Speech by Jan van Zanen on his visit to the Hi The Hague Student Experience at the Liberation Day Festival, 5 May 2023


Hello everyone,


Today we are celebrating peace and freedom.

Peace and freedom which we here, in this country, have been able to enjoy for so long.

So long, in fact, that we have come to see it as only natural.

But peace and freedom are like oxygen.

You only notice it when it’s not there.

Yes, here in the Netherlands, we may consider peace and freedom to be the most normal thing in the world.

But that is not the case for a great many people all over the globe.

That will also be true for some of the international students that we welcome to The Hague every year.

Here you have the freedom to study and further your development.

Here you can be who you are.

Here, in The Hague, the city of peace and justice.

Which makes it so great and especially fitting that the Hi The Hague Student Experience is happening here in The Hague today.

To celebrate freedom together.

Here at the Liberation Day Festival on Malieveld.

And so both this festival and this Student Experience provide an opportunity for people to come together.

Meeting one another and everyday contact, are all about peace.

As I have often said: everyday events can bring about peace.

Like being friendly and respectful to one another.

Showing interest in one another.

Emphasising what we have in common, rather than pointing out what divides us.

The ‘Yellow Bench’ is a symbol of meeting, contact and real interest in people.

Something I learned about during the Invictus Games.

The Yellow Bench is on its way to becoming a worldwide symbol for important conversations – conversations that matter.

A great deal can be overcome simply by talking to each other, learning about each other and understanding one another.

The Yellow Bench connects people, wherever you may be from.

That’s why I would like to invite you all to engage in conversation with me, with the boards of your education institutes and societies, and with each other.

On the Yellow Bench.

But first let’s all take a picture together.