Thursday, Obama spoke at length about Norway on the occasion of proclaiming Leif Erikson Day, with kudos to Iceland all but absent from his remarks.
While the proclamation does mention Leif is a “son of Iceland”, he is also called a “grandson of Norway”. This heritage was used as the focus of Obama’s statement, as he called Leif “an important piece of our shared past with the Norwegian people”, and continued to praise this connection with Norway:
“Leif Erikson’s discovery marks the beginning of a meaningful friendship between Norway and the United States, and we have seen reflections of his team’s journey throughout history. The courage that guided these pioneers to North America was also found in the voyage of six families who braved the unforeseen in 1825 as some of the first immigrants from Norway to the United States. … We also reaffirm the ties that bind America and Norway and rededicate ourselves to our common goals of securing peace and prosperity around the world.”
Obama then proclaimed October 9 to be Leif Eriksson Day, and asked the American people to “observe this day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs to honor our rich Nordic-American heritage.”
The statement puzzled many Icelanders who, learning of the story from local media, wondered why Obama would focus on Leif’s connection to Norway, when he was born in Iceland and raised in both Iceland and Greenland. Leif’s cultural connections to Iceland are also indisputable, as he appears in several Icelandic sagas, amongst them Grænlendinga saga (“Saga of the Greenlanders”), Eiríks saga (referring to Leif’s father), and Landnámabók (“Book of Settlements”).
The White House has not issued any further statements on the matter at the time of this writing.