Norwegians celebrate 200 year anniversary

On Oct. 3, students, staff, community members and guest speakers gathered in the Samuelson Chapel to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution.

As the land for California Lutheran University was donated by Norwegian land owners in Conejo Valley, the school felt that the longest lasting European constitution should be celebrated in an event right here on the Cal Lutheran campus.

The event was first proposed by Knut Oxnevad, seminar chair, Los Angeles representative for the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce and the vice president of the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation.

Time to learn: Professor Terje Leiren of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle introduced the audience to the history of the Norwegian Constitution. Photo by Paulyn Baens - Staff Photographer
Time to learn: Professor Terje Leiren of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle introduced the audience to the history of the Norwegian Constitution.
Photo by Paulyn Baens – Staff Photographer

Being such an important event to Norway and Norwegians alike, Oxnevad said he felt the history of Cal Lutheran made it the most practical place to hold the event.

“What we did here was we basically sat down and said, ‘What elements do we want to include in this discussion?’” Oxnevad said.

Oxnevad and the people of his various organizations decided they wanted to include the historical framework before, during and after the creation of the Norwegian Constitution. They also wanted to include the inspiration for the constitution and how it inspired other constitutions, such as the Danish Constitution, and the “drama” of what was going on in Norway at the time, which were the events leading up to the constitution.

“We wanted to have the same people on the panel discussion as we had for the speakers,” Oxnevad said.

After an introduction by Oxnevad and Cal Lutheran President, Chris Kimball, the historical framework was provided by Professor Terje Leiren of Scandinavian Studies from the University of Washington in Seattle.

The inspiration segment of the discussion was then spoken about by Cal Lutheran’s Professor David Nelson of the history department.

Originally Professor Frank Aarebrot of the University of Bergen in Norway was supposed to speak on behalf of the inspiration behind the constitution and other constitutions but was unable to attend.

“I think that it’s important as a citizen of the U.S. and a citizen of the world to be thinking about rights and how they’re protected, and the importance of legal documents that protect those rights and preserve them,” Nelson said., “We tend to take them [the legal documents and our rights] for granted.”

After Nelson’s speech and presentation, Dr. Hilde Skorpen, Royal Norwegian Consul General spoke of the “drama.”

In her speech and presentation, she spoke of how the events leading up to the constitution and the constitution itself affected Norway and its people during that time. Dr. Skorpen also spoke of how the Norwegian Constitution has continued to be a part of the lives of Norwegians.

An open panel discussion was held after Dr. Skorpen’s lecture to answer any questions those in the audience might have had.

During this discussion, a microphone was passed around the room by students. One of the students who spoke was Siri Juvik, Cal Lutheran graduate student and Los Angeles representative of the Association of Norwegian Students Abroad.

Juvik was involved in much of the process for the event from the very beginning of the planning.

“I cooperate with Knut and he always invites me to things that he feels that students should be a part of and that students are represented at these kinds of events,” Juvik said.

Although few students were able to make it to the seminar, Juvik was proud to represent the students of Cal Lutheran.

Juvik said she hopes people understand the importance that this constitution has played in Norwegian history and for the Norwegian students both on campus and in the Thousand Oaks community.

 

Sydney Dawn

Staff Writer

Published October 8, 2014