Last Friday I had the pleasure of bringing a piece of our Embassy to the region of Värmland and the city of Karlstad, in the Western part of Sweden. Packing up the car and placing a microcosm of our Embassy “in a box”, as we call our Embassy Roadshow, to travel to a new place to connect with a fresh group of people has become one of my favorite things to do as Ambassador.
I truly believe the best way to get to know a country and its people is by getting to know firsthand the many dimensions of its society, not just in the capital but in the four corners of the nation. Meeting new Swedes on their terrain, standing on the land they’ve worked to preserve for centuries and learning about their community firsthand from those who inhabit it is so rewarding for me and important for the great Swedish-American friendship.
My 317 km journey to the Delta City began before sunrise, and in fact the sun hid for the first half of the day as rain pelted the car throughout our trip to Varmland. The city has as its motto ‘Solen alltid Skiner’ (The Sun Always Shines), and I knew rain or shine, the trip would be phenomenal and full of positive energy.
While entering the city I was able to see the beautiful vision of two of Sweden’s great natural waterways; the 500km long Klara River and the mighty Lake Vänern. As a true nature lover, I am always awe-struck by the unvarnished, almost wild beauty of the Swedish landscape. Upon arrival, I was Greeted by both the Mayor, Per-Samuel Nilsson and the Governor of Värmland, Eva Eriksson, who demonstrated what I have heard so frequently about Karlstad: that the people are exceedingly warm, welcoming and hospitable.
From the moment I stepped out of the car, I was able to meet and engage with enthusiastic citizens and inquisitive young people – that Friday I met with almost 500 young people. Having the opportunity to connect on a personal level and discuss shared values and a shared sense of social responsibility, was such a significant moment for our Embassy community. I felt we were building a vibrant foundation that would last and be cultivated over time.
By reaching beyond the city limits of Stockholm, we were able to connect with a dynamic community and open dialogue with more than 500 students. It is so important to us as an Embassy team to authentically connect with the young generation, to not talk at them but to truly listen and be open and responsive to their perspectives. I met some of the most impressive and informed young people that day, and was so excited to connect with them on issues of sustainability, environmental protection and other global challenges, including in the Middle East. It gave me an incredible opportunity to learn a lot from a group of future leaders.
On Saturday, I was given the opportunity to speak at the Swedish American Bridge Conference. Sweden’s Ambassador to the U.S.A. (and a great friend) Jonas Hafström, and hockey legend Håkan Loob, joined me as speakers for the morning session of the conference. Here, I was able to convey America’s focus on environmentalism and the innovative things happening on sustainability in the US. It was a great and memorable visit to Karlstad. Here are photos of our US Embassy Road Show: