On February 24th, Estonia celebrated its 93rd year of independence in a more sombre mood than usual, as a tragic fire at a Haapsalu orphanage had claimed the lives of 10 disabled children just a few days earlier.
The speech of the President of the Republic, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, reflected the mood of the populace appropriately, calling for more tolerance and caring in society and steering clear of politics, even though general elections were only a week away.
President Ilves also recognized the work of civil society in advancing freedom. “Above all, liberty and living in a free country means being able to live our own lives without asking anyone higher up for permission to do so.”.
President Ilves noted the work of the New World community organization, the NO99 theatre’s Unified Estonia production, Let’s Do It community action day, Estonian Food Bank, university organizations and fraternities and sororities, the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Defence League and its junior organizations the Kodutütred and Noorkotkad, Caritas, the Supilinn society, the Estonian Fund for Nature, and countless others.
"These organizations attest to how we can make our lives better every day, influence society, help our fellow citizens, and conserve the environment," President said. "Collectively they are Estonia, and they strengthen life in our country, being the connective tissue of our land. Each one of them makes us more independent and free, and by doing so, they make life in Estonia better. They are the source of our power for countering apathy and stagnation, cynicism and petty bloody-mindedness, for saying no to an indifference that could otherwise prove dispiriting. These worthy associations also show how far we have come in twenty years. It shows that without "dear leaders", parties and slogans, we can make our lives and our surroundings in the image of our hearts."
You can read the full text of President's Address by clicking here.