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The Speaker welcomes Nobel Laureates in Chemistry and Medicine to a seminar at the Riksdag

17 December 2018 klockan 10.48

On Tuesday 11 December, the Speaker Andreas Norlén held an opening speech to welcome Frances Arnold, this year's Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and Tasuku Honjo, this year's Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, to a seminar at the Riksdag.

The seminar was arranged by the Association of MPs and Researchers, RIFO.

The Speaker's address

"Distinguished Nobel Laureates,
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and a true pleasure to wish you all a warm welcome to the Riksdag, the Swedish Parliament. Today is a very special day.
I am privileged to have the opportunity to open this seminar and welcome our eminent speakers.

We have two Nobel Laureates with us here today. Let me introduce them:

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; Professor Tasuku Honjo, you have, jointly with Professor James P. Allison, been awarded the prize for your "discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation."

You have shown how different strategies for inhibiting the brakes on the immune system can be used in the treatment of cancer. Your discoveries are a landmark in the fight against cancer.

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry; Professor Frances Arnold, you have, jointly with Professor George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter, been awarded the prize "for the directed evolution of enzymes". You have taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Have you – like me – been asking yourselves what makes a Nobel Laureate? Is there a special recipe? If so, I do wish I had it.

Intelligence, perseverance and creativity, say some researchers.

Others claim that the family is of great importance. Common to many of the Nobel laureates is the fact that they have been born and bred in families where parents have involved their children at an early stage in advanced discussions at the dinner table. By doing so, they have learned to think creatively. Thereby, the children have learned to question given truths and see phenomena from several different angles. And that is certainly something that matters if you are going to make new discoveries later in life – I imagine.

Most importantly though, a burning interest in the subject itself seems to be the main answer. If one combines that passion with grit, the art of never giving up, we might be on the right track when it comes to finding the recipe...

But, frankly speaking, what do I know about the road to becoming a Nobel laureate?

Instead, I am looking forward to learning more about the road leading to a Nobel Prize from those who do know. We have all been given the fantastic opportunity to meet you here today.

But before I end my, perhaps, already way too long speech, I would like to give you some details about this beautiful room – the former First Chamber of the Parliament.

This room was the upper house of the bicameral Riksdag of Sweden between 1866 and 1970, before we got our current unicameral legislature.

And in those good old days, there was a competition to decide who was going to decorate these walls. The artist who won the competition was Otte Sköld, and after many years of elaborate decision-making and debate in the media, he became so fed up with the long drawn-out process that he exclaimed: "I am not too keen on getting this job – for the room is impossible to make into something beautiful". He also asked for the then vast sum of 100,000 Swedish Crowns in order to deter his client.

But it didn't work. His proposal for murals illustrating the Stockholm landscape in Viking times, medieval times and modern times was adopted. As you can see, if you glance up at these walls, we have "Viking Fleet", "Mediaeval Stockholm" and "Modern Stockholm" – the latter showing the part of the City called Gröndal, where the artist himself lived.

Unfortunately, Otte Sköld never got to finish his work on these murals as he fell ill. His former students made the last mural, and as Otte Sköld at this point was in such bad shape, he had to be carried into Parliament House on a stretcher, in order to follow the work.

Dear friends, how am I going to tie this rhetorical bag together, one might wonder?

Well, apart from me loving to talk about history, and the fact that Otte Sköld indeed succeeded in making this room very beautiful, I would like express my deepest gratitude for us having so many scientists, some of them Nobel laureates, taking the lead in making our lives longer with the help of effective treatments preventing and curing many diseases.

Who knows, if all this had happened today, perhaps Otte Sköld could have been cured and finished his murals in good health.

Furthermore and finally, I would like to express my appreciation that RIFO, an organisation with the aim of bringing together members of parliament and researchers, made this seminar come true. Thank you, Betty Malmberg, chair of RIFO, and thank you, Lars Eriksson, who works with RIFO in the Parliament administration. I would also like to thank the Nobel Centre for its cooperation.

Distinguished Nobel Laureates,
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

With these words I would, once again, like to bid you a warm welcome to the Swedish Parliament.

Now please welcome the moderator, who will guide us through the seminar, Anna Sjöström Douagi."