My grandfather came from Switzerland to Finland via a few diversions. He was an immigrant in the early years of the 1930s.
He arrived in a coastal town in a country that was recovering from the First World War. A country which had recently achieved independence. A country where a strong national spirit prevailed. A country that believed in education, equality and hard work. A country in which the citizens were ready to defend their freedom.
The period was also reflected by a strong spirit of entrepreneurship. It was a time that belonged to pioneers. Industry was being built up. The market economy slowly brought prosperity. A strong right to ownership was also part of independence – which in turn brought a powerful sense of responsibility. Many tycoons, family entrepreneurs and recognised owners worked in industry, for whom the welfare, expertise and sense of community of their workforce were a matter of honour.
My grandfather arrived in a country where immigrants were welcome. Many of them played an active part in building up the country, both before the First World War and in the period between the wars.
For my grandfather, Finland became the home country of entrepreneurship that he felt proud of, that he defended and where he wanted to raise his family.
Finnishness was characterised by determination, a strong will, a dynamic entrepreneurial culture, know-how and pioneership – growth and prosperity were created.
Today we are much, much further down the line. Measured by any gauge, life in Finland is more prosperous than in the 1930s. We are healthier, we live longer, know more and are richer.
And yet many of us feel even more dissatisfaction and inner restlessness than before.
Some of us feel under pressure from the rapid and continuous changes in the environment; globalisation has brought all the troubles of the world into our living rooms, the world has become smaller and we are looking for our role in the greater whole. Does an individual person have enough significance? Or an entire nation?
In the midst of all the change we can stop for a moment and remember that human beings have not really changed over the course of the centuries. We eat, sleep, rejoice and mourn, love and hate in just the same way as we did thousands of years ago.
We still make our own own choices and every one of us is the sum of our own choices. Only we ourselves are responsible for our own choices and only we ourselves can affect them.
Whether we are rich or poor, happy or sad, free or imprisoned, we always have the possibility to choose. And we are always responsible for that choice ourselves.
A fine new generation of young people is growing up in Finland. They are capable, linguistically skilled, brave and enthusiastic.
What kind of a Finland do they want to be building? To what kind of a Finland will they invite people coming from other countries to join them in constructing a common future?
I would believe that my grandfather would have liked to have seen them inviting people into the kind of Finland which takes pride in expertise and hard work. A country that rewards success and bearing responsibility, but that also takes care of the weak and those who need help. A country that wants to develop, modernise, and empower its own people.
A society that works as a facilitator and that activates its citizens rather than making them passive.
We are living in a time that is characterised by the active nature of the individual and their involvement. We are living in a time which is characterised by openness and transparency. We are living in a time where we are on the brink of nearly limitless knowledge. We are living in a time where the frequency of change is exponential. We live in continual change and growth – economically as well, but above all in know-how and the ability to solve complicated equations.
The future is unknowable; it has to be made. This is an opportunity for each of us and everyone’s own choice.