Dutch king urges people to listen to each other in his Christmas message

The king gives his speech. Photo: Sem van der Wal ANP

King Willem-Alexander has spoken of the need to listen to each other in his traditional Christmas message, recorded at the family home of Huis ten Bosch.

‘Stories give meaning and purpose to our lives,’ the king said. ‘By telling and listening to stories, we connect with each other. Each of us has our own story. After all, we humans are very different and we look at life in very different ways. We are free to think and believe what we want, we are free to form our own world view.’

The king spoke of the people he has met during his work and the stories they have told him. Sometimes they are stories of ‘courage and perseverance’, the king said, referring to the health service workers he has met during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the stories are about pride and ambition, he said, highlighting students at Delft University who are developing a clean and climate neutral mobility system.

‘Sometimes I hear stories of intense anger and despair,’ the king said. In particular, his conversations with parents caught up in the childcare benefit scandal had an impact on him, the king said.

‘One of them told how she had come to the Netherlands with her parents as a little girl,’ the king said. ‘Her mother and father had always told her: if you do your best and work hard, you can go far in this country. Now a disappointed woman sat opposite me. That touched me deeply.’

Everyone, the king said, has a need to be heard. ‘We don’t lack stories, but we sometimes struggle to listen to them and see the people behind them,’ he said. ‘Even if we know that we can never agree on one subject, we must keep looking for what we do share. Even if our points of view are far apart, we must continue to live together.’

The king said he had seen the willingness of many people – young and old – to help solve problems that affect us all, such as the coronavirus pandemic and climate change – which is, he said, something we ourselves created.

‘We make history and what story will be told about us later?’ the king said. ‘The influence of each of us is greater than we often think. As a beautiful Jewish saying goes: if you saved one life, you saved humanity.’

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