Latvia’s President Bestows High Honor
By Charles Kelley
RIGA, Latvia – Today is Independence Day in Latvia. Eighty-five years ago today, for the first time in recorded history, this tiny republic on the Baltic Sea declared her independence from Imperial Russia. A few minutes ago there was a major parade near the palace complete with bands, speeches and the firing of canons. Tonight there will be another celebration at the Monument of Freedom and a huge fireworks display over the river. Latvians love their freedom. And they appreciate those who have worked hard to establish and preserve it.
Another custom that began after Latvia first became free has to do with the President conferring the Award of the Order of the Three Stars. This is Latvia’s way to say thank you to those men and women who have made significant contributions to the nation. Most European nations have similar practices. In England it is called knighthood. The American equivalent is the Medal of Freedom.
Last night, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga hosted a special ceremony in Riga in order to bestow this honor to several dozen people, including myself. It was a beautiful evening. Two of us were Latvian-Americans. I was the only minister. Most were politicians.
The ceremony featured a video presentation on the history of the Order of the Three Stars award, wonderful music by Latvia’s best choir, dancing children in national costumes and a warm address by the President. Each recipient received a large certificate, a beautiful long-stem rose and a medal.
The ceremony was followed by a special reception where we each met with the President. I was happy that my wife, Nancy, was with me, as well as my dear friends, Almers and Vija Ludviks.
There were too many recipients to allow speeches after the awards, but after it was over, a journalist with Latvian National Radio…who did not speak English…came up to me to interview me. When I told her I needed an interpreter, she insisted that I do the interview in Latvian.
So, I did. I understood her questions, and gave simple answers, but she liked it a whole lot. So, today, all day long on national radio they are playing a special radio program featuring short statements by award recipients. And my statements are also included. They are playing this program several times throughout the day. Pretty Amazing.
I basically said that “I was honored and pleased to receive the award and that I love Latvia and pray every day that God would bless Latvia, not only now as it celebrates independence, but in the future as well.”
I thought I would have a chance to speak to a few hundred for two minutes and I wound up speaking several times to the nation. Only God could think of this idea.
After the ceremony, we all took photos with the President and then she spent time with individuals. I chatted with her several times throughout the evening and it was very pleasant. I do think that in future I will be able to approach her and she will receive me. So, God is already using this event to build some more bridges. To Him be all glory!
I want to thank all…in Latvia and in the USA…for their love, labor, prayers, support and encouragement. Most HUMBLING.
It was certainly a night to remember.