Szanowny Panie Prezydencie, szanowny Panie Rektorze, i szanowny gości,
The Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle once said: Endurance is patience concentrated.
I remember vividly the first time I experienced Polish culture: in 1984 we celebrated in Breda the liberation of that city by the Polish soldiers in 1944. I conducted on that occasion the Requiem by Cherubini and the Polish liberators entered the church in a most impressive manner with flags and Polish dignity.
The world nowadays seems to be divided on important issues. The European unity is put to the test. Sometimes differences seem unbridgeable because of entrenched cultural attitudes and habits. Experiences from the past play an important role and unfamiliarity with each others backgrounds and habits, history and culture are a reason for hesitation or worse, fear.
Mutual interest in each other's culture is the key to learning to understand and getting to know each other. Art can be a powerful instrument for us to bridge our differences. We don't differ principally in our needs and dreams. Magistrates and Universities are important in this process. In Krakow we can experience that the magistrates play their role convincingly. This beautiful city is rich in cultural treasures and has a great scientific reputation. Kraków shows how to stimulate initiatives like Building Bridges.
Four choirs and an orchestra have prepared themselves intensively to perform Polish, English and Dutch compositions. Conducted by 4 conductors they introduced those compositions from the participating countries to the audience. During the last few days, we've experienced personally that culture brings people closer together. An outstanding organization by our Polish friends and the generous support by the city of Kraków and the Agricultural University of Kraków have made this project possible.
Endurance is not the only key to success. Organization, support and music were even more important. I'm grateful for your support and cooperation and I hope for a successful continuation of this project. Cultural exchange unites people from different countries. If we all contribute within our means, I'm sure we'll meet each other more frequently in the near future. Together we can make the world a bit less divided.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
(Krakow, Oktober 2015)