It was a bold prediction for that time. In the first three elections of 1920s Latvia, no female candidate was elected to the parliament. In the fourth election, there was exactly one women elected, out of 100 members of the parliament.
I don't believe in fortune-telling. But it seems that Finks' prophesy has come true, by a strange turn of fate. Eight years ago, in 1999, a deadlocked Latvian parliament chose a vaguely known academic, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, as the compromise candidate for the presidency. Yesterday was the last day of her second term as the president.
Vaira Vike-Freiberga has surpassed all expectations that we had about her. (OK, the public was very skeptical and cynical about politicians in 1999 and we might not had much expectations at all... But if we had had expectations in 1999, she would have still surpassed them!)
VairaVike-Freiberga believed in Latvia, at the time when many people did not. As she said in her second inauguration speech:
Every nation has its uniqueness, its beauty and its special value and we can say that about our own Latvia as well.As the president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga was the most passionate advocate of Latvia that we had ever seen. She was great at explaining our history and our aspirations to the world outside Latvia. And, I think, it was her belief in Latvia that made her such an outstanding advocate for our country.
We are rich in our diversity, we are rich in everything that we have experienced in both sunny days and also dark and dreary days.
We can all shape future in such a way that we will be proud of.
We often complain about our politicians wasting too much money for trips abroad. Well, Vike-Freiberga went to 180 visits abroad in 8 years (probably more than anyone else) and nobody complained. Because we knew that she was there to articulate Latvian causes.
Latvia has gone a long way in 8 years of Vaira Vike-Freiberga presidency. In 1999, we had to argue to be included into the expansion of European Union. Now, the borders between Latvia and the EU have essentially disappeared. Our economy has grown tremendously and, even if we fall back due to the present economic bubble crashing... we are not going to fall back to where we were in 1999.
The standards for political integrity have also grown. It may be lost in the daily arguments about corruption scandals but Latvia is certainly moving forward. As Vaira Vike-Freiberga said in her last interview as the president:
Our country still has many people whose ethics standards don't match what we would like to see and we should continue the fight against that. It's not a one-day task, we won't be able to check "corruption has been eliminated" on our daily planner in one day.And she has certainly done a lot to set higher standards for our politicians! Vaira Vike-Freiberga has promised to stay around and continue her work as an advocate for Latvian causes abroad. As she said in a TV interview yesterday, "I am saying bye as the president but I'll say see-you-later as Vaira Vike-Freiberga".
But I am optimistic that our country can move forward.
Note: The title of this post refers to the thank-you event "Sun Flowers for the President" organized one of our newspapers week ago. Here is a photo report from the event.