On Friday 22 September, President Niinistö and Mrs Haukio took part in FinnFest USA's main event organised by Finnish American in Minneapolis to celebrate Finland's Centennial.
"As you know, Finland's independence was not self-evident. Nor was our road to becoming one of the most successful countries in the world an easy one," President of Finland Sauli Niinistö said.
"I would like to thank the generation that fought and suffered during the war. I especially want to pay tribute to the war veterans for their sacrifices made while protecting Finland. Without them, we would not have retained our independence," he continued.
President Niinistö said that he felt independence made it possible for Finland to hold on to Western and Nordic values and democracy. Sisu was also needed for Finland to reach its status among the world's top countries according to various indicators.
Finland's relationship with Minnesota is a special one, as the state is one of the most important areas to which Finns have migrated. Today, approximately 100,000 people of Finnish decent live in Minnesota. President Niinistö said he very much valued their positive contribution on behalf of Finland.
"You as Finnish Americans represent the finest qualities of the Finnish people. Hard work and a will to succeed – sometimes against all odds – have allowed you to build a new life and a better future on the new continent. You have created wellbeing for yourselves, but also for others, as part of a great nation. To be sure, this was not always an easy task. But, you did succeed and found your place in the new world," President Niinistö said to the hundreds of Finnish expats that took part in the festivities.
"In a similar way, Finland arose from challenging initial conditions and hardships to establish its place among the world's nations. Finland values you and your contribution highly. It is awe-inspiring to see how proudly you highlight your Finnish nature and Finnish origins. This holds great importance to me as the President of the Republic of Finland."
FinnFest USA is an association based in the United States that organises an annual festival to celebrate Finland, Finnish America and Finnish culture. The association was established in 1983 at the initiative of the Finland Society, and the first FinnFest was held in 1983 in Minneapolis. FinnFest USA is a part of a larger series of Finland 100 celebrations that Finnish expats are arranging around the world this year.
The presidential couple ended the day's festivities with a concert by the Minnesota Orchestra led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, which included the music of Finnish composers Aho, Kuusisto and Sibelius. Vänskä has been the Music Director for the Minnesota Orchestra from 2003. Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra won a Grammy Award in the Best Orchestral Performance category for their recording of Jean Sibelius' First and Fourth Symphonies.
Earlier in the day President Niinistö took part in an event organised by the Minnesota Economy Club.
On Saturday 23 September, President Niinistö accepted the University of Minnesota's Law School's Honorary Doctorate of Laws title, which is the highest title awarded by the University of Minnesota. The President of Finland was granted the honorary doctorate in honour of Finland's Centennial, and a donation which the Parliament of Finland gave to the University of Minnesota in 1988 for the purpose of establishing the Government of Finland/David and Nancy Speer Programme. The programme examines the influence of Finns on the area's culture, politics and society, builds networks between Finnish and American academics as well as increases interest in Finland.