65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 10

65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 10
from a state such as Minnesota to a post such as this in Iceland. Minnesota was the settlement area of many an immigrant from Northern and Western Europe — The Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Germans, Irish and Icelanders and Finns came by the thousands — an axiom of Minnesota politics since 1900 has been that a readily identifiable Nordic name in any state-wide election is worth 100,000 votes. Political leaders who don’t have such ready identification such as Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Orville Freeman are always care- ful to point out that they are the grandsons of a Norwegian sea captain or a Swedish logger. Among the most prominent of the Icelandic descendants is the famous Bjomson family — political leaders, newspaper men, historians, ar- tists and authors. They have contributed much to the developing Midwestern states, especially, Minnesota and North Dakota. All this is to point out that it can be by a pro- cess of unconscious procuration that one prepares himself for an assignment to a post such as mine. A combination of heritage, the accident of history, the happen-stance of birth, the assimila- tions of several like cultures, the rough and tumble of political experience, the training ground of command responsibilities and decision making are all helpful in arriving at answers to the ques- tions my wife and I raised that sticky and muggy evening on May 3 in New York awaiting the departure of Pan American’s flight number 76 to Reykjavik. We looked backward on a full and complete life of experience and forward to a new one. Both of us, we discovered later, had in those few hours taken an inventory. — And what have we found? — An enchanting, dynamic, sophisticated and cultured country and people -—- not at all dis- similar in many respects from our own State of Minnesota. Climate wise your summers are cooler than Minnesota but in the winters I’m certain we shall find that the Icelanders’ winter is mild by the standards of Minnesota. Minnesotans can’t claim any lava fields, glaciers or mountains but, on the other hand, we do have over 15,000 lakes and vast areas of forests and wilderness. Minnesotans, like Icelanders, are campers and sport fishermen who love the out-of-doors. Much deeper, however, and of considerably more significance are the people themselves. One detects here similarities in concepts which I strongly believe are the bone and sinew of any democratic society: — an almost militant attachment to egalitarian- ism. — an extraordinary effort to provide for the education of all our people. — a deep and abiding interest in the matters of self-government and full participation in the democratic processes. President Lyndon Johnson put it so well when he welcomed President Asgeir Asgeirsson at the White House last July 18. “.... Iceland and America have a great deal in common. Both were built by pioneers, by men who journeyed into the unknown, across a forbidding sea or an unchar- tered wilderness. Both of our peoples came to find freedom. Both founded nations that today have a long and honored tradition of liberty and justice. ... There is ice in the cold determination of your people to preserve and protect the demo- cratic institutions we all cherish so much. And there is fire -— and a great deal of fire -— always in your support of peace and freedom.” There is another aspect of similarity in history I should like to comment on. My section of America — the area we call “the Upper Midwest” was historically the seat of perhaps the strongest isolationist sentiment to be found in the United States. Our institutions as well as our history are both very young and, paradoxically, quite old. At various times several hundred years ago we have been parts of dominions where the flags of Spain, France and England have flown. — But it was only quite recently when the restless, coura- geous pioneer settler came from Europe pushing ever further West to take up the land that we be- came a state. — My own grandfather, coming from Sogn in Norway traveled west across the then almost uninhabited prairie of Southern Minne- sota by covered wagon and team of oxen. Ten Norwegian families and a lone Irish family made 8 65



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