Speech, Light up for Life Christmas Banquet

I was asked to say a few words to our new friends from Syria, Iraq or wherever you are from. But before I do that I just want to tell you this little story that I heard the other day.

The former President of Russia, Mr Gorbatjov, was running late for a meeting with US president Reagan. He told his driver to drive really fast, and the driver promised to do so. He tried his best but Gorbatjov still thought it went too slowly so he told him to switch seats with him. They did, so the driver was in the back seat and Gorbatjov was driving the car. They passed two police officers with motorcycles and one of them set off to give this crazy driver a speeding ticket. After a little while the police officer came back to his college and said:

“Well, I did catch up with him but I couldn’t give him a speeding ticket, because there was a very, very important person in the car.”

“Who was it?” his colleague asked, and the police officer answered:

“I don’t know. But Gorbatjov was his driver.”

I don’t know why we so often divide people into different groups. Important and less important. I like this story, because the police officer thought that the driver was an important man, and nothing could be more true. The driver was a very, very important man. Not because he had much power, but because he was a human being. And human beings are important, always.

Sweden has a long history of helping people who are fleeing from war. Our borders have always been open to those in need of refuge, and we are now harvesting all the good things refugees have given us. Sweden would be a poor and boring nation without all the food, music, colors, and cultures that refugees have given us. When you walk the streets of Stockholm you might feel different, but know this: Every 6th person you meet was born in another country. And because we have such a long history of refugees coming to Sweden, many of them are now in leading positions in our nation; politicians, musicians, journalists, actors, comedians, television hosts. They are now important people, just as they always have been.

Ardalan Shekarabi came to Sweden as a refugee when he was eleven years old. He went to law school and is now in a politician in the Swedish Government.

Soran Ismail came to Sweden as a refugee when he was only one. Today he is 28 years old and one of Sweden’s most well-known and appreciated stand-up comedians.

What I want to say is this: There is a bright future waiting for you in here in Sweden. Many of you have travelled across an entire continent; things have been hard. You have fought hard. And now you’ve come to Sweden, and this is your place of refuge. This is your safe haven. There are over 200 countries in the world. Thank you for choosing Sweden. Thank you for blessing this country with your presence, with your talents, with your laughter and with everything that is you.

SOS Refugee Care believes in you. You WILL succeed in this country. You will manage. You will learn the language, you will get a good job, your children will go to school, they will make friends, play football, laugh the way only children can.

You will drive the president’s car one day. He will be in a hurry and he’ll ask you to drive faster, and before you know it you will switch seats with him, and people will say the simple truth about you: ”He is a very, very important person.” And the borders between important and less important will be forever gone.

Friends, welcome to Sweden. And merry Christmas to you all.

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