Dutch King calls for more empathy, better climate change approach in Christmas speech
As in previous years, NL Times produced a full English translation of King Willem-Alexander's 2021 Christmas Address. His speech was recorded earlier in the week inside the Huis ten Bosch palace in The Hague.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander used his annual Christmas Day address to call on people to be more empathetic and understanding as the new year approaches. In his seven-minute speech, he mentioned people who have had a difficult time because of the tax office benefits scandal, the violence during coronavirus protests, and families concerned about the impact of frequent low-grade earthquakes in the northern provinces.
Aside from stories of "pride and ambition," he took time to highlight those affected greatly by "worries and tension," and "intense anger and despair."
"The conversation with a group of parents who got caught up in the benefits scandal made a big impression on me," he said. "Dutch citizens whose lives have been destroyed. One of them told how she had come to the Netherlands with her parents as a little girl. Her mother and father always told her, 'If you do your best and work hard, you can go far in this country.' Now a disappointed woman sat in front of me. That touched me deeply."
He then described a visit to a family dairy farm in Overschild, Groningen, which faces a great deal of uncertainty as decades of natural gas extraction in the region cause frequent tremors. "Will one of the children still be able to take over the company in the future, with all the misery of leaking manure pits and other earthquake damage?"
Additionally, the king spoke of first responders during rioting in Rotterdam in November. The riots broke out during protests against coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands. "A police officer with 37 years of experience said, 'I have never experienced this.' A young officer told me how he was pelted with stones while he took care of a victim."
The king drew a common line between those stories, and other visits he's made throughout the year, like to a hospital to speak with healthcare workers about their constant efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, the TU Delft students working on climate neutral modes of transportation, and an electric bus company in Deurne that started as a club project.
"Again and again - in everyone - there is a need to be heard," he said. "We don't lack stories, but we sometimes struggle to listen to them and see the people behind them. Even if we know that we can never agree on one subject, we must keep looking for what we do have in common. Even if points of view are far apart, we must continue to live together."
Aside from mentioning the students and companies working on cleaner energy, he also wrote about the need to focus more attention on fixing the damage caused by global warming. "What I see is the willingness of many people - young and old - to help solve problems that affect us all. Like the coronavirus pandemic, but also climate change, which we have created ourselves and of which we are now experiencing the consequences."
He added, "Do something about it together. Choose for an idyllic vision, for a joint venture to protect our lives on Earth. That, too, can be part of our story. Even a great story."
Although he did continue his message of togetherness and a united nation, the king did not make any mention of past mistakes by the royal family and their lack of adherence to coronavirus restrictions and advisories from the government.
"What story will be told about us later? What input can we provide? Our individual influence is greater than we often think. A beautiful Jewish saying goes, 'If you have saved one life, you have saved humanity.' I wish you all – wherever you are and whatever your personal circumstances – a blessed Christmas."