Ladies and gentlemen,
I address you this evening not only as the President of the Republic of Lithuania but also as a man for whom February 16 has been and will remain the most joyous celebration. My destiny and my conscious life, just like the destiny and conscious life of my numerous compatriots, has been marked by February 16.
We felt our dignity surge as we celebrated this Day at school in pre-war Lithuania. We felt stronger in our belief in independent Lithuania as we marked this Day throughout the years of Nazi and Soviet occupation.
Even during the darkest time in our history this Day united us into a community of people devoted to freedom and Lithuania. This is the community into which February 16 has to invite and unite us today.
For more than a decade we live in a free and independent country. At times we take independence for granted and think that it just exists like the air that we breathe and like the water that we drink. We even fail to notice how bitterly we speak about our motherland and freedom, and this bitterness reminds of dissatisfaction at bad weather that is beyond our control. Sometimes we behave like school children who have not learned a history lesson.
Indeed, today we are entering into a new world of numerous opportunities and full of fearsome uncertainty. We need clear milestones mapping out the road to genuine values, we need good memory and will in order not to stumble and hesitate but to progress together with the rest of the world.
This Day, February 16, had delineated a clear vision of modern Lithuania. Eighty-five years ago we restored our state on the principles of Western democracy and we have to build on them in our endeavour to create today a strong Lithuania.
“Protect the national borders” was almost the last message to the nation by the late Stasys Lozoratis. I would add: let us protect our freedom and our democracy, as only a democratic Lithuania can remain independent in the contemporary world, as only free people and responsible citizens can ensure the freedom of the nation and of the state.
We should not forget that nobody gave us our freedom. We had to fight for it. And we will have to defend and safeguard our freedom and democracy in the future.
But freedom also entails strong moral principles, mutual trust, solidarity, justice and support to those in need.
In order to have a functioning democracy and a functioning society, our policies should be based on common values, on dignity and on decency. Politics is not and should not become a technology for coming to power or the game of forces in which anything goes and in which there is no clear line between truth and lies, decency and baseness.
I may sound old-fashioned, but I am convinced that only decent politics, i.e. responsible administration of the nation’s affairs, can ensure our freedom and strengthen our democracy.
Today Lithuania needs not a master or a firm fist, but rather active citizens and a strong civic society. It needs citizens who would constantly remind those in power that the state is not their property. It needs citizens able to demonstrate by their daily work and dignified acts that the state is a joint project of all its people and an expression of accord of free men.
May this Day – the Day of Restoration of the State – be a constant reminder of Balys Sruoga’s warning, which reads that “Lithuanians are destined by history to build their house on Mount Vesuvius”. Tragic experience of the past century and reality of the present day remind us again that reliable allies are needed to guarantee freedom and security.
We are not alone today as we were in the aftermath of the war. Today we work to consolidate our nation as a dignified, independent and creative community in the Western Hemisphere.
This is the road mapped out in the February 16 Act, and the road we have chosen. May we always have enough wisdom and enough strength to complete this journey.
My dear fellow countrymen,
I extend my heartfelt greetings to each and every one of you on the Day of Restoration of the State.
May we wish together long-lasting freedom and happiness for our State.
Violeta Gaiţauskaitë, Spokesperson of the President