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Our Biggest Dreams (Nov 18, 2010)

In Latvia, we celebrate the anniversary of our independence by laying flowers at the foot of our biggest dreams.

We pay homage to a past that seems larger than life and is no doubt both worse and better than it really was. The truth of Then comes to life in the conviction of the Now. Historians can and should argue about the facts, but for those of us who embrace the joys of nationhood, it’s the feelings that count.

It feels good to live in a country that speaks your language. In a place where you truly feel at home. Such feelings, of course, can exist in any language in places all around the world, but fate made me and a few million others into Latvians, and like everyone else on this planet, we think that our feelings are unique.

Well, of course they are. They are hard to describe sometimes because feelings are driven by emotions that can’t always be put into words. Poets try, and sociologists vie with psychologists to explain it all in terms only they understand, but the bottom line is a gut feeling that defies all verbalization.

So we express it through sacred rituals, like placing flowers at the foot of a monument in the heart of Riga. The monument was built only 75 years ago but it seems to embody a national feeling that goes back distant centuries. It depicts selfless warriors, founding fathers and all-embracing mothers. We use symbols of the past to give us strength in facing the future.

In our national anthem we sing of girls that blossom and boys that sing, and then pay tribute to another big dream:  that our sons and daughters will dance in happiness in this land. We know that life consists of ups and downs, and in the last few years the downs have dominated, but when we sing about our kids and look at Mother Latvia at the tip of our monument, we look up.

Are things looking up in Latvia today? Latvian Independence Day is one of those times when even the most cynical and skeptical Latvians are allowed to dream.  We dream about our ancestors and invite them into our hearts and homes to visit, hoping they will remind us why having a country called Latvia is so important.

We also dream about our children and grandchildren and their children as well, and hope that they will take our dreams even further.  Then we take those kids to the foot of the monument and teach them the power of flowers. And the magic of dreams.

I happen to be a firm believer that dreams can come true. And that’s not a feeling, it’s a fact. Because back in 1978 I stood at the foot of that monument in the heart of Riga and had a dream that was truly bigger than life and beyond the realm of rational expectation.  It defied the odds of probability and flew in the face of the ruling realpolitik and prevailing political prognostication.

That’s why I’ve been going back to that monument ever since. If you find a place where dreams can come true, you should stick with it. And always bring flowers.

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