Monday Moments with President Bergman: December 16, 2019

Gustavus President Rebecca M. Bergman shares her thoughts with College employees each week.
Posted on December 16th, 2019 by

President Rebecca M. Bergman

I returned yesterday from a memorable trip to Sweden. Stockholm in December is a magical place. Daylight is in short supply (sunrise at 8:30 a.m. and sunset before 3 p.m.), but the city is sparkling with twinkling lights, streets are beautifully decorated, windows everywhere are lit with candles and large stars, Christmas trees (indoors and outdoors) are simply decorated with strands of white lights and perhaps some gold or silver balls, children and adult choirs gather in the squares and churches to sing (including Lucia concerts all over the city), and the Christmas market is bustling with people throughout the day.

For the third time, my husband Tom and I had the honor of attending the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony and Banquet, which is always held on December 10, the day that Alfred Nobel died. What has stuck with me from the awards ceremony is the emphasis placed on the importance of education. The words from the opening address from the Chairman of the Board of the Nobel Foundation, Carl-Henrik Heldin, are notable:
“Scientific work requires knowledge, that is obvious. But knowledge is needed more broadly; it is fundamental for our democratic societies. We all have the right to speak up. All voices count. But it is only through discussions based on knowledge that new insights will be gained. Our democracy requires respect for the process, for the arenas where we meet and for the dialogue. For the survival of our democratic systems, and for the other challenges we are confronted with, a good education system and hgh-quality¬†schools for all are essential. Ranging from oxygen levels in cells, to planets in new solar systems and ways to alleviate poverty, the discoveries of this years’ laureates show an impressive breadth. However, they still clearly centre around the core values of the Nobel Prize: rational thinking, humanism and co-operation across borders – values that are as relevant as ever before. And they cannot be taken for granted. We all need to engage and contribute. In this, the Nobel Prize can play a role. Only through continued struggle can humankind keep improving itself, its society and its environment.”
That sounds like one of the strongest endorsements for the liberal arts I have ever heard, and, as a bonus, I even detected a reference to the “great challenges of our time,” as expressed in our Gustavus Acts vision statement. I couldn’t help but feel enormously proud of the work we do at Gustavus.
The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony was followed by a banquet for 1,300 guests, including the King and Queen of Sweden, the Royal family, the Nobel laureates and their guests, and a host of others.
As if that was not enough, we had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the next evening to attend the King’s dinner along with Vice President for Advancement Tom Young and his wife, Meredith. The dinner is served in the Royal Palace for 140 special guests of the King. Picture one long table that seats 140 guests, perfectly set with beautiful tableware and candelabras. It was a storybook evening, capped off after dinner when one of the King’s uniformed officials tapped me on the shoulder and indicated that the King wished to speak with me. Off I went with him to the private area of the large reception hall, where the Royal family was engaged in various conversations. There, I was humbled to share a 15-minute conversation with His Majesty about Gustavus, the environment, and his recent State Visit to India.
It is a great honor and a personal privilege for me to be able to represent Gustavus at events such as these. I am grateful for our many good friends and colleagues in Sweden, and most especially, for Jan Lindman, who serves as Treasurer to the King of Sweden and has been a member of the Gustavus Board of Trustees since June 2016.
And now, we look forward to our last week of the fall semester, including various holiday festivities. In case I miss seeing you sometime this week, have a Happy Holiday! May your time away be both relaxing and fun, and may the New Year be filled with an abundance of blessings for you and your families.
With respect,

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