President of the Republic at the Tallinn Music Week Creative Impact Conference 2018

09 April 2018

On Friday, April 6th the President of the Republic of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid opened the Creative Impact conference with the following speech. Over the course of 2 days, the conference featured 117 speakers from 25 countries.

It is wonderful to see so many friends of music, arts and ideas. First of all welcome, welcome to Tallinn!

Back in time and thousands of miles away, in southwest of Tennessee, 50 years ago this week, this was where Martin Luther King Jr. held his last and one of the most powerful speeches.

There was a huge thunderstorm outside when he took the stage that night in Memphis, amid the black garbage workers’ strike over unjust working conditions. It was there when he said what is now quoted on his memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, right up where you see it immediately. The one which reminds us that the choice for mankind was – and still is – not between violence and nonviolence, but between nonviolence and nonexistence.

Next day he was assassinated on the balcony of a motel, his last words being the ones said to a musician whom he asked to play a gospel hymn in the meeting later that night: “Play it real pretty!”

We all know Memphis as the birthplace of rock’n’roll and soul, both important not only as music styles, but as agents of change.

For us, who we can eat our lunch wherever we want to, it may be difficult to imagine all the dehumanizing intimidation that people then faced. It is not so long ago at all. All these separate drinking fountains, entrances to the movie theatres, or zoos where black people were allowed to go only when they cleaned the cages.

Just think what an effort – and therefore how much more impressive – it was to respond to all of this with… love.

Expressing love – the happiness of love, hope for love, and faith in love – this is what soul music focused on.

Those who preached nonviolent paths to justice spoke of the importance of touching people’s hearts. Lack of love creates ignorance. Ignorance shuts our eyes and ears to the possibilities of creating positive change.

Let us now get back to Tallinn. Here we obviously have our own experience with the power of music – after all, our own movement for regaining the independence 30 years ago is known as the Singing Revolution.

I am really proud of Tallinn Music Week taking place for the 10th time, named as “one of Europe’s top city festivals” by The Guardian last week. I am so proud to see how this festival has developed into a creative hub, combining the freshest thinking in music, economy, the future of our cities, and facing environmental challenges.

This year’s event will focus on how we can meet the sustainable development goals. At the turn of the century, international organisations put out a short list of millennium goals. They were only a few; they could be printed more or less on a paper as big as a train ticket. I found a copy of them on my chair entering the room of the IMF annual meeting, I think it was 1999.

Some of these goals were fulfilled because world leaders focused on growth and freedom of trade. This lifted living standards globally. Not to the levels most of us here enjoy, but at least to the levels that lessened importantly starvation and other suffering, mostly in Asian countries.

This growth has not always given people more equal rights, though. Not all of those who now are not starving can freely speak out or be free of class-based, ethnic or religious discrimination. These things – they take policy, and economic policy is not enough. Here we have not yet been strong enough. Yet, people themselves, especially now, when they are better nourished, they are moving up on the Maslow pyramid. People are not giving up – they are constantly questioning the right of some to oppress others. It leads to tragedies, it leads to death, yet humankind is not giving up on humanity. Martin Luther King was right – there can never be safety for mankind anywhere, unless there is justice everywhere.

Last year, war raged on in Syria. Rohingyas were killed and driven out of their homes. As always, Africa has been left behind quite a bit. You know, we never treasure what we have plentifully. Here, in Estonia, for example, clean drinkable water is not at all treated as it deserves. It is very often wasted, because there is a lot of it. When I was in Africa, I felt that young people there are treated as we treat water – because there are so many, they do not get the love they deserve from society. There is exploitation, lack of schooling, child trafficking, and death.

However, if we look at the world – the big wild world with love, we shall overcome. Please spend this conference looking at the world with love. Let us appreciate what we have – the beauty of human beings, the beauty of nature, the beauty of similarities and the beauty of differences as well. Also, the beauty of the different opinions. Let us treat what is threatening everything beautiful with the power of our love for that’s what is truly beautiful.

Let’s do it. Let’s clean up the world.

Let us use technology to help Africa to overcome its deep-rooted problems and leapfrog into the future.

Let us use technology to grow our economies, without ruining our nature. That was so 20th century to get rich on the expense of our environment.

Let us be green and eat clean, but please – without wasting resources that can feed much more people with responsible application of science and technology.

Let us respect each other, but without demanding, that other people give up their cultural space for the newcomers to feel properly respected. Let us also remember that when moving globally, we are always not just moving out of our own home, our own culture, but always also into someone else’s home, their cultural space.

Let us respect cultural and religious differences, but be adamant about repressive habits belonging to the past. After all, all holy texts can be read as the message of love, not the message of violence.

Let us give people safe communication in the cyber sphere, by giving honest people globally the possibilities to identify themselves to each other and create protected data exchange for those who can trust each other online. Digital signatures should be human right, not a privilege of Estonians, Luxembourgish and a few others; they are just a drop in the ocean.

If we do this, someone can one day tick all the boxes in the SDG list as well, for sustainable development goals are lengthy and hard to memorise, unlike millennium goals were. Finally, it does not matter. Just do not read those papers, do not speak that bureaucratic language, just listen to your heart and act with love, and that would do. It will all translate into better world. That is what matters. Remember – play it really pretty! Please!