The President of the Republic to the best High School Graduates on June 19, 2000, in Kadriorg

My dear friends!
Dear Prime Minister, Minister of Education, County Governor, Excellencies and teachers!

This is like the last day of school, and to some, it is already the beginning of family life. And maybe this is where I should start: have children! We have a lot of problems, but on this beautiful day I would like to say that we shall overcome all troubles. We will also overcome the problem that we will be facing in five or ten years, when one Estonian will have to support two pensioners. This is actually not only Estonia's problem, although more acute in Estonia than in Finland. But it is also quite acute in Finland, and quite acute in Germany as well, and it is to some extent the result of our improved life that has prolonged our life span; and on our continent, in Western Europe, where Estonia also belongs, there are fewer and fewer working hands remaining.

Today, when all the doors and windows are open to you, make use of this wonderful freedom, which no one in Estonia's history before you could even dream of. Use it also to see your future - just like this small family here can see it already today.

All doors are open to you.

It is actually difficult for me to say how very grateful we must be to our history, our people, our persistence that this is so today. Use this opportunity and choose a path today that would meet your interests and also the interests of the Republic of Estonia, the interest of the people of Estonia to last. And to the boys I would like to mention (in brackets) that service in the Estonian armed forces is of course a part of the Estonian culture, just as our will to defend our country.

You have followed my visits to all Estonian counties within the last three weeks, during which I have shaken hands with people who could have been, and probably were, your grandparents. Although, in their old lined faces, I could see all the hardships that difficult times had brought them, I could above all see their immense belief in the future of Estonia - even though they were much older than I am. This is a strong belief, but you must understand that it is resting on your shoulders. Estonia will realise herself through you, and it is through you that we can speak of the wonderful future of Estonia - if you make true all the dreams you have now when you have finished school.

I went to nine different schools and learned in four different languages. I now remember that a couple of dozen years ago, my younger son found my school report cards, which were, of course, carefully stored - high up, on the right hand side. He browsed them, and suddenly shouted all over the flat where we lived: "Father, you failed in mother tongue!" I was already known as a writer then, and of course I had known that I had once failed in the Estonian language. And it was only then that I realised what it meant to my son - it was something he did not understand - something that encouraged him, as he was having trouble with the Estonian language himself - and actually, I recalled this yesterday or the day before, when the United Nations announced the data about the youth of the world. This data may make you a little sad: 65% of the young people in the world have the command of two languages. See how much the world has changed. I would much like to hope that Estonia has changed with the world, but this is not enough. It is not enough for Estonia to change with Africa, to change with Asia. In the region where we live, in Northern Europe, Estonia has always been a pioneer; Estonia was extraordinarily active in building up her economy before the war. We can look back in pride when thinking that in a very short time, Estonia caught up with such Northern European countries as Finland and Sweden. Owing to our diligence, our integrity. This is something I will never cease to mention. Those were the times when the doors were never locked, to say nothing of bicycles. This is the Estonia that we all want to go back to. It is not only your dream, it is also a dream of your parents and grandparents. This Estonia will be a different Estonia, it will be modern, but it will not be like something you are used to seeing on TV. It will, first of all, be Estonia that has her roots in this soil and speaks the Estonian language; here, Estonian culture is equal to any other culture in Europe. Notwithstanding that all the distances in the world have disappeared, and that we are selling our goods also on the Great Wall of China, and that the world is talking more and more of globalisation, and that some people seem to think that globalisation means letting go of their mother tongue, their national culture, and all this. Dear young people, this is not the case. The study of languages, which so recently was still beyond our reach like a golden apple hanging on the top branch of a tree, today has the same status as addition and subtraction. Your roots are in this soil, but you must understand that Estonia is part of Europe. This means that we must be able to work harder than Germany, harder than the United States of America. It is an open world, and it depends on you how proudly and confidently Estonia will enter that world.

Today, all the doors are open to you and this will be so for a long time. All doors are always open to man, and sometimes, in my mind's eye, I compare this to a race. You are at the starting point, and some of you think that this is a 100-metre sprint, while others think that it will be 200, 400, or 800 metres. But in fact it is a marathon, my dear young people. A human being starts moving towards death at the moment of his or her birth. This marathon shall never end as long as you live. This is why I would like to tell you: never concentrate on being the top graduate from your next university. Because after the university you will enter life itself; and this will mean self-realisation in five, ten, thirty years' time. You will always be among the first when you are ready to go on learning. This is probably the most important change that has taken place in the world. These are fast times, and Estonian boys and girls should be faster than time. Why? For two simple reasons. The first one comes from our history. For five decades, we were simply stuck behind d the Iron Curtain, and there is still so much old-fashioned thinking remaining in us. Those of you that have been to Finland, those of you that have been to some other foreign countries, know that unfortunately, we can see this backlog very often in Estonia even today, and that we can see it even more in our way of thinking. We must overcome this backlog by means of tremendous strength and the sacred love of our country. But by the time we have overcome it, all other European countries have again moved on. And this is where my comparison with long-distance running becomes relevant. You must not lose your breath; you must always have some extra strength to go on, and to go on faster than others. And one way to keep moving is, of course, education. Education is the most powerful spring that gives you force, that teaches you to think of simple things in a simple, not in a complicated manner.

I would especially like to remind you that already today, you should not only think of what Estonia will need in five years' time, but also consider the needs Estonia will have in fifteen years' time. If possible, go to some university abroad for some time. I take advantage of the pleasure to have the Prime Minster and the Minister of Education standing beside me. It is time now for us to consider the establishment of a foundation that would, from private banks and also with the Government's participation, finance your studies abroad. You would return the money when you come back to Estonia and start working here. Such a fund must be established. This will create an opportunity for your self-realisation abroad. This means that you will return with thoughts that have become your convictions, you will do it more quickly than here in Estonia.

And still I would like to say: remain true to Estonia. Estonia needs you. If I look at all of you now, I can see that you are the future of Estonia. With these words, I would like to conclude my speech now. You are many, and I will shake hands with all of you. May you always have the feeling that embraces you now - that all the paths and all the doors are open to you. They are not, but you have also been educated to open doors when they are closed. Estonia has managed to do this within last ten years. You know that the doors to the European Union are not easy to open, and that the doors to NATO are not easy to open. We have been very few. In five, six, seven years, there will be more of us opening doors, because you will be with us then. Welcome to the Estonia of tomorrow, my dear boys and girls.