Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway concluded her visit to Minnesota for the first time in a decade. The four-day trip highlighted the bilateral relationship between the United States and Norway.
Governor Tim Walz first hosted the Queen on Thursday for the 49th anniversary of the Minnesota National Guard’s exchange program with the Norwegian National Guard.
“There are at least 900,000 Minnesotans who show their ancestry in Norway, the importance of these cultural connections cannot be underestimated in Minnesota,” Walz said. “The people of Minnesota are very proud of this relationship. We are very proud of the accomplishments, arts, sciences and economy that Norwegian Minnesotans have added.”
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The troop exchange program between Minnesota and Norway is the longest running military partnership between two nations. Under the exchange program, 100 members of the Minnesota National Guard travel to Norway each year for training and 100 members of the Norwegian National Guard come to Minnesota to train at Camp Ripley.
After their visit with the Governor, the Queen visited St. Olaf College, a 175-year-old liberal arts college founded by Norwegian pastors, where she met with President David R. Anderson and Associate Student Government President Sebastian Pham.
The Queen took part in a groundbreaking ceremony at the new Special Collections Vault in the college’s Rølvaag Memorial Library. The vault contains printed materials from the 15th century, including letters from early Norwegian immigrants to their families.
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The Queen ended her trip by attending Sunday service at Mindekirken, a century-old Lutheran church in Minneapolis. The church is known as one of two in the United States that offer services in Norwegian.
“It is extraordinary to realize that, one hundred years later, Mindekirken still fulfills this objective,” she told the nearly 500 people present. “I am certain that Mindekirken in its next century will continue to bring together people who are passionate about preserving our traditions. I wish you a wonderful continued anniversary.”
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The United States and Norway have enjoyed close bilateral relations since the independence of the two countries. The Constitution of the United States strongly inspired the Norwegian Constitution of 1814 and from 1825 to 1940, more than 850,000 Norwegians emigrated to the United States.
The majority of these immigrants settled in the Midwest, particularly Minnesota and the Dakotas, and due to their high birth rates, there are currently more Americans claiming Norwegian descent than Norwegians.
Of the special relationship, the Queen said: “We both fought for our independence and we both have some of the oldest constitutions in the world. We share hopes, fears, values and dreams. for the future.”