Sweden’s queen visits U, speaks about children’s rights

Pamela Steinle

Gabriel Steller, 5, walked out into the left wing of Northrup Auditorium’s daunting stage. Abashed by the 1,500 pairs of eyes watching him, the blond-haired boy froze.

The president and CEO of Carlson Companies – Marilyn Carlson Nelson – stood up to nudge him, and Steller stole her seat.

Eventually, the sailor-suit-clad boy accomplished his mission and made his way to the podium, where Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden waited to receive Steller’s bouquet of flowers.

The monarch spoke Wednesday afternoon about children’s rights and the 37 World Childhood Foundation programs established since 1999 to defend them.

“Countless children from various corners of the world are suffering deeply,” Queen Silvia said. “I felt a personal urge to do something to help, and that is why I founded the World Childhood Foundation in February 1999.”

The foundation is a fund-raising organization aimed at helping vulnerable and at-risk children: those who live on the streets or are sexually exploited, Queen Silvia said. Programs are located in Brazil, Russia and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

She said the the corporate world plays a role in influencing society regarding the problems so many children are facing.

“Through the World Childhood Foundation, they can make an active contribution,” Queen Silvia said, “not only financially, but also by influencing other decision-makers in the corporate world.”

This is the queen’s third visit to Minneapolis. She was here in 1982 and 1988 with her husband, King Carl XVI Gustaf.

Nelson, daughter of Curtis L. Carlson, presented Queen Silvia with a plaque naming her a Distinguished Carlson Lecturer.

Descendents of Swedish immigrants, the Curtis L. Carlson Family Foundation co-founded the World Childhood Foundation.

In addition, the Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series was sponsored by Curtis L. Carlson. The Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs manages the series.

The Carlson family has a history with Swedish royals. King Carl XVI awarded Carlson with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Linnean Medal in 1982 and asked him to help coordinate “New Sweden ’88,” the commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the first Swedish colony in the United States.

Many audience members also laid claim to Swedish ancestry.

“I came because my husband was Swedish,” said Ardyce Peterson, 68.

Peterson is the wife of former University Regent Lloyd Peterson. The couple has been to Sweden 15 times during the past 30 years.

Anne Howard of St. Louis Park emigrated from Sweden in 1992. She never saw the queen while she lived in Sweden and said she was excited to see her for the first time.

“She’s really gentle,” said friend Maria Johansson, who will be returning to Sweden in three months. “She’s very popular because she’s so loving.”

Glen Nelson, the husband of Marilyn Carlson Nelson, said he thought Queen Silvia’s speech was well delivered and exposed audiences to issues such as child exploitation.

“It isn’t a problem most people think about,” Nelson said, “and bringing it to light is the best way to solve it.”

Pamela Steinle welcomes comments at [email protected]