As in the case of President John F. Kennedy’s killing in the US, there was a stunned reaction to the assassination of Mr. Palme around the world. In both the tragedies, people wept, suffered from nervousness, anger and disbelief. In both the countries, the event left a lasting impression on the people. Everyone remembered where
they were when they heard about the Kennedy and Palme assassinations. But most of all, the tragic death of Mr. Palme made the Swedes suspect the innocence of human being and shattered the cocoon of protection which had made them feel protected from violence.
In the 80’s Sweden was deemed a patch of heaven on this earth because of the tranquility of life and practically non-existent violence in public and political arena. Eerily, this was in stark contrast to the unrest engulfing the globe during the same period by the so-called Cold War. Palme had strong and unhidden opinions on the attitude and behavior of both the American and the Russian leaders. His strong critique on this issue thus led to a popular conspiracy theory that he was assassinated by either KGB or CIA – neither of them finding any traction
though. His murder - the first of its kind in modern Swedish history –nevertheless, had a great impact all across Scandinavia.
Mr. Palme’s biography makes an interesting and inspiring read. His American education and experience molded him to be what he became upon his return to Sweden. He exemplified what can one learn from the principles and values of others and use them in the context of his own – a quality that is very much missing in many of today’s world leaders. It is amazing that Mr. Palme was as much of an American as he was a Swede, in more than one ways.
Born in Stockholm to a father of Dutch ancestry and a mother of Baltic German origin, he came from an upper- class conservative family. But his political leaning and thoughts were greatly shaped by his first hand observation of deep-rooted racial segregation in the United States and economic inequality in the third world. This instilled in him the ideals of socialistic democracy.
After graduating from Kenyon College (Ohio) in less than a year with a BA in 1948, he criss-crossed the United States. In Detroit, MI, he met his much-admired hero Walter Reuther, the leader of United Auto Workers union. Fascinated by his interest, Mr. Reuther sat down with Mr. Palme for an interview which is said to have lasted
several hours. It is perhaps, this encounter and honest conversation between the two that led him to believe that workers deserved dignity, better wages, decent hours and a right to air their grievances to their employers, and that socialism was the path that Sweden would follow. In his later years as a suave Swedish politician, he would
remark that it is the United States that made a socialist out of him that became a bone of contention.
Even when Sweden was politically a diminutive player on the world stage due to its rather small size, Mr. Palme made her stand tall and respectfully visible. It is safe to say that the philosophy of ‘soft force’ was the brainchild of Mr. Palme that endeared Sweden to much of the world. His became a voice to be listened to on every topic of
international relevance: from the American entanglement in Vietnam, to communism, to apartheid, to the plight of Palestinians and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In fact, the Swedish-American relationship was at record low due to his outspokenness and fierce criticism against the Vietnam War.
But the truth of the matter is that his love and admiration for the United States was germinated in what he saw here during his college year and afterwards. Rather than being repulsed by what he found here, he was inspired by the strength and the foundation of faith that the Americans displayed.
He was one of those politicians of our times, whose humanity and compassion was not robbed by the zeal to have it all. He was gifted with the power of influencing people – friends and critics alike -emotionally.
Some of his memorable quotes are so profound that on the 25th anniversary of his death, they sound almost prophetic:
“Apartheid is a unique form of evil. It is a form of tyranny that burn marks an individual from birth only because of the color of her skin. Apartheid cannot be reformed. It has to be eliminated.”
“The rights of democracy are not reserved for a select group within society; they are the rights of all the people.”
“Human beings will find a balanced situation when they do good things not because God says it, but because they feel like doing them.”
“Throughout history, people have lived in poverty and misery. They have been degraded by hunger and ignorance, they have tormented each other and been driven into war. Yet, not everything has remained the same: The difference is that we have acquired greater knowledge. The difference is, above all, that we are beginning to display a willingness to take responsibility for each other. Therefore, it is not without meaning when we react, take a stance and, to the best of our ability, try to influence human development.”
“My generation is haunted by the images of the Jewish children in the ghettos and the concentration camps. The crimes committed against them caused us grief that haunts us through our lives. But for the very same raison d'être we feel outraged by the images of persecuted Palestinian children, and this time it is Israel that is responsible for the offenses.”
Murder, as defined in common law countries, is the unlawful killing of another human being with "malice aforethought", and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide... Anna Lisbet Christina Palme, née Beck-Friis is a former chairman of UNICEF, educated as a child psychologist.
She is the widow of late Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme...
If alive today, it is very likely that through his vision and philosophy of non-combative interventionism, Olof Palme would have averted many a calamities that the world witnessed in the past quarter of a century since his assassination, notably the Bosnian war, events of 9/11 and, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.