"Honor the past, imagine the future." These words constitute the essence of the White House Millennium Programme. By supporting the Smithsonian Institution in presenting this exhibition named Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga, the Nordic Council of Ministers is proud to be a partner in realising a significant part of this ambitious Millenium Programme.
It is a special privilege for me to be able to confirm this support here today, on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers and in the presence of the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her keen interest in this great project is an inspiration and has been highly appreciated.
By honouring the North Atlantic dimension of the Viking legacy, we are not only paying a tribute to their spectacular seamanship and courage embodied for example in Leifur Eiriksson, who was born in Iceland, and discovered North America 1000 years ago. We also honour the pioneer spirit of all those who settled in North America and often endured dramatic hardships but also helped to build a powerful state and a vibrant nation, guardians of democratic freedom on the world stage.
Immigrants from the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and their descendants, have in many fields contributed to the growth and strength of the United States. It is my pleasure to announce that, in addition to the support of this great undertaking of the Smithsonian Institution, the Nordic Council of Ministers will also celebrate the Millennium in America by presenting here in Washingon an exhibition under the theme Scandinavian Roots - American Lives.
To know one's roots makes it easier for us to imagine the future. The Icelandic Sagas teach us that dreams can come true. One such dream was the discovery of America. It was not an easy voyage as the twelfth-century Book of the Icelanders reports that of twenty-five ships which left Iceland in the year 988 to colonise Greenland only fourteen reached their destination.
We still need courage and daring to reach our goals and make our dreams come true. The United States and the Nordic Countries have joined hands in order to strengthen democracy and freedom throughout the world. We are united in a partnership to foster liberty and fight oppression.
I wish to congratulate the Smithsonian Institution for developing this project. From the Nordic perspective we are willing to render our assistance and advise so the story of Vikings in the New World will be as comprehensive and appealing as possible.
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