Edgars Rinkēvičs
21.08.2023. Valstiskuma balvas pasniegšanas ceremonija

On 21 August, the 32nd anniversary of the constitutional Law On the Statehood of the Republic of Latvia, President of Latvia Edgars Rinkēvičs hosted the Statehood Award ceremony at the Riga Castle. The award established by the association 4 May Declaration Club was presented to patron of art, public figure and founder of Vītols Fund Vilis Vītols.

Award ceremony speech by President Rinkēvičs congratulating Vilis Vītols on the Statehood Award:

‘The way I would like to describe today’s recipient of the Statehood Award is by giving each of you a moment where you ask yourself: ‘Is he talking about me?’.

Wealth in Latvian fairy tales has always been depicted as something bad. The rich king is also arrogant, wicked and not so smart. If it is an illustrated edition, we will also find out that the rich man is ugly too. While the poor man is usually a hard-worker who is kind-hearted and has a very sharp mind. And the shortcut to unimaginable wealth in fairy tales is through magic or outwitting a rich man. But there is no magic, no one has been pushed into poverty because of the way today’s recipient of the Statehood Award acquired his wealth, which he, by the way, does not shy away from at all. He started from the bottom. Learned. Worked to support his family. And came to a point where his hard work and dedication has made him enough money to support his family and other people all around Latvia. And now he wants to see other young Latvians learning, accomplishing their goals and making Latvia wealthier and happier.

Officially, and informally, everyone talks about Latvia’s national goals. What are we striving for? What are our common goals? And I could list 8 different goals off the top of my head, but what we maybe really need to focus on is one, very specific and measurable goal? Our today’s hero has that one goal. His goal is to make Latvia the country that has largest share of university graduates in the world. A goal that will also make us all more prosperous.

Vilis Vītols encourages us to be ‘less jealous’, reminding that achievements of our fellow countrymen benefit the whole country. We are part of the achievements our compatriots have solidified. And he seems to care about the achievements of young people even more than he does about his. He wants to make it easier for today’s youth.

As much as his family did, he has always held education in high regard, perceiving it as a fundamental need despite it being difficult to acquire.

Today’s hero has always humbly waved off the idea of him being the sole patron of hundreds and thousands of young people aspiring for diploma. I could not agree with him more. His good name and acts have encouraged many others. Of course, charity is not something one can do alone. Charity is not a virtue that belongs to one man. It is not a vision of smarter, happier and wealthier Latvia that one man can implement. Statehood Award is awarded for the ability to consolidate a whole host of people around your goal, a community that shares the same idea of giving their best to the cause. I know how hard it may be.

There is an honest way to get rich. An honest way to reach your goals. And honesty is the only way to become truly rich. Wealth is more than a figure in your bank account. It is also your experience and clear consciousness that makes the softest pillow. According to recipient of the Statehood Award, honesty is the only good choice in the long run. The more you give, the more you receive. Let me reiterate, achievements of others benefit us all.

Some say it takes a village to raise a child and prepare them for the world. And Vilis Vītols is one of those who creates these villages. He is a village himself. It must be heartbreaking for a poor and yet loving family to see their dedicated and hard-working child give up on their dreams after university because there is no money. It must be devastating for parents to have to choose between education and other, more pressing needs. Our government, local administrations and companies could fill this gap. They should. However, we are where we are. Lack of money prevents us from helping everyone reach their true potential. But Mr Vītols and his partners are not only giving a solid foundation to youngsters looking to build a life for themselves but also making their potential misery less likely. That is how we can make Latvia happier.

Today’s recipient of the Statehood Award is a true embodiment and symbol of what learning can give you. You need to learn when you are a young student, brimming with optimism, and also when you grow older. Me included. Everything Vilis Vītols has ever done has been to inspire us to take care of ourselves, our families and the whole country to make living here better in one or another way. It is easier to live in better Latvia. Easy living is not something we should shy away. It should be our goal. Goal of making life better for next generations.

He also reminds us not to be smug. Even a slight bit. I do not think this award will make him more arrogant. He knows who he is and has never looked down upon anyone. This award is more about us than him. His values, the virtues that I just mentioned, should be the gold standard for all of us.

And I hope you recognised yourself in one of those characteristics that I just described in the last couple of minutes. I believe that everyone of you recognised the situations and values that I just spoke about. Statehood Award is not about past. It is about future that we are still building. Let us make Latvia more prosperous and happier together!’

21.08.2023. Valstiskuma balvas pasniegšanas ceremonija


The aim of the award is to encourage respect and understanding for national statehood and the social and political significance of strong statehood in people’s lives. Statehood Award is presented to individuals who have done and continue to make great things for stronger statehood of Latvia.

Award is bestowed for outstanding individual contribution or many years of professional contribution, or special role in restoring Latvia’s statehood or strengthening it in the following years. Statehood Award may also be bestowed for lifetime achievement, outstanding acts or endeavours. There is only one winner every year.

The first recipient of Statehood Award in 2021 was Juris Rubenis, theologist, public figure and Director of the Institute of Integral Education.

Next year, in 2022, the Award was presented to Latvian poet, poetry translator, critic and publicist Knuts Skujenieks.

Statehood Award is presented by the President of Latvia in a special ceremony held at the Riga Castle. Ceremony is also attended by the Speaker of the Saeima and President of the association 4 May Declaration Club. Annual ceremony is held every 21st of August, the day of the adoption of the Law On the Statehood of the Republic of Latvia and anniversary of the de facto restoration of Latvia’s independence, or other national holiday specifically designated by the jury. Name, surname and year of a winner are engraved on a plaque which is publicly displayed in the Saeima building.