Monday, 29 August 2016

Profile of a President: Toomas Hendrik Ilves

With the new presidential election currently underway in Estonia, it will soon be time to say goodbye to our current president Toomas Hendrik Ilves.  During his two five-year terms in office, President Ilves has raised Estonia's profile in the world making the country an attractive place for business and investment. Estonia has achieved renown for its tech-savvy innovation and is now a world leader in cyber security and e-governance. 
President Ilves will be remembered for many things. Firstly, he shares a history with many Estonian families who fled the country during the Soviet occupation. His Estonian parents first sought refuge in Sweden where he was born in 1953 and from where they emigrated to the United States a few years later. Ilves grew up bilingual speaking both Estonian and English as first languages and later learned German and Spanish. He was educated at Columbia University where he graduated with a psychology degree in 1976 and worked as a teacher and journalist for Radio Free Europe before catching the attention of high-profile Estonian politicians. Former president Lennart Meri saw his potential and invited him to live in Estonia to become more active in politics. He made a good judgement call.   

Toomas Hendrik Ilves has made a significant contribution to the development of Estonia and has won the respect of leaders the world over. As the fourth president of Estonia, Ilves will be remembered as the man who navigated Estonia through the global financial crisis, his strong presence on social media, his straight-forward talking and colourful collection of bow ties - a tradition he continues in honour of his father.

Today's election in Estonia failed to produce the next president but in the coming days, the victor will be announced. That person, whoever he or she may be, has big shoes to fill and carries the responsibility of leading Estonia through the next period of economic growth and prosperity.