“Austria can manage this. Together.”

On Austria’s National Day, October 26, 2020, Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen addressed Austrians and “all people living in our country” with a calm plea for reasons, fortitude and unity.

Dear Austrians and all those who live here,

Today I would like to share a few observations with you. My thoughts, my fears, my hopes. I feel that many things are changing. On the one hand, it is too early to be able to judge exactly in which direction the journey is going. On the other hand, we can help determine the destination of this journey ourselves. If we stay alert.

Yes, we are deep in a worldwide pandemic that directly attacks one of the basic human needs: the need for security and being close to one another. The need for mutual trust; for social exchange; for community.

Our National Day in particular is usually a day on which many people in our country meet and rejoice together. I also miss these encounters today, here in the Hofburg. And I’m sure I speak for many when I say that this pandemic is really getting on our nerves. It is a burden for us all.

But will we let it get us down? No, of course not.

Austria will overcome it. Together.

For the moment, it is necessary to accept the situation as it is. So that we are free to take the next step in coping.

Ladies and gentlemen!

There is much talk at the moment about the sense and nonsense of measures to contain the virus. This is good, because talking is always good. But please note: This virus is neither red, nor blue, nor turquoise or green or pink, or whatever color it is. No, it is simply: a virus. And we can only get a grip on it with fact-based action. And with timely, understandable and verifiable communication.

It won’t help us if we look for culprits. Let us fight this pandemic with science, reason and compassion. And let us remain respectful in our language. Language creates awareness and reality:  The consciousness and reality of our democracy.

And one more thing: It is obvious that a lot of anger is being generated right now. Anger and also fear. Anger and fear are bad advisors. They cloud our thinking and lead our actions in the wrong directions. What if we just let the anger go? And acknowledge that this pandemic is not anyone’s intention? And that, despite everything, we must act together and not against each other.

Let us try to turn our impatience into something positive.

Let us try not to take out our anger on those who are close to us. Let us try to be patient with each other. And with ourselves. And let’s stay alert, let’s stay vigilant. Let us remain human.

Ladies and gentlemen!

It gives me hope, how many of us are dealing with the situation well. I would like to thank all those who abide by the corona rules. You know: Wash your hands – Keep your distance –Wear mouth-and-nose protection – use the stop corona app – and observe the other important measures.

Furthermore, I would like to thank all those who keep our society going in these difficult times. In companies, nursing homes, schools, the administration, hospitals and doctors’ offices, the many voluntary associations, and other important places.

It makes me confident that we will also in Europe – after initial difficulties – find more common ground again.

For instance, with the largest investment package in the history of Europe: €750 billion. That is not nothing. That is the basis for a future in which our country, our continent, will flourish again. I am firmly convinced of this.

And when we meet again at this point in a year’s time, on October 26, 2021, I hope the worst is behind us. Then we will be able to look back on this unreal time and say, “We have never, not even in the most difficult times, forgotten our reason, our compassion, our community.” Because that is what our beautiful home is built on. And what better day to remember it than our national holiday?

I wish you a pleasant evening.

We translated the president’s speech from its original German to English. Below, you can find the The original video with sound and also including Austrian sign language.

Benjamin Wolf
Benjamin studied Journalism, History and International Affairs. After stints with Cafébabel in Paris and Arte in Strasbourg, he is now working as managing editor and COO for Metropole in Vienna. Fields of expertise are politics, economics, culture, and history. Photo: Visual Hub

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