Obama in Sweden
It’s not very often you get the chance to say, “Sorry, I can’t be there, I have to go meet the President of the United States.” But that is exactly what we said today. The kids skipped school and we all rode the train into Stockholm, to the Grand Hotel, where Barack Obama scheduled time to greet Embassy personal and their families during his two-day stopover in Sweden.
Getting there was the toughest part. Car routes and train stops were closed off. Sidewalks were shut down. It felt like Stockholm was under martial law. There were 3,000 police personnel on foot, on horseback, and in cars, and even in boats! Everywhere you looked there was yellow tape and cement barricades and people standing guard.
Still, there was a sense of anticipation and excitement. People on the street were watching and waiting to see if they could spot the motorcade. Our Embassy badges permitted us through the blockades where we found ourselves walking down empty streets, normally bustling with traffic. It was a surreal feeling, in a way, isolated and yet surrounded. Because security was tight, we had to arrive two hours prior to Obama’s speech, but it was worth it. The moment he walked into the ballroom of the Grand Hotel and the Stars and Stripes began to play, everyone cheered. There was an overwhelming sense of patriotism.
Ambassador Brezinski stood at the podium and introduced the President who then gave a short, but inspiring speech. His message focused on the values America shares with Sweden, namely our belief in democracy, conservation, and tolerance. He praised our countries for working together and said, “I often joke that if everyone in the world could be like the Nordic countries, we’d have a great place to live.” I have to agree with the President on this point. He had a real sense of admiration for the people of Sweden, their government and their beautiful country. I felt proud, not only to be an American, but to be living here in Sweden!
I know it’s a lot of expense and trouble for the President of the United States to make these types of visits, but after experiencing this exchange, I appreciate why such lengths are taken toward building and maintaining good relationships. Business can be done on the phone, but relationships are built face-to-face and getting to see the President up close and personal reassured me that he’s engaged with the people and working to strengthen America’s interests in our global economy. Today was a good day to be an American.