My wish is that in the global sense, the New Year will give more reason for optimism – frankly, that it will be more boring. The past year has nevertheless been quite kind to the people of our country. Geographically, we are at a slight remove from the world’s great upheavals.
Only physically, though. And tonight, as well, we cannot fail to think of Syria. The sorrow is close enough for us to understand that peace and well-being are never self-evident. Peace has to be worked for every day just as one strives in the name of their own family.
The visible fruits of this labour – such as the discussion held across the continent about defending Europe or NATO’s actions to guarantee collective defence – can sometimes make us feel that we lie directly in the path of danger. Yet aren’t discussion and the decisions that stem from it better than silence and indecision? Threats and risks come from silence and indecision, not from action.
Indeed, this is how we must relate to our restless world – we must empathize and help those who are suffering.
We have to draw our own conclusions, clearly and openly, and act so that our peace and development will be safe.
That is in fact how Estonia has operated as a state. It is because of this that we have no reason to start the New Year worrying about our sense of security.
In these last few minutes of 2016, I would instead like to recall some of the good things that Estonia’s people have done this year. There is much to mention. Sixty Estonians are currently doing their part to keep the peace in Lebanon, Mali, Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan. A young girl invented an app that reminds parents of the right moment to wave encouragingly to their kid doing the same at the window of the kindergarten. Tens of thousands of times, grandmothers got help when their computers crashed. Millions of hugs were given to children and parents.
Hundreds of thousands of examinations and tests were taken and graded. People learned songs and folk dances for various festivals next summer. The amount of volunteer work done was equal to 10,000 people working full-time.
Some of these deeds might seem ordinary, taken by themselves. But each small step influences the big picture. It’s the little things that determine the kind of environment we live in from day to day. Each one of the actions that I mentioned, along with a countless number of other good deeds, makes Estonia a slightly better place.
I can’t say how much better. I can’t put a number on the total value of the good deeds, then subtract the negative deeds and find the amount of net good. The precise calculation isn’t the most important thing, anyway. What’s important is that we give each other credit for what we did. There can never be too much heartfelt recognition.
We are about to step into a new year. But there is still a minute left. Look around you: maybe there’s someone who doesn’t have reason to celebrate this moment because they are low on hope or hope is gone? We don’t abandon those who run out of energy, people for whom the old year was painful, making the new one seem empty as a result.
Right now, with the world around us changeable and hard to read, it’s especially important to care for one another. To think about what small steps all of us can take to make something better, every day. The big and global concerns are no reason to neglect to resolve local and tiny problems.
On the contrary – the big fears will never claim those who unite through small deeds. We need clever ideas and solutions that don’t come at the expense of each other, but rather which amplify each other’s desires and wishes. To do things better, it’s sometimes wise to be constructively critical.
My dear fellow countrymen and countrywomen, I wish you independence in your thinking, that you will be confident in making decisions and have the courage of your convictions.
I wish you the ability to give credit where it is due, and to take criticism. And I hope we all have the time and fortitude to just feel joy in life – as individuals, within our families, at work and among friends, as Estonians and as members of other communities living in this country. By being protective of each other, we all help to protect and preserve Estonia.
Happy New Year!