Speech/statement | Date: 2014-07-08 | Office of the Prime Minister
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Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to speak to you. I hope you are having a great time here in Norway.
I would like to start out by asking you a question: Have you ever found that things don’t work out exactly the way you want them to? I think we all have. None of us like it. At least I don’t. But we have to accept it.
Say, for instance, that your class is going to watch a film. There are 30 of you in the class. The class representative and four others want to watch Lord of the Rings. The rest of the class would rather watch Harry Potter. Then it would have to be Harry Potter, even if the class representative voted for Lord of the Rings. This is democracy – the majority decides.
Even as Prime Minister of Norway, I don’t always get my way. As a leader in a democratic society, that’s just part of the deal. Democracy means that people, the voters, are in charge. As Prime Minister, I do get to decide a lot of things. But I also have to listen to what the people of Norway think. If I don’t, they probably won’t re-elect me.
I feel lucky to live in Norway. We are citizens of a free, democratic country. But with this good fortune comes responsibility. We must try to give everybody the same opportunities as ourselves.
A lot of children around the world do not go to school. A lot of children have to act as parents for their younger sisters and brothers. A lot of children have to work to feed their families. A lot of children grow up with war. A lot of children are refugees. Not everyone is as fortunate as we are.
Last week, I was in Malawi, in Africa. A lot of children in Malawi don’t learn to read and write. More than half of the girls don’t finish school. Their families can’t afford to let them go to school. They have to work. Not all children in Malawi get enough food, and, even if they do go to school, how can they concentrate on their schoolwork when their stomachs are empty?
In one little village in Malawi, I met a group of impressive women who had decided to take action. They found somebody to take care of the smaller children while their older sisters were at school, and they also started cooking meals for the children at school. As a result, teenage girls, a couple of years older than you, were able to go back to school. I talked to some of these girls. They are dreaming of becoming nurses and police officers, and one of them wants to become president. Now they have a real chance of fulfilling their dreams. Everybody can do something to bring positive change to the world.
I had the opportunity to donate some money for new education projects in Malawi. Norway is working together with the United Nations to give more children the chance to go to school and to fulfil their dreams. In my opinion, this is what politics is about: making a difference in people’s lives. That is why I became involved in politics at the age of 17.
In my job, I meet a lot of impressive people. One of them is Malala. As a young girl, she stood up against the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. At the age of only 11, the same age as you, Malala gave a speech in Pakistan entitled “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”
Malala started receiving threats from the Taliban, and in 2012 she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. But she survived.
Despite the Taliban’s threats, Malala continues to fight for the right to education for everybody. Not all of us are as brave and determined as Malala, and hopefully none of us will experience such a brutal attack as she did, but she is certainly an inspiration to us all.
You have the power to make the world a better place. You are the future. You have the potential to become or achieve whatever you want. Be ambitious, and don’t give up, even though things can be difficult sometimes.
And remember: We all need help from time to time. If something is difficult, ask for help. You can ask your mum or your dad, a teacher or a friend. Asking for help is brave. None of us can know everything. I certainly don’t, even though I’m Prime Minister.
Together, we have a lot of knowledge, a lot of ideas and a lot of power. By cooperating and helping each other, we can do anything. There are many excellent football players taking part in the World Cup in Brazil (I know that some of you are from Brazil). But they do not win a single match on their own. They have to work together as a team to win.
It’s the same with me. I have to cooperate with my colleagues in government, with other political parties, with organisations, with businesses – with all sorts of people – to improve the lives and opportunities of people in Norway. Hopefully, we can also make things better for people in the rest of the world.
I wish you all the best for the rest of your stay in Norway. I’m sure you will make friends for life, and that, after being together and learning from each other, you will return to your home countries with new perspectives and new ideas.
Thank you very much for listening to me.