Members of the Norwegian Parliament visit Luther – Luther College Chips

On September 14, 2022, members of the Norwegian Parliament visited Luther to talk about the Norwegian parliamentary system and contemporary political issues facing Norway. The 45-minute conference took place at Olin 102. A total of 16 parliamentarians were present.

The two parliamentarians who spoke, Lene Vågslid and Helge André Njåstad, are members of the Local Government and Public Administration Committee, which deals with issues relating to local government, immigration policies, housing policies and land use planning. Vågslid is the acting chairman of the committee, and Njåstad holds the position of first vice-president. In total, the Local Government and Public Administration Commission has 15 members representing seven political parties.

While in the United States, the Committee visited Minneapolis, San Francisco, Decorah and Washington, DC. Representatives made the trip to learn about other countries and visit places that have strong ties to Norway, such as Decorah. Luther is one such location, as it houses the only endowed undergraduate northern studies center in the United States. Associate Professor of Northern Studies Maren Johnson commented on the heightened curiosity and connection between Norwegian and American culture.

“Norwegians and Americans continue to be very interested in engaging in dialogue with each other,” Johnson said. “The number of students who attended the conference [and] the enthusiasm of the parliamentarians demonstrated a sustained interest in the conversation between these two populations, even though they are on the other side of the Atlantic from each other.

Vågslid, representing the people of Telemark in southern Norway, spoke first about the structure of the Norwegian parliamentary system. The system is divided into three branches – an executive, a legislative and a judicial – and consists of 169 members who serve for four years. Norway also has a monarchy which serves in a ceremonial capacity. Njastad, representing the constituency of Hordaland, followed Vågslid and explained their reason for visiting the United States. Both Njåstad and Vågslid, together with the other parliamentarians present, spent part of their trip meeting with Norwegian companies operating in the United States.

Vågslid also discussed contemporary issues present in Norwegian political discourse. She highlighted the war in Ukraine and the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of young people as important issues and went on to explain that Norway is providing humanitarian aid and military support to Ukraine.

“It is a brutal and cynical war of aggression that we [Norway] condemn in the strongest terms possible,” Vågslid said. “So far, almost 27,000 refugees have arrived in Norway from Ukraine.”

After the lecture, there was a question-and-answer period where the students asked questions on a variety of topics. Madeleine Brown (’23), a northern studies student, attended the conference and was interested in hearing the parliamentarians’ thoughts on climate change. Brown said she found the political comparisons on climate control, gun control and more between the United States and Norway very fascinating to hear.

“I attended the conference because events like these are important to my field of study, and I find them interesting overall,” Brown said. “I was fascinated by how their government policies have a strong focus on environmental sustainability and mental health. It was particularly interesting to see how these topics resonated with the student[s].”

After their visit to Luther, Committee members traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional staff, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. Discussions focused on US economic policy and the global economic outlook for inflation.

Members of the Norwegian Parliament visit Luther – Luther College Chips

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