The new President of Iceland, Mr. Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, will make world history already on his sixth day in office, when he addresses participants and spectators of the Reykjavík Pride Parade today, Saturday August 6th.
Mr. Jóhannesson was elected the 6th President of the Republic on 25th June and was inaugurated on 1st of August. One of his first acts in office will be to participate in the Reykjavík Pride festival in Iceland this week, but not only will it be the first time that the President of Iceland gets involved, it is also the first time that a president officially participates in any Pride festival, anywhere, ever.
Guðni, you will be making history on Saturday, how did that come about?
“For years, I’ve followed the Pride festival and watched the Parade in an audience of thousands, with my family, and always enjoyed the festivities immensely – it’s always such fun.
So I wasn’t going to change my usual plans and when I was asked to participate in this fine event, I of course said ‘Yes’ right away. I wasn’t even thinking whether somebody had done so while in office as head of state before me or not, that wasn’t the first thing that came to mind.”
“I feel that it’s a matter of course to support everybody’s fight for human rights in society, queer people’s as well as others’ … if I can do anything to help the cause then I’m honoured to do so.”
The Pride Parade always attracts tens of thousands of people and has a real family festival feel to it as children, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents get together to watch the spectacular parade. The march ends at Arnarhóll where speakers and musicians entertain, and for the first time this year, the President of Iceland will address the crowd.
Prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has made waves already by participating in Pride marches in various Canadian cities, but as President, Guðni will be the first President to do so. Coincidently, Trudeau is a fellow countryman of Guðni’s wife, Eliza Reid, who moved to Iceland with him in 2003, and together they have four young children.
Why do you feel it is important to support queer people’s fight for rights and to show publicly where you stand on the issue? “I feel that it’s a matter of course to support everybody’s fight for human rights in society, queer people’s as well as others’. Thankfully, our society is moving in the right direction and if I can do anything to help the cause then I’m honoured to do so.”
Do you intend to publicly support other groups’ fights for human rights? Such as immigrants and refugees and so on? “Yes, I want to support good causes. We won’t change the world to the better overnight and Presidents won’t change things on their own but I sense, just as other Icelanders do, that we want to honour and support basic human rights in our society – and if I can do anything to help with that, then that’s great.”
“I sense, just as other Icelanders do, that we want to honour and support basic human rights in our society – and if I can do anything to help with that, then that’s great.”
The Reykjavík Pride Parade is always a spectacle, full of colourful characters. Former Mayor of Reykjavík, Jón Gnarr, memorably participated in the Parade dressed in a drag, but then again, he’s also and actor and comedian. Being the youngest person to take office as President of Iceland, President Jóhannesson is expected to bring new and more youthful vibes to the office so many now wonder whether he’ll try and outdo Jón Gnarr somehow.
Guðni, will you be dressing up for your speech at the end of the Pride Parade? (Laughs) “I will of course be smartly dressed, according to the occasion, and wear my good suit. But no, I won’t be borrowing anything from Páll Óskar’s wardrobe.”
The Reykjavík Pride Parade takes off toay, Saturday August 6th, at 2pm local time, from BSÍ bus terminal. Speeches and entertainment on stage commence as soon as the last float arrives by the stage.
Main photo: Håkon Broder Lund