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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 ALMA Award ceremony 2018
Stockholm, 29 May 2017.
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Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Jaqueline Woodson,
Daring to stand firm when everything around us is changing is difficult. Being true to our convictions – to who we are – when everyone around us seems to expect something different, requires all our courage. This is something that many of us are struggling with right now. Myself included. To find the strength and to dare, we need good role models. Someone who leads the way and shows that it is possible.
Astrid Lindgren is one of my role models. I sometimes ask myself what she would say, if she could see what Sweden and the world is like today. A world where so many of the values she held high are threatened: the wonder of nature, the beauty of the seasons, the equal worth of all people, and the right to live in peace and freedom.
I ask myself this, even though I know the answer. Because over the last few years, through her diaries and letters that have been published, we have been able to learn more about the profound reflections, the razor-shape skill of the writer, and the human maturity that lie behind one of the world’s most prominent bodies of work of all time. She is, and will remain, a role model – when we doubt and when we despair.
It is a very special pleasure for me to be with you today. This is actually the second time in just a few weeks. The first was in New York, where we met and were able to sit and talk. The little foretaste I’ve had of your work already means a great deal to me.
Just like Astrid Lindgren, you stand firm. You don’t abandon your readers – you stay by their side. Not by answering their questions, but by showing them – through your stories – how different life can be. And that it’s ok. Your message is: “You exist. Your thoughts and feelings are real – and that’s ok.”
If we can impart this feeling to our children and to young people, I am sure that more will dare to look beyond self-criticism, stifle their fear of being left out, and have confidence in their convictions. Then we will dare to defend what is essential in our lives: freedom and the right to be who we are.
Today is your day, Jaqueline. You have been awarded the most distinguished prize a writer of children’s and young adult literature can receive. On behalf of the Swedish Government, I offer you our warmest congratulations and look forward to following your work in the future.