ON the afternoon of October 12th last I received the honor of a lifetime when I was formally inducted into the Order of Lion of Finland at the residence of the Finnish ambassador to the United States, Ms. Kirsti Kauppi, at her residence in Washington, D.C.
Although I had been told that my knighthood-yes, I am now a knight of the Order of the Lion-the first for an American writer, was in the works I must confess that I was taken aback when I received the letter from the ambassador informing me of the award, and inviting me to a special luncheon in my honor for same. I may have even shed a tear.
As I am sure you know, I have devoted a fair portion of my career as a writer and photographer to Suomi. How does two books, another major one in progress, seventy or eight articles and essays, six photo shows (including a major museum-wide retrospective) sound to you?
All for love, and for the mission I assigned myself back in 1990, when my Finnish sub-career began, to help the world better understand this strange, wonderful nation of five million odd souls-and perhaps to help Finns better understand themselves.
Anyway, all I can say is that all those dozens of suborbital flights to Helsinki and treks to deepest darkest Lapland and every other corner of Finland paid off that memorable October afternoon at the ambassador’s residence when I formally received the insignia for my knighthood.
Although the ambassador could not be present, Deputy Ambassador Antti Vanska did the honors, formally presenting the insignia to me, after a moving speech thanking me for my work for Finland, before an appreciative, invited crowd of representatives from the embassy staff, as well as the embassies of Sweden, Estonia and Latvia. Elizabeth Ralph, my wonderful editor at Politico, represented my editors. And Scott Reu, my former assistant, and still serving (five years and counting!) webmaster represented the larger Sander Media family.
There also was a lunch prepared by the ambassador’s chef, Jyrki Jaaskelainen. And what a lunch! Scallops with parmesan! Grilled Arctic char! Panacotta and cloudberry melba! (see attached pic of menu).
No, no sword was involved. But if you listened closely you could hear the Lion of Finland roar!
My friend Dan Aloi of Cornell Public Information wrote a nice story about the ceremony. You can find it here.