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The President of the Republic At the ceremony of unveiling the busts of President Päts and President Meri At Kadriorg, June 20, 2006

Dear participants,
Fellow countrymen!

In memory of two great statesmen, Konstantin Päts and Lennart Meri, we are today opening a gallery of former presidents here, in the rose garden of Kadriorg, where we can see a tiny part of what was created by those great men. Much more significant part of the lifework of the presidents was the shaping of the institution that is connected with this place. Unquestionably, the highest point and most substantial part of their creation is the Estonian state. This is the reason why our people will always remember them with gratitude.

Looking for some common features that both presidents shared we can say that they both were founders. They were founders of the state as well as of the institution of the president. Certainly, another feature that both of them shared was that they wished the very best destiny to their people and the state, using for that all the possibilities available at that time, which were often rather limited.

Herewith we could end drawing historic parallels between the two presidents, as they lived in different eras, and also the concrete tasks that they had to face as heads of state were different. When the political situation and the balance between powers changed, also the frame of responsibilities of the president, the vision of the mission, and the possibility to influence the cause of events changed. The two great personalities also had different nature as statesmen and different style of action.

Konstantin Päts was one of the main founders of our independent statehood, who remained in the centre of the public life in Estonia for almost 40 years. When we talk of him as the president, we have to look back in retrospect at the time when the Republic of Estonia was born. As the Chairman of the Estonian Rescue Committee and the Prime Minister and the Minister of War at the time of the Estonian Liberation War, he had to make the most difficult decisions in critical situations.

During the first period of our independence Konstantin Päts stayed at the helm of the state much longer than any other politician of the time. Estonia lacked the tradition of statehood and at first also international support, but it was necessary to lead the state trying to avoid numerous reefs and crises. As a forceful politician he realised his vision of state reform in the second half of 1930-s when the independence started to bear ripe fruit. But alas, the President had to witness the destruction of our statehood by the foreign power, and to personally share the tragic fate of the people of Estonia. He became a martyr as well as a symbol.

The time when Lennart Meri was a stateman falls into the period of the restoration of the Estonian state, when also the whole world around us was different from that of the time of Konstantin Päts. Now the globalisation demanded that state leaders would possess global grasp and thorough understanding of world processes. It became evident that Estonia had such people. As a bright creative personality Lennart Meri was standing out in the international arena and he did a lot to secure a dignified place for Estonia in the world. He had to undertake the task to restore the presidency and to safeguard its dignity during nine years.

Dear participants!
Outstanding people have won their place in history first of all for their epoch-making deeds. The same holds true for our former presidents whom we honour today.

The Presidents of the Republic of Estonia, Konstantin Päts and Lennart Meri have made an invaluable contribution to the realisation of the boldest dreams of many generations to have their own state and be selfsustaining. To a great extent we have to give credit to them for being an independent nation in unified Europe.

Let this memorial gallery express our gratitude and respect.

© 2006 Office of the President l tel: + 372 631 6202 l fax: + 372 631 6250 l