There are many surprising factors about Finland’s parliamentary election result in April. One of these is how a progressive government with an internationally acclaimed politician, Sanna Marin, who became the world’s youngest prime minister in 2019 at 34, shifted to a possible conservative and radical right government.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s speech upon receiving an honorary doctorate from New York University Wednesday at the legendary Yankee Stadium offers some answers.
History will expose Prime Minister-designate Petteri Orpo’s deep denial and disregard for the country’s most pressing needs like human rights, inclusion, diversity, and empathy, and his disdain for outgoing Prime Minister Marin.
Whenever there was a coup in Argentina, we used to comfort each other by saying “no evil can last a 100 years.” Even if few humans live that long, the saying can be adopted in Finland to state “no evil can last four years.”
Time will expose Orpo, and the new austerity government in formation as a vain attempt to take Finland back to simpler times where 1+1=2 arguments answered all our problems.
The present government in formation, considered the most right-wing and anti-immigration in a long time if it survives present negotiations, is revealing and concerning. It shows we still have a long way to go to create a more inclusive and fairer society.
I will highlight some of the most inspirational parts of Marin’s speech in New York.
- “Ever since I was elected as the youngest prime minister in the world at the age of 34, I have repeatedly been asked two questions. Both are related to change.The first question is: Did you always want to become prime minister? The second question: How did you do it?”
- “My answer to the first question is no – at a young age I didn’t plan to become a politician or prime minister.”
- “The answer to the second question is that I eventually did because I wanted to change things, to change the world. And because I realized that it was also my responsibility, not someone elses.”
- “This is why I want to give you three pieces of advice about change.”
- “Advice number one: You have the right to want things and to want things to change.”
- “Advice number two: Wanting is not enough. To change things, You have to take over.”
- “And advice number three: You have to stop being afraid.”
- “Coming from a rainbow family I wanted to see a society where everyone could love whomever they wanted. I wanted to see renewed legislation on equal marriage and ensure human rights for all genders. I wanted to close the gender pay gap, and I wanted to see parents, mothers and fathers, to share their family leave more equally so that women could follow their career ambitions same as men.”
- “Coming from Finland, a Northern European country with extraordinary nature, I wanted to stop climate change and see the societies become more sustainable. I wanted to see a transition towards carbon neutrality and I wanted to end the destruction of our environment.”
- “I wanted a society where everyone would have equal rights and opportunities. I wanted to strengthen the education system so that every child could pursue their dreams.”
- “This is why my first advice to you today is that you are allowed to want things. And you need to want things to change for better.”
- “We have expected our values such as freedom of speech, rule of law, gender equality and democracy to bloom hand in hand with the expansion of free market economy. We thought that globalization and growth would be enough to benefit everyone. We expected to see less authoritarian rule, more respect for diversity and a better world that does not discriminate against people based on their skin tone, gender, sexual orientation or religion. We have expected the freedom of information and the internet to broaden everyone’s understanding.”
- “But the history did not end.”
- “Freedom of speech and other true elements of democracy are being questioned and limited all over the world. Whether this means diminishing the truth with false balance or using our personal data to influence our democratic elections, the rule of law as well as freedom of expression and the media need active defending.”
- “The swollen amount of inequality and a lack of social mobility are challenging our ideas about everyone having the same possibilities and freedoms in life.”
- “All of these questions are battles of values. And we all must take a side in that battle. There is no middle ground.”
- “Problems caused by global warming such as extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels, food shortages, and the disappearance of ecosystems affect all areas of life and truly threaten the well-being of future generations. Similarly, declining of biodiversity can lead to an imbalance in ecosystems, which in turn can accelerate climate change and other environmental disasters.”
- “The global competition for standards and values such as individual freedom and security behind quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and 6G networks is already on its way. And you need to step up to take part in this debate.”
- “This, dear graduates, is the present and the future. And it is your responsibility to make sure that the change is on the right track.”
- “And you know what? You can.”
- “If you believe that the system and the whole world has to be reformed into being more democratic, more equal for all genders and groups, more supportive of freedom of expression – you can make that happen.”
- “If you want to influence global warming and save ecosystems, you can.”
- “If you want to build new technology, and artificial intelligence that works for the benefit of all in an ethical and sustainable way – you can!”
- “When I look back at my youth and career, I can see that actually one of the most significant things holding people back is fear.”
- “Sometimes it’s the fear of not knowing enough.”
- “It might be fear of embarrassment, fear of mistakes, fear of being wrong.”
- “It might be fear of not fitting in or fear of not meeting the expectations of others.”
Read Prime Minister Marin’s full speech here.