Swedes in America (1943) - full transcript

Ingrid Bergman talks about Swedish Americans.

This is the first time a motion picture
has been used to answer mail.

Since I've been here
in the United States,

I have received many letters
from my friends in Sweden,

asking one thing: "Tell us
about the Swedes in America."

Here is, for instance, one that says:

"I know that America is a country
of many nationalities.

"But the two million Swedes there

"seem to get along especially well.

"Why is that?

"What's there
in the life of the country

"that so appeals
to the Swedish character?"

Well, frankly,
I could not answer that.

But my own curiosity was aroused

and, being a Swede, that's fatal.

So, before I knew it,

I was off on a search
to find the answer,

which took me
to many different places.

I started in Radio City, New York.

I came here first,

because these great modern towers

stood as an
international gathering place.

Working together here were the
representatives of many countries,

including those of Sweden.

I talked with the people
in these shops,

with journalists and
businessmen from Sweden.

I was given an assortment of answers.

Down on the skating rink,

in the centre
of these soaring buildings,

I found a Swedish American
skating star.

Her name was Karin Lynn.

She had one sort of answer.

"The love of sport," she said.

"That's what makes
the two countries so much alike."

Of course, that was true enough.

But it was also true
that millions of people

didn't feel at home in America

just because they could skate and ski.

When I visited
the Swedish Consul General,

he spoke of the sympathy
for the rights of others

that both people have.

It was made very real to him

by what he saw recently
from his windows.

The Swedish American
steamer, Gripsholm,

one of the few white ships
left in the world today,

bringing those who had
been imprisoned by war

back to freedom.

Here, among the skyscrapers,

I found only a fragment of my answer.

Well, I knew that the Swedes
have played an important part

in the development of this country.

So, from the modern world,

I went to the other extreme:
back into history,

to the American Swedish Museum
of Philadelphia.

In this museum,
I found a 400-year-old record

of one people's contribution
to American life.

It started in 1638,

when the scout ship Kalmar Nyckel
sailed out of Gothenburg Harbour

and, some six months later,

touched the shores
of the Delaware River.

Those who came established a colony.

From the very names of their villages,

it was an echo of
the land of their birth:

Fort Christina,
Fort New Gothenborg.

With them, they brought
their ways of living.

They brought the skills
they had developed,

and their handicraft.

The Swedish influence spread,

until such men as
John Morton and John Hanson

became founders of the New Republic,

signers of the Declaration

that created
the United States of America.

And it was another Swede,
John Ericsson,

who helped preserve
these same United States

as one country.

In the hall dedicated to him,

there are models of
his many inventions,

the greatest of which he gave to
America in a moment of crisis.

At the time of Lincoln,

Ericsson brought to the Union fleet
the revolving turret,

that became the historic
"cheese box on a raft".

The triumph of the little Monitor

helped turn the tide
that ended the Civil War.

The principles of that weapon
are still in use today.

But the room to which
I was particularly drawn

was the one devoted to Jenny Lind.

I know, in a small way,

how warm a welcome the American people
can extend to an artist.

Jenny Lind's visit, back in 1850,

is still celebrated
in books and on the screen.

I left that museum
with a feeling of pride

in the achievements
of my countrymen,

but no nearer the answer.

I had to come back from the history
of what people had done,

to find out what they were doing now.

To understand
the Swedes in America today,

one must know
the country they live in,

and, today, it is a country at war.

My journey took me from
Philadelphia into the Middle West.

During that trip,
I found many people

from all the countries in the world,

working as Americans
toward one single end.

And, among these, were the Swedes.

I brought my question to Minneapolis,

a centre of Swedish culture.

At the capital, I met Swedes high in
the government of the state.

They spoke of the opportunity
that all men have here

to win positions
of trust and responsibility

and with it, the right,
if they choose,

to retain the customs
and the language

they have brought with them.

In the great schools of the section,

the study of Swedish
is part of the course.

My problem was not one

that could be completely
solved in a classroom.

But here,
and everywhere I went,

I found clues.

One significant clue was
the very country of the Northwest,

through which I travelled.

A hundred years ago,

the great Swedish novelist
Fredrika Bremer described its charm:

"Here," she said, "would the Swede
find his clear, romantic lakes,

"the plains of Skåne,
and the valleys of Norrland."

Bremer's description
proved a prophecy.

The Swedes came,
and made this country their own.

The story of the pioneers
who built the towns,

and who had now
lived their lives through,

was told by those of the neighbours,

whom I found still enjoying
the comforts of their old age.

They, too, spoke of
the freedom they enjoyed

to preserve the
traditional ways of their youth.

And this freedom holds true
not only for the Swedes,

but for all the peoples from the
many countries of the world

who have made America their home.

To these freedoms,
there was a response:

a devotion to country.

I found an example of it
at the Swenson farm

that used to be worked by
Charles Swenson and his five sons.

Now, three of them are gone,

into the fighting forces
of their country.

The old folks were particularly proud
of their son Raymond.

He recently won
the Order of the Purple Heart

in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

When I arrived, I was greeted
by one of the two sons

who are carrying on the work of five.

He told me that the Swenson place
was no exception.

In all the country around,

the women,
as well as the men,

were doing more than just one job.

And, from what I found,

doing just one job was
much more than enough.

But it all pointed to the fact
that the Swenson farm

was not an isolated unit
working by itself for itself alone.

The work here was carried on
for the good of a community

that stretched from coast to coast.

I began to feel that my answer
was taking definite shape.

I was certain of it when
I visited Lindstrom nearby.

Though it doesn't look very different,

there's something special
about Lindstrom.

Forty-five years ago,

the townspeople decided to set aside
one day a week to clean house.

Every Thursday,
the town turns out,

all of them,
to broom and scrub the streets.

They want even the sidewalks

to reflect the pride
they have in their little town.

It was a Thursday in midwinter
when I arrived,

and they were clearing away
the remnants of the last snowfall.

A local custom, to be sure,

but clearly it told the story
of community action,

that, in one way or another,

was part of everything I'd seen.

Here was the larger answer

into which all the
other truths I discovered

fitted like the pieces in a puzzle.

It set me to thinking of what
I'd been told by a friend,

a great man and a wise one.

Carl Sandburg has been
hailed by Americans

as one of the most profound
writers of their country.

His biography of Abraham Lincoln

stands as the truest picture yet given
of that great American president.

Sandburg is a Swede and an American,

who has looked deep
in the hearts of both countries.

"Co-operation," he said,

"one found it everywhere."

Along the shores of
the very lake on which he lived,

small groups of men came together
to discuss their common problems,

and to work out ways of
solving them for the common good.

These fishermen, in their dories,

were not isolated and alone.

They were working co-operatively.

The work of each: fishing,
drying nets, packing, and shipping,

was the work of all.

Even though these men
prided themselves

on being strong individualists,

they work devotedly together,

for the community good.

As a pioneer country,
America has always been a place

where neighbour helped neighbour.

That feeling for community
is part of every frontier nation,

but it was the Swedes
who helped to organise that spirit

in the modern
industrial world of today.

The co-operative idea has spread

to every corner of the United States,

until the government itself
has built such great projects

as Boulder Dam and the TVA.

Through them,
heat, light, power, and water

are brought to
wider and wider communities,

under a co-operative system.

I had been faced with a question:

what was the basis of the deep kinship
between Sweden and America?

Sandberg put the answer
into simple words:

"It's the respect
that both countries have

"for the right of the individual

"to be free from want."

There is more to all this
than the material side.

There is a spiritual side,

and it reaches its highest
expression at Christmastime.

A man's concern with
the well-being of his neighbour

is but another way of saying
"goodwill on Earth".

These hymns echo
a common understanding:

that life can be good today,

and tomorrow still better.