When my children go to bed in the evening I tell them four things: dream, believe, work hard and succeed. It’s a funny little habit that we have kept up over the years.
I don’t really remember how it all started, but part of it must have come from something I read. The other part probably comes from pure gut feelings and values.
I grew up in a typical middle-class family with loving parents, who were always very encouraging. They allowed my brother and me to follow our dreams. They believed in us. I was rather wild in my youth, so in that sense my parents’ patience and belief was admirable.
They also made sure that we always worked hard. They never forced us into certain career paths. For us, happiness was to try to be the best that you can be within your own limits. I never planned to become a politician.
As a matter of fact we were an apolitical family. When I was a kid I wanted to be a professional ice hockey player.
My Dad is a talent scout in the sport, so he must have realised that I didn’t have enough talent. No matter how hard I worked or believed, I was not going to realise my dream of playing in the NHL.
Although the same went for golf – a pro career was not in the cards for me – I did work hard enough to win a small golf scholarship to study at Furman University in the US. For me, it was a game changer. I fell in love with learning and have not looked back since. I then went into academia, the civil service and finally politics.
When I tour schools around the country, I tell our youngsters to listen to their hearts, work hard and pursue their dreams. I tell them to fight cynicism because it limits your capacity to learn new things. Curiosity is a virtue.
I believe that humans are inherently good and that we all want to make this world a better place. This holds true for
the great majority of people that I meet in Finland and around the world.
The paradox is that people who go into politics often begin with an ideal of improving the world. Some manage to keep this vision clear throughout their careers. Others don’t.
My job is a daily fight against cynicism. In politics there are some people who lose the dream. They become blinded by power and lose their sense of striving for the common good.
I have been in politics for 11 years, a quarter of my life. I am an eternal optimist. During the toughest moments many things have kept me going. One of them is that evening moment when I try to follow in my parents’ footsteps and tell my children to dream, believe, work hard and succeed.