Tag Archives: Sweden

Mrs. Brzezinski together with the American Women's Club

Happy Thanksgiving!

“As Americans, we hail from every part of the world. While we observe traditions from every culture, Thanksgiving Day is a unique national tradition we all share. Its spirit binds us together as one people, each of us thankful for our common blessings.”—President Barack Obama, 2009

This week, I had the honor of giving the keynote remarks at an early Thanksgiving Day celebration with the wonderful American Women’s Club here in Stockholm. As I reflected on what I would say, I realized these words by President Obama captured perfectly the essence of what is unique about Thanksgiving and what this holiday means to me.

The spirit of Thanksgiving has been personified in my time abroad. Thanksgiving is an expression of unity and inclusion. It’s an open and extended hand to a neighbor, a seat at the table, an embracing of diversity and a focus on what brings us together as humanity not what differences we may have.

We all hail from an amazing country—The United States of America— that brings its citizens together around shared values and created traditions that focus on our diversity and human dignity. It’s a country where my parents—immigrants from Eastern Europe — could start with nothing and create a life with the best education and a beautiful home for their daughter, a first generation American. It’s a country where it’s possible and even embraced, to combine a wide variety of traditions, religions and mores and still be American. How beautiful that is! And how strong and dynamic it makes America!

I’ll never forget when President Barack Obama appeared for the first time out of Air Force One this September on a historic visit to Sweden. My eyes filled unexpectedly with tears as I realized that our President truly represented the American dream for me. He represented the hopes my immigrant parents had for me, the hopes of many single mothers and hard-working grandparents; that in our country any dream is possible. I’m so grateful for being born in a country of hope.

I’m also profoundly grateful for the sacrifices my parents made, for their hard work which has allowed me to be where I am today, for the love that my amazing husband and daughter give me, and the for  Embassy community here in Sweden where we share such great mutual support, generosity and respect.

This Thanksgiving I’ll give thanks for this community and especially for the United States Marines who protect this Embassy. Mark and I have shared a Thanksgiving table with the U.S. Marines here in the past, and it was a humbling and fantastic experience that I know both of us will cherish. Their strength and personal sacrifice gives us all strength.

A special thanks to the American Women’s Club for allowing me to express these sentiments to you. Women are often the ones who carry long-held traditions within their families and take them across oceans and borders to new lands and homes away from home. The American women in Stockholm work so hard to protect and convey our many great American traditions. And this week we shared the most beautiful Thanksgiving meal together, as sisters, and I was so happy to be a part of it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Warmest wishes on this day to all of our friends in this Embassy community, in Sweden and back home!

Ooo-Rah! US Embassy Sweden’s Marine Ball

Last weekend, US Embassy Sweden celebrated our US Marine detachment, and the service of the Corps worldwide. The Sheraton in Stockholm just sparkled, and a wonderful night of dancing, really good food and terrific friendship was had by all. I just loved the vibe of the night, which was so positive and joyful. The spirit of this year’s Marine Ball was something to behold and is deserving of a huge Ooo-Rah!  Below is the beginning of the speech I gave, which conveys my deep conviction that the US Marines and our Marine detachment in Stockholm are deserving of our utmost gratitude:

“Distinguished Guests, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Earlier this year, almost one month before he made his historic visit to Sweden, President Barack Obama was in Camp Pendleton, California, visiting the US Marines.  President Obama had this to say when thanking the troops and their families for their extraordinary service to our nation:

“[There’s an] ethic of your lives:  Always faithful.  Always faithful to each other — the few and the proud.  Always faithful to your Corps ….  Always faithful to your country, for whom you wear the eagle, globe and anchor.  After all you’ve given to our nation, you have to know your nation will always be faithful to you. “

I want to begin with President’s Obama’s words, because indeed the US Marines have a special comradeship, a unique bond.  And as beneficiaries of your duty and sacrifice, we Americans have a responsibility to honor that.

So tonight we stand together – Swedes, Americans, friends, a community – to celebrate you, the Marines.

I’ve really been looking forward to our Marine Ball because to me public service is the highest form of living.

It’s something I respect so much, and in me there’s always been a little pang of wishing I had served in the military.

And when it comes to our Marines, the finest expeditionary force in the world, look at any American engagement around the world that requires a heavy lift.  Our Marines are likely there.

They are the first in, and last out.  Just this week the US Marines deployed to aid the Philippines recovery.  In places like Haiti, Indonesia, Japan and elsewhere, American men and women in uniform help those who have lost loved ones and property to rebuild their lives.

At the US Embassy in Stockholm, we are proud to serve with six Marines.

I knew before landing in Stockholm two years ago, that I would have an instant connection with these young yet profoundly mature men and women, who’ve taken on enormous responsibility at a young age.

This year I have worked out with them, gone running with them and done cross training, I’ve gone shooting with them on the range.  We’ve celebrated Thanksgiving away from home, farewells and arrivals, making memories together as an Embassy family.

Any chance I have to walk in their shoes, shoulder to shoulder with them, I grab, because it makes me a better man.

Why is that?

Because there are values the Marines live by which are relevant to us all.  And that I personally try to emulate every day.  These are values I grew up with in my own family, where military service is always held up as the pinnacle of public service.  These are values which inform how I operate here in Sweden.

As Chief of Mission, I take the responsibility President Obama gave me extremely seriously.  And I often find myself when different questions or conundrums surface, reflecting on the values of the US Marines.

There’s a book entitled   Leading from the Front, written by two former female Marines (Courtney Lynch and Angie Morgan), that crystallizes some of the values and practices that the authors draw from their years in the Corps but which are pertinent in life.  “Leading from the front” literally means having high standards, and that those standards start with you.  But it’s about integrity, having a higher purpose than oneself:

It’s about:
·                     The iron-clad concept of “the Team”:  meaning one for all, all for one. Taking care of your team so they take care of you.
·                     Respond without over-reacting.  Staying cool while dealing with crisis.
·                     Having the courage to achieve your goals.
·                     Being defined by your actions, not your words.

Now let me tell you about our Marines at the US Embassy and how each of them lives these values every day…”

Ambassador Brzezinski kicking-off the Arctic #Fulbright Workshop in #Abisko, #Sweden.

The Arctic Fulbright Workshop in Abisko

I am just now leaving the Arctic Fulbright Workshop, which was held 200 kilometers above the Arctic Circle at the Abisko Scientific Research Station in northern Sweden.  The US Embassy organized this workshop with the Fulbright Commission, the Department of State, the Government of Sweden, the WWF and the Stockholm Environment Institute.  The conference convened Fulbright Scholars from universities in Canada, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and the United States.  Some of our Canadian participants traveled for more than 24 hours to get here.  That is awesome commitment to this important challenge!

I am so happy that Abisko was selected as the site for this Workshop. Abisko is a wonderful facility in the heart of a pristine ecosystem.  But it’s also more than that.  An argument made against focusing resources to fight climate change is ‘where’s the evidence?’  In Abisko you can see it:

·         In Abisko there are over 100 years of records on the local eco-system, whereby change is measurable over a long term;
·         In Abisko there are studies being conducted identifying new species of flora and fauna that are there now and never before;
·         In Abisko there are mires that are changing because of the melting of the permafrost – with direct and collateral effects on the environment.

I am so thrilled that Tom Healy, the Chairman of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, was able to be present.  Tom was appointed to the Board by President Obama in 2011 and very ably oversees the Fulbright Program worldwide, the U.S. Government’s flagship program of educational exchange and public diplomacy.  The Fulbright program is renewed by engaging in the challenges of our time, like the future of the Arctic.  The Arctic and climate change will be among the greatest global challenges that we share in the future. The expertise that took part in this Workshop is a catalyst for developing a global approach, which is what we will need to responsibly address the challenges of the Arctic.

The Arctic has always been a passion of mine.  In my 23 months in Sweden as Ambassador, we have been so fortunate to have two Secretaries of State and our President Barack Obama visit. A common thread for these visits have been a focus on sustainability and climate.  For example, Secretary Clinton highlighted the CCAC and Secretary Kerry participated in the Arctic Council Ministerial in Kiruna.  This reflects the high level of importance the U.S. places on the Arctic.

Sweden recently concluded its chairmanship of the Arctic Council, one that was incredibly successful from our perspective.  The Swedish chairmanship really served as a catalyst for raising Arctic issues to the forefront of the government’s policy agenda.  This was due to the excellent leadership carried out by Gustaf Lind and his team and also by the personal involvement of Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

One of the key take-aways the U.S. had from watching the Swedish chairmanship was the necessity of strong planning and coordination.  As the U.S. looks forward to our chairmanship of the Arctic Council commencing in 2015, we would like to emulate certain aspects of the “Swedish model” for running the Arctic Council.  This includes increasing coordination across our government on Arctic issues.  It also includes articulating what role the Arctic has for the U.S. and how it fits into our other overall national and global priorities.  The publication of the National Strategy for the Arctic Region is designed to recognize the changing nature of the U.S. Arctic territory and to lay out a framework to guide policymaking for this region.  Most importantly it underlines the fact that the U.S. is, and identifies as, an Arctic nation.

Climate Change is a major challenge – it is a challenge not of tomorrow but of now.  I am certain we can meet that challenge because the young generation around the world is committed to the environment.  The Workshop highlighted for me the sophisticated and creative approaches young Fulbrighters are bringing to this challenge, and I am so happy we are able to support and advance their efforts.

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Visit to Malmo: Two days highlighting diversity and entrepreneurship

Malmö is one of Sweden’s youngest cities— with the majority of the population under 35— and also one of its most diverse. Located in the southwestern tip of Sweden, it’s a vibrant hub for new immigrants and a community with the strength and potential of true diversity. A history of open door for immigrants is interwoven into the city’s legacy and demographics: 41% living in Malmö have foreign descent and a large part of the population are Muslim.

Malmö is actually the city my own father immigrated to in the 1970s when he left Communist Poland. He found work in the industrial shipyards and in a year made enough money to pay for his passage to America. Last week I took the 45-minute plane ride from Stockholm to Malmö to visit the city for two days and experience several inspiring initiatives focused on multiculturalism and entrepreneurship.

“Framtidsgeneration”, or Future Generation, is an initiative founded by former Parliamentarian and entrepreneur Luciano Astudillo and businessman Daniel Sachs. The focus of this program is reaching out to young people on issues that bring them together not divide them. The goal is fighting antisemitism, Islamophobia and all forms of hatred. The first step in this initiative was one I had the pleasure to experience: a performance of “The Third Generation”, a play that’s traveled around the world highlighting the young generation affected of Jews and Muslims residing in the Middle East, as well as Europeans connected to the Holocaust.

In a multitude of vignettes, the actors discussed raw emotions of guilt, resentment, anger, confusion and bigotry surrounding the biases that come with their conflicting pasts and religions. The play demonstrated that although it can be challenging, it’s exceedingly necessary and inspiring to work hard together to find spaces and issues where we as humanity can connect, relate and communicate—issues and passions that unite us— and accept those that have divided us in the past.

The play is just one step in a holistic approach toward mutual understanding and advancement of diversity. The second step was one I learned more about the following day: empowerment through entrepreneurship. Uppstart Malmö is a public-private partnership with a three pronged approach: helping nascent and growing businesses expand, recruitment and outreach. Malmö suffers from high unemployment among new immigrants and high youth unemployment. By using private partners to coach and advise growing businesses as well as invest in them, and using young diaspora leaders to communities and match skills for young workers, Uppstart Malmö has created 1000 jobs in less than five years.

It’s not about just celebrating diversity, it’s about finding jobs, according to 27-year-old Hasan who is in charge of delving into communities that can be quite isolated and helping young people get their first job. This is no-talk, all-action approach has especially helped many young women who culturally may not have finished school or  have very demanding responsibilities at home, like taking care of several children or aging parents.

I saw the result of this proactive guidance on my last stop in Malmö which landed me in the immigrant-rich neighborhood of Rosengard. There I visited Yalla Trappan a business engaged in catering, sewing, massage, a restaurant space, marmalade-making and maximizing just about every skill of its wonderful female workforce. Stepping into this magical place, I really felt the most authentic form of women’s empowerment in my bones and going on all around me.

Yalla Trappan resides in what was an old apartment building, and stepping inside one feels cozy and at home. The “butik” bearing hand-sewn, colorful Ipad bags (some of which will go to IKEA) and “burkini’s” leads into a small restaurant space and wonderful kitchen brimming with vibrancy, a slew of languages and amazing scents of Middle Eastern food!

Although the fig marmalade is renowned around the city and the feta filled puffs are mouth-watering, the true treasure of Yalla Trappan is it’s amazing group of women. Hailing from Poland, Lebanon, Iraq, Kosovo, Palestine, Macedonia and Pakistan, they have come together in the joy of work and womanhood, leaving differences of language, culture, religion or politics behind. Most have four or five children to take care of, and have had harrowing journeys that have brought them to Sweden. But the positive energy radiating from them was unbelievable.

Not only does Yalla Trappan provide the women a place to work but there is also weekly tutoring in Swedish language. Leaving the 5-room space after a lunch filled with spicy herbs and delicious breads, I felt a hope and optimism that only comes from unity and a will to overcome. Thank you Malmö for opening my eyes and giving me inspiration!

Pride in America’s Spirit of Competition

Minister Hatt and Ambassador Brzezinski

In early October, I had the honor of sitting down with Anna-Karin Hatt, Sweden’s Minister for Information Technology and Energy, to game out a plan to advance cross-border business and innovation, especially pertaining to renewables and bioenergy.  Minister Hatt visited California this past summer to explore ways to achieve sustainability through the use of new energy technologies, with a view to what could be transferable to Swedish conditions.  She obviously enjoyed her trip, and commented that she especially admires the American competitive spirit that results in the development of the innovative technologies she viewed in California.

I think she identified a key component of American success. Both Europe and the U.S. have excellent research facilities, scientists and engineers.  Where American does have an edge, I believe, is in its entrepreneurial spirit, the sense of drive and competition that underlies the best of American enterprise.  This has resulted in the commercialization and refinement of some of the core technologies of the past one hundred years.  From manufacturing to transport to information technology, the harnessing of the competitive drive has resulted in some major technological developments.

One such way to do this is through the X Prize Foundation, which is a non-profit organization based in California that designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that benefits mankind. Xprizes have focused on everything from suborbital space flight to oil spill cleanup and attract investment from outside the sector to take new approaches to difficult problems.  They award technological advancement, such as Sweden’s own Nobel Prize Committee, and in the process stimulate innovation and research in a number of fields.

The Swedish government is also looking at new approaches to use competition to stimulate innovation.  This summer, the Swedish government initiated a special assignment for the Innovation Agency (Vinnova) to set up a competition for contracting authorities to drive demand for new approaches of environmental-friendly technologies and services. The competition starts in the fall of 2013 and the first winner may be identified in the summer of 2014. The completion is complementary to the assignment which has been given to the Innovation Agency and the Swedish Energy Agency to enhance competence for innovative procurement in Sweden. Both assignments have been brought forward as part of the Government strategy for cleantech.

Sweden and the United States are also actively participating in the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) initiative on super-efficient equipment and appliances deployment initiative and has in particular contributed to the SEAD (Super Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment) awards. The SEAD awards are one way in which member states of CEM can cooperate to support the development of environmental-friendly technology by awarding the most efficient products in the world.

Sweden’s commitment to advancing innovation in clean energy technologies is second to none.  By working together, the U.S. and Sweden can have an incredible multiplying effect, applying best practices and technology to increase investment in innovation and sustainability.

Meeting with Rinkeby’s By Girls for Girls Group & Sharing Stories of Resilience

Mrs. Natalia Brzezinski together with the “By Girls for Girls” group.

What does it feel like to be truly multicultural; to be born and socialized in one culture yet also have a strong connectivity to another very different one? And how can we use our individuality in a positive way? These are some of the questions we tackled this week at a gathering of the “By Girls for Girls” group from the Rinkeby area, one primarily populated by new immigrants to Sweden.

Opening up the U.S. Ambassadorial residence to those who have never been invited there before and sharing the message emanating from President Obama on diversity, inclusiveness and equality is one of the most gratifying and important things Mark and I try to do in Sweden as much as possible.

Over brownies and soft drinks, I told the group of twenty 16-year-old girls about my own immigrant background and the obstacles I faced growing up out of the mainstream. Most of the girls were born in Europe but their parents hailed from Kurdistan, Iran, Somalia and Turkey, and could relate to my stories of being teased for the impossible spelling of my last name or the school lunches my parents prepared for me (which were very “un-American” containing Polish sausages, herring and dill pickles, and eliciting endless laughter from schoolmates carrying perfect peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches).

Role models are important support systems especially for young women, so I invited one of mine to address the group as well and tell her story of she used being “different” to her professional advantage.

“You are the future,” said CEO of Storebrand SPP, Sarah McPhee, an American who landed in Sweden nearly 30 years ago and navigated a context where she felt at time displaced and lacking the knowledge of informal networks and codes of conduct.

Sarah emphasized using education as a tool and not getting discouraged by negative attitudes or biases in society. Together, we underscored the need to speak up, advocate for oneself and actively take a seat at the table leaving insecurities behind. Self-confidence is critical to succeeding in a competitive and global society, especially for women who may face gender biases, pay inequality and a lack of institutional support in the workplace.

Fortunately, self-confidence is something I saw beaming from this motivated group of young women who aspire to be dentists, doctors and politicians and speak two or three different languages. We laughed as we discussed daily stresses of choosing an academic direction in school, getting perfect grades and dealing with emotional and overly-attached mothers who don’t want their “babies” ever leaving home!

As the girls were leaving, one of them exclaimed that she never thought she would be invited to such a grand home and never really knew what an Embassy did aside from visas. That one comment alone made my heart soar. I look so forward to the next time the girls come over to vent, laugh and of course eat brownies!

Ambassador Brzezinski together with the three participants in the SAGA Trainee Program and Mayor Berglund of Sundsvall.

Trip to Sundsvall Highlights SAGA Trainee Program and new U.S.-Swedish Clean Energy Deal

On September 19, I visited Sundsvall to meet with policymakers, business leaders and students but also to welcome three young professionals from the United States who are participating in the SAGA Trainee Program.

Those of you who follow this blog frequently may have noticed that I do my best to travel a lot in order to see as much of the country as possible. I have been to all corners of Sweden – from Abisko in northern Sweden to Smygehuk in the south. From Värmland in the west to Gotland in the east. As the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, I think it is important to leave the capital whenever possible to see what is on the mind of Swedes elsewhere.

In Sundsvall, located approximately 230 miles north of Stockholm, I was greeted by Mayor Jörgen Berglund, Municipal Council Member Sverker Ottosson, and Ulrika Åberg from the Governor’s Office. They hosted a morning roundtable discussion with our newly arrived SAGA trainees. Earlier this year, the Embassy — in collaboration with the Swedish Embassy in Washington, D.C. and Swedish American Chambers of Commerce — launched a public-private partnership whereby three young professionals competed for traineeships at three companies in the Sundsvall region; SCA, SSG and Åkroken Science Park.

Rachel Agnew, Erica Restich and Marie Vasallo arrived in Sundsvall two weeks ago and will focus on issues pertaining to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability in particular. It was very inspiring to meet with these young female leaders to learn about their first impressions of Sweden. They were all very moved by the Swedish hospitality and impressed by their host companies’ focus on sustainability. Rachel, Erica and Marie will be blogging about their experiences on SwedishAmericanGreenAlliance.org – make sure to peek in every now and then for their latest updates.

Åke Westberg, President for the Energy unit at Sverige Cellulosa Aktiebolaget (SCA) hosted me and my staff for lunch.  SCA is a global hygiene and forestry company that produces personal care products, tissue, publication papers, solid-wood products, pulp, wood components for building construction and furniture manufacturing, customized wood products for the building trade, and biofuels. Apart from hosting one of the SAGA trainees, SCA employs thousands of Americans in the United States at its U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia, PA and around the country. At the lunch, Swedish solar collector company Absolicon signed a letter of intent with Ensources, LLC. According to the letter of intent, a manufacturing facility is to be built in Hazelton, Pennsylvanian which could create hundreds, or perhaps over a thousand, jobs. Swedish investment in the U.S. (and the subsequent creation of U.S. jobs) is among the Embassy’s top-priorities. Witnessing the signing ceremony was therefore one of the highlights of the trip.

Our last stop was at Mid-Sweden University to meet with both university and high school students. Most questions concerned my role as U.S. Ambassador but some also touched upon NATO, climate change and security. A perfect way to end this trip.

Unlocking Imaginations & Children’s Dreams: Visit to Berattarministeriet

Mrs. Natalia Brzezinski at Berättarministeriet

“Emily saves the Forest” was the title of the first “book” I wrote as a 7-year-old girl. I still remember the flowery cover made of sticky wallpaper and the crude drawing of girl with two pigtails holding a picket sign, protesting the potential eradication of a forest she loved near her home. I can distinctly remember how proud I was to have made something both with my hands and my imagination. It made my self-esteem soar! I felt that like Emily, my character who stood down the developers and other adults, that through sheer persistence and never giving up I could achieve my dreams even if I didn’t have physical resources.

This is precisely the feeling that Berättarministeriet is trying to evoke in the children that participate in their creative writing program. Loosely translated as the “Telling Ministry”, this non-profit collaboration between business, public municipality and private foundation donors aims to help youth ages 8-18 living in areas of high unemployment tell their stories and make them feel as if someone is listening. Providing inspiration and access to an adult’s time and attention outside of their home, as well as raising awareness about multiculturalism and other issues is part of Berättarministeriet’s stated mission.

The program was founded in 2011 and hopes to be a model for a public-private partnership working seamlessly for the good of society. Its inspiration is 826 National, a similar program that uses creative writing to touch children’s lives founded by American writer Dave Eggers in San Francisco. There are currently two creative writing studios in underprivileged, often immigrant-rich areas around Stockholm— Husby and Södertäjle— with three more in the planning stages.

I had the pleasure of visiting the studio based in Husby along with Jeff Anderson, head of Public Affairs at U.S. Embassy Stockholm. To our confusion, we walked into what looked like a small, rather odd grocery store selling rather odd fineries (glasses made for three sets of eyes being one such finery). We began to check the address and whipped out our iPhones to email Dilsa Demirbag-Sten, the coordinator of the program to verify location.

Fortunately, Dilsa soon appeared and confirmed that yes, we certainly were in the correct location but that we also needed a password to get in. Jeff and I looked at each other, and once again the iPhones and Blackberries emerged as I furiously scanned through emails, embarrassed that I had not come prepared!

Dilsa, being the creative type, soon revealed that we had been fooled! There was no password, but we could shout something out if we wished and see what happened. As we did, alien-inspired music began pumping through the room and a secret door behind us opened up to a much larger space. The music fit the scene perfectly, as Dilsa explained that we were actually standing in a store that sold goods for aliens.

This is the process each child goes through when entering the program for the first time. It’s meant to rev up the imagination while making them laugh and feel comfortable in a new setting. Inside the second space, we sat down and met “the editor”, a rather persnickety fellow who shouted out orders from behind a closed door to the children. He motivated them to imagine interesting story-lines and get their chapters in on time!

Jeff and I were taken through the program by Dilsa and Reza, the amazing young volunteer who created the curriculum. At the end we were able to hold the spoils of this hard work—  bound books that the children had made! As I held their precious stories, I was immediately tele

ported to back to Emily’s World, one I had created as the shy daughter of immigrant’s many moons ago. I still have the book I made and whenever I am home in Chicago, I unearth it from the piles of my parents’ documents when I need a confidence boost. This is something perhaps these children will do one day as well because what they’ve done is great.

Here a cycle has been initiated, one which Dilsa and Reza hope to continue. A tradition of volunteerism, teamwork and self-confidence that will span from an 8-year-old starting the program, to the 19-year-old one day coming back as a volunteer to the program they once participated in, to perhaps the 29-year-old who still remembers what a difference one adult who believed in you can make. Thank you Dilsa and Reza for reminding us of the power of the written word!

A Family Adventure in Sweden: Nordens Ark!

Ambassador Brzezinski viewing some of the residents at Nordens Ark.

I recently enjoyed a very special day for me as a father here in Sweden.  I was raised in a family surrounded by animals.  In my boyhood home in Northern Virginia, where my parents still live, we had dogs and cats, horses, chickens (of varying numbers depending on the numbers of foxes in the neighborhood!), rabbits, geese, and various frogs and snakes and toads that my brother and sister and I would catch.  We gave them great names – for example two ducks we owned were called Napoleon and Josephine, and we had a horse named Strawberry.  Most importantly, this experience of growing up with animals taught me how to relate with living things other than people.  It gave me a love for nature, and a special feel for the wild.

This is something I really hope to pass on to my daughter.  And so it was with great enthusiasm and expectation that I flew from Stockholm to the West Coast of Sweden to visit Nordens Ark – which literally stands for “Northern Ark” – and which is situated 75 miles north of Gothenberg.  This extraordinary wildlife sanctuary, which welcomes about 100,000 visitors a year, has as its goal working to achieve long – term sustainable populations of endangered species in their natural environments.  I emphasize natural environments because the enclosures for the Siberian Tigers, for the Lynx, for the deer, for the Ibex, are very large–acres in size–to simulate at least some of the territory that these magnificent creatures live in the wild.

My daughter and I had the honor to meet with Norden Ark’s incredibly knowledgeable and wonderfully gracious CEO Lena Linden, and to learn about the goals of the institution before setting out on our trek across the sanctuary.  The goals of the sanctuary include:  saving endangered species by controlled breeding; contributing to broader understanding and knowledge of the endangered animals through research and study; providing education at primary, secondary and university levels (and it was great to see the nursery for young kids literally at the park, where kids become familiar with animals at such a wonderfully young age); and to be accessible to the general public, and thereby advancing support for conservation.

To see and interact with the animals of the park first hand was such an incredible treat.  I want to thank Nordens Ark employees Emma and Pelle for sharing their keen and sensitive knowledge of the tigers, lynx and snow leopards, and of the horses, goats, bunnies and ducks with me and my daughter.  We started the day by witnessing the feeding of the tigers and lynx, and observed the snow leopard parents interact with their children.  Nordens Ark was hosting a school of youngsters while we were there, and we watched the highly effective staff member guide Swedish young people as they put food out for snow leopards in an (unoccupied) enclosure, which after the school children got out would be subsequently opened for these magnificent predators.

The day was a special way to relate with my daughter – and as always the beautiful outdoors of Sweden did not let us down.  Sweden is gorgeous topographically, and to combine that with a special focus on the world’s most endangered animals is a context that is unique and wonderful.

Thank you Nordens Ark for a very special day!

Honoring the Champions of Childhood & Simply Saying Thank You

HRH Princess Madeleine together with Mrs. Natalia Brzezinski

Innovation and a sense of social responsibility beyond one’s national borders are values that to me are elemental to the core of what it means to be Swedish today. They are also values shared by our two countries and intrinsic to the strong Swedish-American relationship of present.

Last week, these two values interlaced in the most inspiring way by enhancing the power of a universal language shared around the world: music. This exciting marriage of high-tech, music and giving back came together at the spacious headquarters of Spotify where HRH Princess Madeleine led the launch of a new collaboration between the Queen’s World Childhood Foundation and Spotify called “Thank You”

The World Childhood Foundation was founded in 1990 by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden to champion the rights of children around the world to safety, human dignity and a quality of life that befits an innocent being. Working closely with her youngest daughter, Princess Madeleine, these two strong, indomitable women have created projects from Belarus to Brazil that put children first.

“Thank you” is a dynamic example of such a project. Instead of focusing only on highlighting the negative, this collaboration with one of Sweden’s great high-tech, entrepreneurial success stories— Spotify— enhances the positive stories of aspirational role models and the generosity of the human spirit. The theme is thanking someone who made an impact on your life in a positive way and helped shape the person you are. Someone who perhaps weighed in on your life in a pivotal time, helping one remain on the right path or someone who stood staunchly in your life in good times and bad, never swaying in their love and support.

This theme of gratitude for the good in life touched everyone gathered in the room that night, and watching Princess Madeleine, a newly pregnant woman who is so vividly determined to be an amazing mother, was especially moving. The theme also fit seamlessly with the mission of Spotify: a democratization of music and a company that does well by doing good. Spotify consistently highlights success stories of young people overcoming the odds and persevering through obstacles by connecting with music or entrepreneurship.

The evening inspired me to thank my own mother and father for everything they have done to make sure I always felt safe, loved and supported. Thank you Mom and Dad, without you I would not have the confidence and determination to try each day to be a better mother, wife and professional and to try to be as strong as you both are.