The King’s National Day Speech

Tomorrow is the 21 July, Belgium’s National Day. Each year on the eve of the National Day the Belgian Monarch delivers an address in each of our country’s three languages. The Dutch version of the speech is broadcast ahead of the main news bulletin on the VRT’s television channel één. For our Anglophone and international audience flandersnews.be has translated the speech that will be read, heard and watched by millions of Belgians today.
YVES HERMAN

“Ladies and gentlemen, today there is wind of optimism blowing through the economy and the labour market. A new European dynamic is taking shape. How can we seize this moment? How can we ensure that it brings opportunity to the whole of society? By continuing to work hard to build an inclusive society. A society where no one feels excluded.

Learning is the key if we are to achieve this. Learning in the widest sense. Learning from each other and with each other.

At a time in which knowledge is immediately within reach everywhere, the key is to understand what all these facts mean when put into context. Only then can you judge their value and make informed choices.

“This is true”, “This is correct”, “This is good”… In the first instance youngsters learn from their parents and from motivated teacher that pass on their love for the will to understand. In a rapidly-changing world they learn from their parents how they can view these things from a distance. Parents can also learn from youngsters. So let us ensure that youthful enthusiasm and creativity and wisdom and life experience cross each other’s paths as often as possible.

The workplace is a place to meat others. More and more school in our country are allowing their students to gain experience in companies. Recently in Switzerland I was able to see at firsthand how successful this dual learning model can be. Let us then continue to encourage cooperation between industry and education. It makes for a more dynamic labour market and it promotes equal opportunities.

Of course meetings with another culture provide an opportunity to learn from each other. A month and a half ago I celebrated the end of the fast with a Belgian Muslim family. I was impressed by the efforts all the members of the family make for the community. I learned a lot about the way in which they view fasting and seeing family, friends and acquaintances again. When I left the house late in the evening, their neighbours were waiting for me. They offered me a bottle of wine and told me how happy they were to live where they do. It made me proud that two such different, simple and genuine expression of hospitality can exist side by side here.


It is not like that in every street, but this example shows that in our country, more than we sometimes think, a community of values exists that traverses difference. Talk to someone around you that you don’t know. You will discover that you share with your neighbours the same questions, the same doubts, the same hopes, the same dreams. They are just as concerned about the welfare of their children, about their work, that their sick and older relatives are well cared for. Let us teach our children to also view the world like this.

Happiness and prosperity, and that is something we all strive for, are only of real value if they are shared.

The Queen and I experience how much we can learn from each other on a daily basis at the countless initiatives for solidarity and mutual help: shelters for the homeless, help for people with a handicap or wider still help for the weaker in our midst. Such initiatives are real gems in our society. They reveal the richness within vulnerable people.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am convinced that we can all harvest the fruits of the new dynmanic that seems to be unfolding. On condition that every day we learn from those that came before us and from those that come after us, from our neighbours and from those that we sometimes think are so different. No more is necessary than to look beyond difference.


The Queen and I wish you a pleasant National Day”.