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President of the Republic at the Ceremony for Awarding Decorations in Arvo Pärt Centre

President of the Republic at the Ceremony for Awarding Decorations in Arvo Pärt Centre © Office of the President

22.02.2019

Dear recipients,

Before I say anything else I feel I should point out that the awarding of decorations is not to some fixed, immutable plan. The more worthy candidates are nominated by people in Estonia, the more people there are whose work and activities we can turn our thoughts to in the lead-up to the anniversary of our republic.

This year there are 112 recipients of the decorations. This number was not decided on in advance: it simply turned out that way. At the same time, it is rather symbolic – among your ranks are many of those whose contribution is felt when people pick up their phones and dial 1-1-2, or indeed who do what they do to ensure that there is no need to call the emergency services in the first place.

That is something I am very happy about. The low salaries in the social sphere are a problem here in Estonia and in more prosperous countries. People dedicated to helping others who follow their calling often have to resign themselves to a comparatively modest situation in life. State decorations are to me personally as the president the perfect opportunity to say that you are all important to me.

No less important is the fact that among the recipients there are also entrepreneurs, from very different walks of life. Exporters and start-ups earn a lot of attention from the state and get the chance to discover the world alongside politicians. This perhaps shines the light more clearly for them on their role in writing Estonia’s success story. But there are also those among you whose work is aimed at the people of Estonia – frequently those who live at a distance from the bright lights of the big city. It is a fine thing that an effort is also made with such people in mind.

You, our recipients, represent a very broad spectrum.

Estonia is grateful to you, and I am grateful that I get to be the one to pass on our thanks.

You have all made Estonia a better place, and done so from the heart. But as we have been reminded with the premiere of the film adaptation of Truth and Justice, what you do from the heart can quickly go off-kilter and drag you down into a very dark place if it stops being about the people around you. This fatigue, this sort of disappointment arising from a feeling of being left behind, can sadly be seen in a large number of people in our country.

As such, everything we do should be accompanied by a healthy dose of doubt. It was doubt which led at the dawn of the 20th century to a young Albert Einstein introducing to the world one of the most important ideas in the history of physics – that light is made up of particles of energy – with the words “It seems to me that...”. It was doubt which led Charles Darwin to note beside the most famous drawing he ever produced – his tree of evolution – the words “I think...”.

Allowing for doubt is an integral part of the greatness of humanity. In lieu of saying “I maintain” or “I know” or “It is the case that...”, an element of doubt represents an invitation for others to get involved, to put their minds to an issue and to work through it with you – and gratitude for those who do so.

Self-confidence does not equate to the conviction that you cannot possibly be wrong: rather to a lack of fear, to the courage to put your ideas and plans out there and to move forward with others because you have no doubts when it comes to the most important thing – that others care about us, and that we care about others.

Nobody in this room ever makes it here alone. There are those who have joined them on their journeys, worked with them, shared their ideas with them; there are trainers, students, assistants; those who have mentored and those who have encouraged. There are also devil’s advocates, in outlining and justifying your plans time and again to whom those plans become better and better each time. Of course, there are many more people here today than there are those receiving decorations.

Looking for what brings us together and describing what sets us apart must be in balance. That way, society as a whole will remain together, despite the fact that a person’s own thoughts are always the ones they hold most dear. Today we find ourselves in a building whose very nature calls for balance and harmony. The Arvo Pärt Centre is both a forest within a building and a building within a forest. It is one of the most beautiful and inspiring examples in the country of balance given visual form. Somehow it is particularly well suited to the age of heightened emotion in which we live.

There are almost certainly people here today who have found themselves at loggerheads with one another and had to agree to disagree. But the knowledge that we have had these debates with the best solutions and outcomes for Estonia in mind is the cocoon of security that surrounds us all.

The people of Estonia have a keen eye for those both near and far whose lives revolve around thinking about others, doing things to promote health and security, generate income or simply entertain and leave us with lasting memories we will cherish. We value those who do what they can to keep the thing that balances us all – our state – on an even keel.

I will shortly be thanking all of the recipients in person, but before I do I would like to thank all of you who nominated them and others: reading your words is without doubt one of the most gratifying aspects of serving as your president.