King Willem-Alexander's Christmas Address 2018: full text
"We are less powerless than we think", King Willem-Alexander said in his annual Christmas speech on Tuesday. Read the full text of the speech in English below:
Christmas connects us... but everyone has his or her own feelings. How do you experience this Christmas?
Maybe you're looking back on a beautiful year and enjoying the atmosphere and the people around you.
Perhaps these are difficult days because you feel lonely. Or because you're missing someone terribly who you would have loved to have with you. My wife and I know what you are going through.
Christmas leaves few people untouched.
This celebration appeals to our faith.
In religious terms, but also:
the faith in ourselves;
in each other;
in a happy and peaceful future.
It is not always easy to hold on to that faith. Those who follow the news sometimes lose heart. What really comes from all the beautiful ideals and promises? Reports about intimidation and extremism - far away but also near by - can make us angry. Against the fierce and brutal forces in the world, ordinary people stand powerless... that's how it often feels.
But is it not possible that we underestimate our own role?
Coincidentally, it is seventy years ago that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations. You may think: "What do we do with such a declaration? It sounds so far away". But the driving force behind it - Eleanor Roosevelt - thought very differently about it. She said:
"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world."
She thus established a direct link between the street in which we live and the big world.
Freedom, equality and fair opportunities for everyone also depend on how we interact with each other on a daily basis. A life without fear and indifference is not only determined on distant conference tables, however indispensable they may be. It is fortunate that we also take part.
We are less powerless than we think.
The vast majority of Dutch people feel at home in an environment where contradictions are not at the forefront and conflicts are resolved as well as possible together.
Comparison with other countries is often a source of comfort, if not pride. The willingness to take each other into account and cooperate has brought us far. This was the basis of our country, 450 years ago, when a small group of Dutch regions joined forces against the tribulation and successfully went its own way. Something like that has never been seen before.
Active citizens who want to work together despite all the differences. That is the red thread that runs through our history, to this day. That is what makes us strong.
Yes, there are problems and sometimes great tensions. But the Netherlands is in 2018 one of the best places in the world to stay, work and live.
That is also due to you, however self-evident and 'normal' you may find your contribution.
The Dutch standard is that we look out for each other and the shared interest. That we work together and give and take. We should never let this standard fade! It is invaluable and leads to fantastic new initiatives again and again.
During my visits I saw that throughout the Netherlands, also in the past year. In many places citizens take control to tackle and organize things together. That could be refurbishing and running a city hall. Or switching to sustainable energy with your neighbors. Or turning a neglected courtyard into a garden that all residents can enjoy.
It is precisely in challenging circumstances that people seek each other out. In October I ws a guest in the Hogeland of Groningen where five towns have joined forces, from Kloosterburen to Kleine Huisjes. The residents have given their town a heart again and also take care of older and vulnerable fellow residents. Everyone counts.
"Small-scale", some might think. But I think: "huge!"
A better Netherlands starts in Kleine Huisjes! [translates to 'Small Homes' in English]
We often underestimate the positive influence that we can have as a person with our modest possibilities. The world is won close to home.
We can not do everything together. But a lot.
And to people in the least easy position, we often have the most to thank.
With Christmas, simplicity triumphs. Maria wrapped her child in cloths and put him in a manger. Even a corner in an inn was not available. A stable sufficed.
Christmas reminds us that we too easily overlook all the most important sources of happiness.
A bright future is possible. Provided we hold on to the faith in ourselves and in each other.
I wish you all - wherever you are and whatever your personal circumstances are - a blessed Christmas.