your Royal Highnesses,
Nobel Laureate,
Distinguished Guests,
Dear hosts,

Once again, the Nobel Committee has played host to an evening that will make its way into the history books. As these days and evenings always do.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali,

When I take a look around me at the end of unusually eventful days, I sometimes wonder to myself what it was that brought me here. How did I – how did we – end up where we are? This evening is one of those occasions.

There’s the simple answer, of course. We are here because a Swedish genius named Nobel decided to leave part of his huge fortune to individuals who’d done something unique for the good of humanity.

Peace, stability and sustainable development improve the lives of people. As politicians, we carry a special responsibility to be guided by Nobel’s will.

Nobel was a man who saw opportunities and looked for solutions. Well before it had dawned on others that there was even a question to answer.

He experienced that the road to success often passes through the capacity to recover from setbacks and defeats.

Yet he also had the ability to see the opportunities that others missed.

Today we have gathered to honour this year’s laureate for his efforts to promote reconciliation and peaceful solutions. In Ethiopia, with Eritrea, and across the region. Prime Minister, once again many congratulations on the Peace Prize; it brings hope, inspiration and expectation.

Dear guests,

Norwegians love fairy tales. They are usually about seeking happiness. Ethiopians have grown up to stories of Kaldi the goatherd; one of the few to have done more for human well-being than Alfred Nobel.

Tradition has it that Kaldi was the goatherd who first noticed that his flock would grow particularly lively after feeding on the red berries from a special plant. Kaldi took the berries to the abbot at the local monastery. Certain that these berries were the work of the Devil, the abbot threw them straight into the fire. But no sooner had he smelt the aroma emanating from the fire, than he had second thoughts.

This, dear friends, was the very first smell of coffee.

The berries were turned into a drink. The very drink that helps millions of people to get up and ready for a new day.

The story of Kaldi is the story of how one person’s attentiveness affected not only his local village or the region as a whole, but – after a while – people all over the world.

Centuries have passed since the abbot himself understood the mistake he’d made and raked the berries out of the flames. Centuries have also passed since coffee spread from Ethiopia to become such an important part of everyday life for so many.

Like the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony itself, change and development take time. Surely something to bear in mind when we are faced with formidable challenges: Like building peace in a conflict-torn area. Or preserving unity in a highly diverse country. These things take time; they demand effort, and they require understanding.

We live in an age when it’s more important than ever that we take the time to speak together; that we rediscover the value of measured conversation and drawn-out processes. Here, we have much to learn from Kaldi and his Ethiopian legacy.

As a symbolic and practical expression of community over difference, the traditional coffee ceremony embraces the values of warmth and togetherness. Of patience and composure to allow things to take the time they need.

Just as the traditions surrounding the Nobel Peace Prize have marked today as it nears its end.

All we need now is our coffee.

And while we wait, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our generous hosts for a marvellous evening. One that will write itself into the history books as an evening of pleasure and dignity.

Sist oppdatert: 11.12.2019 09:08