King Willem-Alexander has made his annual Christmas speech from his home in Wassenaar. The speech was broadcast today on Dutch national television.
The King began his speech with a look back on his private life. He turned 50 years in 2017 and called it “an amazing gift” to be able to celebrate it with so many people. There were also moments of sadness and grief, like the loss of his father-in-law and the devastation that took hold of Sint-Maarten, Saba and St Eustatius after Hurricane Irma. He called the devastation “images and stories that I won’t forget.”
He urged the Dutch people to search not for “a better I, but a greater we.” According to the King, it has become increasingly difficult to meet each other in real life. “The places where people used to meet – church, the office, a bar, sports clubs and school – are losing their connective function. Perhaps a hospital is the only place left where people meet other people with a different background and lifestyle.”
“Searching for a greater we has always been the driving force in the history of our country and our democracy. It isn’t simple. It requires persistence to continue against oppression.” The King made a reference to 1917 when all men (women followed just two years later) were given the right to vote and praised Aletta Jacobs, who fought for women’s right to vote for over 35 years. She celebrated her victory with the words, “Only by persistence have we gained ground one foot at a time until the fear of the new had to surrender at last.”
King Willem-Alexander also referred to fake news. “It is often difficult to discern fact from fiction. Nuance and empathy seem to be suffering defeat and Twitter can make a debate bitter.” But the internet also has fantastic opportunities according to the King.
He ended the Christmas speech with the words, “I wish you all – wherever you are and whatever your personal circumstances may be – a blessed Christmas.”