RIGA - Outgoing President Vaira Vike-Freiberga gave an emotional speech summing up her eight years in office, the longest term ever served by Latvia's six presidents, during an address at Rundale Castle on June 8. Vike-Freiberga spoke to the 1,000 invited guests about how she will be remembered. She used highly poetic language, quoting famous Latvian poets and folksongs throughout the speech.
She said that the past eight years have been "years of great challenge, great opportunity and hard work."
The speech received significant attention from Latvian media as one of the last speeches by the beloved president before her term expires on July 7.
Vike-Freiberga said that while she has been the official face of the country, the people have been the "troopers" who she always hoped to fairly represent. "We are the state together. Not the royal we," she said. "I love my people, my state, my country."
During her term, the president noted that at times she has had to show strength to protect the country and act diplomatically to win friends. "I have done so [defended the country] at times as fiercely as a lioness protecting her cubs, but also gently 's seeking possibilities for dialogue and the right words to describe Latvia," she said.
She went on to talk about the bright future that she hoped lay in store for Latvia. She said that Latvia would have a "life as long as the everlasting sun." She said that any nation with the past that Latvia has had will never perish, assuring people that there would be a future for Latvia, adding that now Latvia can stand alongside any country in the world.
The strength in Latvians is that they have always "placed their troubles under the stone," she said, drawing on a line from a popular Latvian folk song.
The president thanked those who supported her throughout her time in office, specifically mentioning her family, the five prime ministers and the three Saeimas (parliaments). She concluded her heart-warming speech by calling on everyone to serve Latvia as best they can.
Vike-Freiberga will be replaced by former orthopedic surgeon and President-elect Valdis Zatlers.