The Icelandic nation has celebrated the 90th birthday of its former president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir in recent days with the hastag #TakkVigdís or Thank you Vigdís.
Vigdís became the world’s first woman to be democratically elected president in 1986 and served that post until 1996. For decades she has been an inspiration for generations of women in Iceland and abroad and despite long since entering the legal age of retirement this living legend has been as busy as ever.
Since 1998 she has held the position of Goodwill Ambassador for Languages at The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), a role she truly embraces. Languages are close to her heart and for years she taught at various institutions in Iceland, including the University of Iceland. Vigdís has actively supported language education through various initiatives, not least the languages, indigenous and others that are spoken by a limited number of people, saying:
“If you can translate Shakespeare into different languages, then the languages in question are not small”.
In 2017 the House of Foreign Languages, a part of the Humanities department at the University of Iceland was opened was established in the honour of Vigdís. This research institute for foreign languages was named Veröld – hús Vigdísar (World – the house of Vigdis) and there this living legend now carries out her work.
More on Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and her work in this JONAA interview:
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir: Our Language Is What We Are
Photograph: JONAA©Kristinn Ingvarsson