One week ago, the 68th Session of the IOGT International World Congress elected me for International President. A proud and humbling moment for me. Very touching and inspiring.

But it’s also been a very emotional moment for a different reason: my predecessor was stepping down. Sven-Olov Carlsson has been the International President of our beloved organization for twelve years. Three mandate periods. He had been elected in 2002, in Eastbourne, England. He has been leading IOGT International for twelve years, into the 21st century. In those years, Sven-Olov has given everything he has, and then a little bit extra, to shape IOGT, build IOGT, and propel IOGT to new heights. I shared eight of those twelve years with him in the International Board – since 2006 when the World Congress in Basel, Switzerland elected me for Vice President.

I could see first hand the commitment and dedication that drive Sven-Olov. In those eight years I could benefit from his knowledge and experience and we could together strive for greatness for IOGT International.

We had prepared a beautiful ceremony for Sven-Olov – to show the world and make him understand how much we all appreciate his heart-driven efforts for IOGT International over all those years.

First of all, Sven-Olov received the prestigious Wangsson Medal in gold – for all his achievements in promoting a life free from alcohol and other drugs.

Secondly, we had prepared two beautiful presents for Sven-Olov – unique IOGT International merchandise for one of the coolest 60-year olds in this world.

And while I had the honor and pleasure to present these awards and gifts to Sven-Olov, I was cherishing the opportunity to explain to Sven-Olov in front of the assembled global IOGT family what his efforts and leadership have meant for me personally and for IOGT International.

My Thank You Speech for Sven-Olov

“Sven-Olov –

“Do you know the feeling when you write THANK YOU!!!!!! in capital letters with lots of exclamation marks but you know that the person you adress won’t understand how thankful you are.  I am there right now!

“You have joined this movement because you liked dancing and an IOGT-NTO club somewhere in Sweden happened to offer dance evenings you decided to attend. Since then you have been dancing through various stages of IOGT International’s development. You mastered both the classical music and rock.

“In 2002 in Eastbourne you were elected International President and showed us your own style.

“It is witty and fast which makes you a solo dancer from time to time; it is a combination of heavy capacity and amusing lightness; it brings together the experience of tested history and a fearless vision of untested future.

“I have to say, that it was an honor and pleasure to dance with you and a challenge to catch up with you. I speak for our entire Board when I say that we have profound respect for your work and for your expertise.

“One could say that you have a radar that always helps you to be one step ahead all of us following the latest developments but it is not just luck. It is not just a talent. It is your incredible knowledge and amazingly huge network that you have built throughout all these years that keep you on the right track.

“I felt very safe and relaxed under your leadership. With you as a leader I could develop and I have learnt to dare to try new approaches. Your self-distance makes it easy to discuss serious topics, to strongly disagree with you and to shortly after that joke and laugh and all of a sudden turn into a serious discussion again.

“Let’s take a look at IOGT International as of today: We have 25 new and well-established Member Organisations that want to be part of this movement. The organisation has changed enourmously. Everything we see today that IOGT is, started with you. The way you care about this organisation, its vision and basic principles made it possible for us to be a strong and relevant organisation today. Not a weak one. Not dying out, like so many others that were founded so long ago. We are strong and growing. If the organisation thrives in the 21st century, it is because of the path Sven-Olov has set us on!

“Thank you for countless hours of travelling, meetings, jetlags, for reading and writing tons of papers, discussing with thousands and thousands of people”

“And here comes our gift to you – Clothes: Those are unique things like Sven Olov himself.

“When you have the Jacket, you can remember us and know that we hold you dearly for all the many hours, your energy invested, early mornings. This is jacket symbolises our warm embrace. We also have prepared a pair of customized sneakers for you. Really cool sneakers, because you are one of the coolest 60-year olds I have ever met. Sven-Olov let me tell you this: you have surely left your mark on the history of this organization. I have big shoes to fill Sven-Olov and the Karaoke night did not help.

Thank you for everything.”

On top of the speech, the award and the gifts, we had also prepared a beautiful video for Sven-Olov, with numerous people saying THANK YOU in their language.

Yes, Sven-Olov, you did it your way.

You have done it in a great way. Thanks so much. Thank you for everything!