Speech by Göran Persson

Speech by the Prime Minister Göran Persson at the memorial ceremony for Anna Lindh, Stockholm City Hall, Friday 19 September 2003

 

Anna Lindh is no longer with us.

It still feels so strange, so difficult to accept.

We still have such vivid memories of her.

Anna was in our midst, not on the periphery, usually at the centre of things.

As a mother and wife, as a daughter and sister, as a close friend and colleague.

As an example to many, many more.

We have lost her.

This is so.

And this awareness hurts so dreadfully.

 

* * *

Your Majesties,

Excellencies

Dear friends,

and especially Anna's family, relatives and close friends,

 

We have gathered here today to share our grief.

But above all, we have gathered to share our positive memories.

Anna Lindh with her jacket flapping open and her back-pack thrown over her shoulder, on her way.

Anna Lindh with her mobile telephone in one hand, and the other gesturing in protest: "No, I think you're wrong there". ."

Anna Lindh with her quick reactions, a toss of the head and then her laughter, in big happy waves.

* * *

She was born in 1957.

Less than three decades later, when Anna Lindh was 27, she was on the podium of Folkets Hus at Norra Bantorget in Stockholm. She was expressing her thanks for the confidence and trust invested in her as the newly elected Chairman of the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League, the first woman ever to hold this position:

"For democracy to work in our society and passivity to disappear," she said, "people must first come together and learn to work together for common goals."

This was the spirit animating her work as she led the Social Democratic Youth League over the next six years. It was during these years that she began to develop her talent for the direct response, the ability within fifteen seconds to formulate a well-defined opinion in front of the television camera. More and more people began to sit up and take notice of Anna Lindh.

When she was 33 and nearing the end of her pregnancy, she left her Youth League assignment. She described to the Congress why she was a Social Democrat.

"Only this morning when I went to the antenatal clinic, I saw what society does for expectant parents and their children in Sweden - through maternity care and child care, the social services and health and medical care. These things help me know why I am a Social Democrat. /.../

Having seen reports on the television and in newspapers from our Baltic neighbouring countries, having seen faces marked by will and longing, but also fear in their eyes after years of occupation and communist oppression, I know why I am a Social Democrat. /.../

When I see street children in Latin America with their grubby and undernourished faces, or small girl prostitutes in Chile and Thailand - whose only dream is to be able to live another week - I know why I am a Social Democrat."

This was the nature of Anna Lindh's commitment - it was close to home and reached far beyond our borders.

As she expressed it herself, both vision and everyday life.

And that's what she was like as a person too.

* * *

Anna Lindh refused to choose between politics and family. She chose both. She showed it was possible to live that way and she was admired for doing so - admired far beyond the borders of Sweden.

And that is probably why she was such a strong role model for so many, especially among young women.

Anna Lindh lived out her vision for the world in her everyday life.

But Anna knew that good political leadership is about more than just lofty words.

As a member of the party's executive committee and as culture and leisure commissioner, Anna was aware of the importance of staying close to the people she represented in Stockholm, and later to people in her home town of Nyköping.

As a lawyer Anna Lindh knew that a successful politician needs to get below the surface of things, that the precise details of chemicals policy and the articles of the Kyoto Protocol must be every bit as sustainable as the vision of a sustainable society.

Anna Lindh was 37 years of age when she become Minister for the Environment. As environment minister she was able to follow through on the rapprochement between Social Democracy and the environment movement that she had already begun as chairman of the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League, and to begin to translate it into practical policies. She found it deeply unfitting that modern society allowed pollution to go on and degradation to continue.

Her international work as environment minister was a challenge, but above all it was a success. She had a striking ability to slip naturally into a wide range of situations and to win the respect of people from very different walks of life wherever she met them around the world.

And then Anna Lindh became Sweden's Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the age of 41. With her burning international involvement since her teens, with Olof Palme as her model, with her strong integrity and great courage, she became a very popular and highly respected foreign minister.

Today Sweden plays host to her friends from every corner of the earth. This feels right and appropriate, for Anna Lindh did not just speak for Sweden in the world. She also spoke for the world in Sweden.

 

* * *

Dear friends,

Let me read a poem by Tomas Tranströmer, a few lines I know Anna liked.

This is how it goes:

Inside the vast Romanesque church the tourists thronged

in the half-dark.

Arch after arch yawned, no view of the whole.

A few candle flames flickered.

An angel with no face embraced me

and whispered through my whole body:

"Don't be ashamed of being human, be proud!

Inside you arch after arch opens without end.

You will never finish, that's how it's meant to be."

Blinded with tears

I was thrust out onto the simmering piazza

along with Mr and Mrs Jones, Mr Tanaka and

Signora Sabatini

and inside them all arch after arch opened without end.

 

* * *

Anna Lindh believed in human beings.

She believed in people as the remarkable beings they are, with an almost unlimited capacity to grow and develop.

Anna believed in people's inner strength and potential, but she also knew how easily that strength can be lost.

People are not churches made of stone, where arch after arch stands open.

People have to open the arches themselves, one by one.

And it can be done!

With the right support people can walk through arch after arch without end.

But people can also be diminished, their soaring arches thrown down.

People can be kept from realising their potential.

Anna saw it happen everywhere.

In a Swedish school when a child is bullied and the adults don't see

In a refugee camp in Afghanistan, where there is not enough medicine.

In Kosovo, among the raped and violated.

In an industrial town where another major layoff becomes reality.

In any one of us, when our self-confidence and faith in the future falters.

For Anna, people were at the core of every issue.

People's worth and rights.

Human rights were always her driving force.

Violations and oppression the opponents in the fight.

Democracy is always the means, people are always the ends.

That's the way she was - in big issues and small alike.

Unaffected and full of consideration for her family, friends and colleagues.

Realistic, but with a sense of optimism that was contagious.

She offered encouragement and criticism with equal warmth.

She cared.

* * *

 

Bosse, David and Filip, I would like to say a few words to you.

But I know: no words in the world can ease your pain, no words in the world can do justice to your dearest Anna, your beloved mother.

I want you to know that we are here, there are many of us, and we are with you.

Today, it feels impossible, but together we shall continue to work for what Anna stood for.

We will carry her mission and her vision, and try to fill her role.

But no one can take her place.

This is how irreplaceable a person is.

This is how valuable and so unique.

We will carry the memory of Anna with us for a long time, as an invisible treasure.

As a source of strength.

As a source of warmth.

As a source of joy.

* * *

 

Thank you, Anna, for all you gave and for the person you were.

Now we move on.

Towards the future.

But as we leave, we can see you before us. The way you turn your head, Anna, just the way you used to.

A quick wave as you pass by.

And you add: Take care of yourselves!

We answer:

Yes, we will take care of ourselves.

We will take care of one another.

We promise you this, dear Anna.

Thank you.

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