Speech by His Majesty the King at the Chicago Business Dinner

Speech by His Majesty the King at the Chicago Business Dinner, 2 June 2015.

Governor Rauner, Mayor Emanuel, Mr Daalder, Mrs Schippers, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the overwhelming reception here in Chicago, Illinois. My wife and I are delighted to be here. Chicago is a fascinating city. A vibrant centre of enterprise, knowledge and culture. It’s fantastic to be celebrating the friendship between the US and the Netherlands in this special place, together with so many distinguished guests from both countries.

We are here to intensify the Netherlands’ relationship with Chicago and Illinois – and there are countless opportunities. We will be building on a rich tradition.

Chicago has been a city for nearly two hundred years. And the Dutch were here early on. The first Dutch settlers arrived in the 1840s, and built homes to the south of the city. What did they find when they got there? Clay, marshes and mud. Flat, wet, low-lying land that would flood in the blink of an eye.

Perfect! It felt just like home.

The Dutch knew how to deal with that kind of environment. In a few years, cattle were grazing, and potatoes, wheat, rye, carrots and onions were growing. The ‘Low Prairie’, as the settlement was called, flourished. Farms known as ‘truck gardens’ sprang up like mushrooms, growing vegetables for local markets.

Today, farming and horticulture are still just as relevant to our relationship. That’s clear from the many representatives of that sector here with us tonight.

One of them is Hein Kruyt. His company, Solynta, was given ‘National Icon’ status by the Dutch government last year. It is working to revolutionise the potato sector by growing from seeds alone instead of from seed potatoes. The new method will make it possible to grow potatoes in warm regions and could raise production by a third.

That’s just one example of the many innovations under way in the Netherlands.

We have great admiration for what the US has achieved as the world’s biggest agricultural exporter. And we’re proud of our position as global number two. Especially when you consider the limited space in our country, which is a third of the size of Illinois.

Our relationship goes far beyond agriculture, of course. Around 850 Dutch companies from many sectors are active in the United States. And twice as many American companies have branches in the Netherlands, making the US our largest foreign investor.

I see that as a sign of your confidence in the Netherlands, not only as a natural gateway to Europe but also as an inspiring place to do business.

Our collaboration in the area of health is also increasingly important. In just two generations, the life expectancy of newborn babies in the US and the Netherlands has risen by ten years. Ten extra years of life is wonderful, of course. But we want them to be ten healthy years. At the same time we have to ensure that health care remains affordable. This issue is high on the agenda in both our countries.

So with that in mind, we’re greatly looking forward to our visit to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago tomorrow. The Institute is renowned for its advanced research and innovative approach to patients, where quality of life is the top priority.

It’s an approach that appeals greatly to Dutch doctors, researchers and patient organisations. A good reason for us to step up our cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen, our world is changing at lightning speed. Sometimes it seems like there are no certainties anymore. Sometimes, in the whirl of change and instability, it’s easy to lose sight of the things that are constant and enduring. The things that are essential. In our past, our present and our future.

The Netherlands sees its friendship with the United States as one such enduring treasure. In the words of John Adams, who was the American envoy in the Netherlands before he was president, our countries enjoy a ‘natural alliance’. For the Dutch, the US has always held a powerful appeal, as a beacon of freedom, optimism and innovation.

Chicago – the Windy City, the City that Works – is a fine exponent of those values.

One of Chicago’s many gifts to the world is house music, which, as you may know, has rather caught on in the Netherlands too. In fact, we’ve produced some world-class DJs. Tonight you can hear a sampling at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. It’s not far from here – and you’re all invited! Please join us to the House of Orange.

When it comes to the friendship between our countries, you just can’t stop the beat!

May I now ask you all to raise a glass with me.

To this wonderful city.

To the music we share.

And to the bonds of friendship between our countries.