Learning from Finland at FinnFest USA

  • Article by: EDITORIAL BOARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 6, 2014 - 6:27 PM

FinnFest USA takes place in Minneapolis through Sunday.

Finland and Minnesota have much in common. They each have about 5.4 million residents. Certain regions of each have similar landscapes. Both Finland and Minnesota stress education and a burgeoning business environment.

It’s also been a high-profile year for Finns in Minnesota, including Osmo Vänskä, music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula, who along with the rest of the Minnesota Wild electrified fans during last spring’s NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.

So it’s fitting that FinnFest USA will take place in Minneapolis this year. The event, running through Sunday, will certainly celebrate historic ties. But it won’t just be a look back. In fact, Finland offers a modern model on how to run a successful society.

Finland’s education system, for instance, is considered by many experts to be among the best in the world. Its model and its implications for Minnesota and the nation’s education policy will be explored in a conference called “Cradle to Career: Education for a 21st Century World” at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

And Finland’s business environment and opportunities will be explored at a “Connecting Gateways: Finland and Minnesota” conference organized by the Finnish American Chamber Minnesota. The keynote speech will be delivered by Ritva Koukku-Ronde, Finland’s ambassador to the United States.

Finnish culture and religion will be celebrated, too. The opening ceremony will be held Thursday at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Panels, lectures and concerts will occur at various Twin Cities venues.

The increasingly international composition of this state and nation is something to celebrate, particularly with the arrival of so many from Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere over the last few decades. But not to be overlooked is the state’s Scandinavian heritage. This year marks the 150th anniversary of modern Finnish immigration to North America, which is something all Minnesotans can celebrate, no matter where they or their ancestors originated.

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