Presidential Reception for New Icelanders

Forsetaembættið. New Icelanders welcomed at presidential residence Bessastaðir

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and First Lady Eliza Reid hosted a reception yesterday for all those who had received Icelandic citizenship this year. The couple were both present at the event to welcome the group of new Icelanders and congratulate them on their newly-acquired rights and responsibilities as Icelandic citizens. It was the first time such a reception has been held by Iceland’s president.

In his speech to the group, Guðni emphasised the importance of healthy patriotism and defining Icelandic nationality with broad-mindedness, tolerance, diversity, freedom, solidarity, compassion, and empathy. The First Lady echoed his sentiments, while also addressing the challenges of learning the Icelandic language, which takes time.

The idea for the reception came from Eliza, who is an immigrant to Iceland herself. “When I became an Icelandic citizen in 2008 I was notified by a form letter in the mail,” the First Lady wrote on social media. “I thought it was a big deal, a moment to celebrate! But the letter didn’t necessarily indicate that Iceland thought it was a big deal that I was now among their ranks. So it has long been a dream of mine that we would be able to recognize and formally welcome new citizens in some way. It underscores to new Icelanders the importance and responsibility of citizenship, while reminding those of us ‘older’ Icelanders that we too have obligations to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute fully to society and help to make it a richer nation for all of us.”

Guðni is not running for re-election in Iceland’s ongoing presidential race. Eliza stated that while she will not have influence in the matter in future years, she hopes the welcoming tradition continues.

Iceland’s President and First Lady to Visit Canada

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Eliza Reid

Iceland’s President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and First Lady Eliza Reid will be on an official visit to Canada May 29 to June 1 at the invitation of Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon. It will be Iceland’s first official state visit to Canada since 2000 and has the goal of further strengthening the two countries’ good relations. Eliza is Canadian, born and raised in the country’s capital Ottawa.

The presidential couple will be accompanied by a delegation including Minister of Trade, Culture, and Tourism Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, and a number of representatives from Iceland’s business community, who intend to strengthen cooperation with Canada in the fishing industry, health technology, and the use of green energy.

The visit will begin in Eliza’s hometown of Ottawa, where the President and First Lady will meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon. Among the topics on their agenda are Iceland and Canada’s common interests, including language preservation in small language communities and youth public health.

In Ottawa, Eliza and Canadian author Whit Fraser (also Mary Simon’s husband) will hold a literary event titled “Stories from the North,” where they will talk to Canadian authors about the literary heritage of the two nations.

The visit will end in Toronto, where the President and First Lady will meet with the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. There, Business Iceland will also host an event bringing together Canadian investors and Icelandic businesses, where the President will address the guests.

Iceland and Canada celebrated the 75th anniversary of their diplomatic relations last year.

President of Iceland Attends Coronation in Japan

Coronation of Japanese Emperor Naruhito

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and First Lady Eliza Reid were in attendance today at Emperor Naruhito’s coronation in Japan. The occasion was attended by at least 180 national leaders. Guðni expressed pleasure, as a historian, at being present at the moment when Naruhito officially inherited the throne from his father Akihito.

“This doesn’t happen every day of course, so the ceremony was very respectable and historic, let’s say,” Guðni told Vísir. “Naruhito takes over from his father Akihito who is still living in advanced old age but resigned from the rank of emperor in April. The Emperor before that was the grandfather of the current Emperor, Hirohito who was Emperor of the Japanese for a large part of the 20th century, so it was a truly historic moment and dignified, but also unpretentious at the same time.”

Gunði says the visit presents various opportunities for strengthening ties between the two countries. The trip’s schedule includes a meeting with Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister as well as other members of the Japanese parliament. Both Guðni and Eliza will visit universities in the country during their stay.

The coronation ceremony can be watched in full via Global News.

“I Am Not My Husband’s Handbag:” Iceland’s First Lady

First Lady of Iceland Eliza Reid

Iceland’s First Lady Eliza Reid believes global politics can catch up to social progress when it comes to the treatment of world leaders’ spouses. The writer and editor, who is married to Iceland’s President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, shared a Guardian article titled “The G7 was the final straw – world leaders’ wives should refuse to travel with their spouses,” on her public Facebook page, saying the author’s words “struck a chord.”

“I too think it’s shameful to see (I hope) independent, intelligent women reduced to props for their husbands’ political agendas,” Eliza wrote. “We can do better than assume the spouses of our leaders have nothing better to do with their time than traipse after their other halves.”

Being Iceland’s First Lady, Eliza says, is a “privilege and an honour for which I am very grateful.” She insists, however, that it shouldn’t be taken for granted that political leaders’ “unelected, unpaid” spouses will accompany them at all official functions. “I am not my husband’s handbag, to be snatched as he runs out the door and displayed silently by his side during public appearances.”

Eliza does not travel with her husband to conferences, summits, or meetings. “Rather, when I choose to travel with him it is either for an official or state visit […] or when I believe the occasion warrants the inclusion of the two of us.”

Eliza’s full post can be read in English below.