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Alice Bah Kuhnke is no longer a government minister, Minister for Culture and Democracy
Speech by Alice Bah Kuhnke at the announcement of the 2017 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award laureate
Stockholm, 4 April 2017.
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Friends – both here and in Bologna,
Children must be allowed to be children. This very much goes without saying. We adults have to meet children where they are, not the other way round. And this sounds easy.
But what does it really mean to meet children where they are? How do we know what they can and cannot manage? It feels natural to want to protect children from the difficult things in life. We want them to be surrounded, for as long as possible, by all that is beautiful and kind, to fill them with goodness.
Few advocates for the best interests of children can match Astrid Lindgren, who we are remembering here today. In her books we dive into idyllic environments and we get a sense of an ever-present warm embrace. But she also writes about death, loneliness and grief.
Astrid Lindgren said that "Death and love are the big things that people experience; they interest people of all ages. We mustn't scare children so much that they get into a state of anxiety, but they need to be roused by art as much as adults do."
Seldom has the power of art felt as relevant as it does right now. We are living in uncertain times and the consequences of what is happening in both global politics and our own country are difficult to foresee. It is not at all easy being adult and explaining things to our children, let alone reassuring them. We can hardly reassure ourselves.
A lot of the children's and young people's literature that is written today offers exactly what Astrid Lindgren talked about: it evokes feelings and thoughts, it changes perspectives. It shows us that the answers are not in the simple solutions. That anger can inspire action that makes the world a better place. That tears are not just an expression of grief but also of the ability to feel empathy. Literature can instil courage and strength so that each and every one of us dares to make a difference.
This is the literature we are celebrating here today. Literature in the spirit of Astrid Lindgren that provides inspiration and courage to live life to the fullest, assert yourself and also take responsibility.