King Willem-Alexander placed the need for everyone’s voice to be heard, including ‘those who speak quietly’ at the centre of his televised Christmas speech to the nation on Friday.
‘So many faces, so many personal stories,’ the king said, as he opened his speech, which focused on the impact of coronavirus on society. He spoke about nurses and doctors, ‘students in Breda, longing for a normal student life,’ and the theatre director who sits at home and thinks ‘tonight we would have played Midsummer Night’s Dream.’
‘At the end of a tough year, this is not the Christmas we hoped for,’ the king said. ‘We’ve all had to adjust our plans… In living rooms all over the Netherlands, chairs remain empty, while we would have been more than happy to bring in extra chairs.’
The king said his heart went out to everyone whose ‘lives have been turned upside down’, those who have lost their business, those who are lonely and those who have lost loved ones.
Being forced to keep our distance goes against human nature, he said. Yet at the same time, he said, the coronavirus pandemic has awakened a sense of responsibility, camaraderie, helpfulness and solidarity.
Despite this, the pandemic has also ‘confronted us with the sharp and uncomfortable sides of ourselves and society’, the king said.
‘We live in a time when we seem to be expected to take a stand, for or against,’ he said. But perhaps some people are tired of the suspicion about the motives of others and of fanaticism. ‘Even the quiet voices deserve to be heard,’ the king said.
‘Sharp debates about outspoken views or radical ideas are part of a free society… but the hallmark of a free society is also having space for nuance, for reason and gentleness, for curiosity and research, for irony and self-perspective, and for forgiveness.’
Forgiveness, the king said, is an ‘almost old-fashioned concept’ but one which is still beneficial. ‘We humans were not created to hate each other,’ he said.
‘Christmas is traditionally the festival of the returning light after the darkest period of the year,’ the king said. ‘Have patience, the sun will return… Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed again. We will be able to meet and hug each other again.’
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