As an American, I find the concept of royalty intriguing. I can’t say I really know where I stand on the issue. On the one hand, it seems like a fun nod to history and a great added cultural dynamic to help represent a nation’s culture, heritage, and identity without many of the political trappings that go with elected delegates. On the other hand, I have my American bias which bubbles up almost instantaneously with the screech of a bald eagle, its cry heralding freedom and the taste of apple pie and hot dogs. This may be the perfect connection to resolve my inner turmoil and begin to understand the Dane’s adoring relationship with their royal family. After all, as a hot dog vendor outside Vesterport Station once told me, New York and Germany may get partial credit for the hot dog, but it actually originated right here in Denmark. I suppose wars have been started over smaller claims, but in this case, perhaps it is a great illustration of the many core ideals, principles and cultural components that the US and Denmark share.
I’ve gotta’ admit that over the last year and a half my respect for the Danish Royals has grown exponentially. With rare exceptions, the Danes absolutely love them. They bring in NYE with the Queen’s speech. An event which somehow manages to get a country full of extremely happy, energetic, and firework-crazed party-goers to set down their explosives, take a sip of their drinks, turn on the TV, and listen in dead-silence for half an hour. As someone who also comes from a country that loves mixing loud conversations, high-explosives, and alcohol – I’ve gotta say I was not only impressed but also a bit shocked.
But, perhaps I shouldn’t have been … after all, the Danes have a lot to be proud of and are without a doubt one of the most patriotic groups of people I’ve encountered outside of the United States. They don’t just love their royals, they take great pride in their flag – the oldest in the world – their culture, their heritage, and their country as a whole. So, it was a very special and unusual honor when I learned that HRH Prince Joachim of Denmark would be doing a Q&A session with a small group of us. It’s a highly unusual opportunity to have the chance to meet with royals, an even rarer opportunity to meet with beloved royals, and even rarer still to be able to pose a series of questions during the meeting.
I’m a member of the Danish Youth Goodwill Ambassador Corps. We are a relatively new initiative that has been launched through a partnership between a number of different Danish organizations as a youth/student talent development program. Our charter is straight forward – to connect with other international students with a passion for Denmark and to share the knowledge we’ve accumulated during our time in Denmark with the world at large.
This past weekend we held our national conference. It was a two-day event where YGWAs from Aalborg, Aarhus, and Copenhagen came together to meet, mingle, brainstorm and learn about Denmark. As part of the conference, HRH Prince Joachim spent an hour with us while answering a variety of questions from the audience. The questions were very diverse and focused on everything from his entrepreneurial projects, what it is like to balance life as an entrepreneur, parent and royal to questions about innovation, and even a few about how best to enact change in the world around us. He was joined by the Minister of Climate, Energy and Building, Martin Lidegaard and Martin Bendsøe who is the SVP and Dean of the Danish Technical Institute. The event was moderated by Natasja Crone, one of Denmark’s most prominent Danish journalists.
I was absolutely blown away by the introductory talks given by both HRH Prince Joachim and Minister Lidegaard. It wasn’t the usual talking points and dry ramblings you might expect from politicians. Just as it wasn’t a rushed regurgitation of points exhaled swiftly and barely given time to settle in before a flurry of hand shakes and the sound of the revolving door swinging shut as is so often the case with high ranking officials. In particular, it was fantastic to see that the Prince arrived at the start of the event and stayed until the end. More or less a three-hour period, during which time he paid close attention to the Minister, the Dean, and the panel of four local entrepreneurs who also presented. He also made himself available to us during the two brief breaks and gladly answered questions, paused for photos and chatted with us. Hardly the type of behavior I expected and a real tribute to the Danish Royal Family. I can’t stress enough just how genuine and sincere HRH Prince Joachim was.
The following clip is a short segment I shot on my iPhone (sorry about the quality) as HRH responded to one of our questions.
For my part, I was able to ask Minister Lidegaard two direct questions about the work he has been doing to pass a work visa/green card reform bill which is as exciting as it is progressive. The new bill would automatically grant a three-year green card to all international students who have received a complete MA or PhD from a Danish University. As I wrap up my MA and explore job opportunities, an automatic work visa would drastically improve my chances of staying in Denmark and greatly ease the challenges that go with finding work here as an expat. Something that would be a net-gain for both my career and for Denmark who would retain me as a business professional, economic driver, and taxpayer while realizing benefit from the money they spent on my Masters. A far cry from the current system which heavily encourages me to go abroad or return to the United States where I’ll work professionally, likely in competition with Danish companies. Minister Lidegaard’s talk also had great factoids about Denmark’s renewable energy policy, how to deal with the emerging rift between the renewable energy camp and the conservation/green party, and some powerful points about infrastructure investments necessary over the next 10 years to keep Denmark’s power infrastructure secure and operational.
At the end HRH Prince Joachim left us with this final thought:
“To me the duty of representing Denmark truly is a privilege. It is very rewarding and I love to see that the work I do can be fruitful to Danish society as a whole. As youth goodwill ambassadors you will reflect on your experience in Denmark and whether at home in your own country or embarking on a new international career elsewhere in the world, you will always remember your time in Denmark and take a piece of Denmark with you.”
On that note I would like to extend a special thank you to His Royal Highness the Prince, the Minister, the rest of the speakers, and the Danish people for a fantastic experience and wonderful, informative, and exciting cultural insight. I can now cross meeting with royalty off the bucket list. Next up? Working on that knighthood …
*Event photos in this post were provided by the official event photographer and are used with permission*