In 2003, I was sat in an all-day meeting in Brussels. There were public relations managers from about a dozen countries around the table. We were discussing organizing of campaigns, which would promote the need for protection of human rights in all of the countries represented. 

There were many presentations and, in my own opinion, I understood quite well just a few of them. The words were familiar, but the idea hazy. I concluded that my English language skills were really poor.

A few weeks later, I was listening to presentations in my own native language at Pärnu Conferences, with a few in foreign languages mixed in. However, among the presentations in my mother tongue, there were also just a few comprehensible and engaging ones. Very little stuck with me. “Are my native language skills also so poor?” I asked myself.

The public sphere is full of enviable amounts of disconnected gibberish, lack of point, soulless singing out of tune (read: missing of the point). And, unfortunately, the ‘singers’ themselves are oblivious. In the Soviet era, there was at least the censorship, which protected its own truths and right, but also ensured clarity of thoughts.

Just one mother tongue is enough

These days, it seems as if the ability to speak one’s mother tongue means the ability to utter words, which we believe to be in our mother tongue. They spoke Estonian, but they were not using the Estonian language. Sentence construction also calls for a building design, good material, and an experienced builder. The work culture of bunglers brings horrible destruction to our language and ideas.

It is possible to strike a friendship with the subject, predicate, and object, but this calls for a bit of talent in addition to the will.

Many people learn thousands of words in their mother tongue, but won’t learn to listen, think, speak (especially in public), read, and write in a high-quality manner. Exactly in this order – of which the first is the easiest and the last the hardest. Very few are in possession of all of the five skills, even in their native tongues.

I do not think that in order to gain an important position in the Republic of Estonia, one should have Doctoral degrees in horse riding, chess, checkers, dancing, in ten foreign languages; to have published at least five books, one written in verse; to have won at least one Olympic medal in an endurance sport; to be able to stand in for Mait Malmsten in all the roles played by him on the stage, etc.

All people have unique talents. Sometimes, knowledge and skills must be acquired even when the talent is limited. English-speaking Vladimir Putin (advertising a Russian city applying for the Olympic Games a few years) was quite cool. Stiff, but diligent.

Having a talent in a certain field does not mean that one is talented in everything. Many talented people do not have the knowledge and skills – they have not acquired those, but are undoubtedly capable of doing so. Most of the knowledge and skills out there will remain out of our reach in our lifetimes. Our lives are too short and brief compared to all of it.

As sweet as a neophyte master

I doubt there are many people who prepare for a certain job for their entire lives and finally land the job thanks to their preparation. Life is a combination of chance and luck, with more success still following those who prepare for it. Even the talented must train quite a bit to become Olympic champions.

The higher up in the mountains you climb, the harder it gets to breathe. 4534 meters in Peru was quite exhausting for me. Chewing coca leaves did not bring enough relief either. It is true that many leaders in Estonia have not acclimatized properly before climbing to new heights in their professional careers. But it is also true that we can only stage a revolution with the people we have.

What matters most, is to appoint people, who are honest, good, fair, sweet, dignified, hard-working, talented, caring, creative, smart, wise, happy, funny. Toomas Tõniste, Jüri Ratas, and Urve Palo meet most of the criteria. And if they don’t meet a few of them, so what? They are practicing. It always takes time before you win your first gold.