Dutch king talks return to Chicago

By Meghan Morris

THE HAGUE, the Netherlands — The Dutch king–who attended Northwestern University–is looking forward to meeting with Chicago leaders, he said in an interview Wednesday.

King Willem-Alexander met with a group of six American journalists in The Hague last week to discuss his first trip to the U.S. as monarch. Following royal press rules, the king’s comments cannot be directly quoted, nor could journalists photograph him.

The king and his wife, Queen Maxima, along with a group of Dutch businesspeople and researchers, are visiting Washington D.C., Grand Rapids, Mich., and Chicago on June 1-3 after a few days in Canada.

It’s a return to the Windy City for the king, who spent three months at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in the fall of 1997 in the Executive Development Program. He said he’s looking forward to the cultural exchange during his time in Chicago.

The king noted Chicago’s fame as a major economic hub, one that historically enjoyed significant Dutch investment and business relations with the Netherlands. That economic exchange has declined in recent years–something he would like to see change in the future.

A small group of American journalists met with the king Wednesday to discuss his upcoming trip to the U.S.
A small group of American journalists met with the king Wednesday to discuss his upcoming trip.

The trip will focus on more than dollars and cents, as the royal couple will spend time at both Northwestern University’s oncology research center in Chicago and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Healthcare issues are critical to the Dutch and to Americans, the king said, because both countries face an aging population and rising costs. The Chicago medical centers have partnered with Dutch researchers to study fields as diverse as robotics and neurology.

The royal couple will also visit the new greenhouse on top of Method Products’ new soap factory in Pullman. The Netherlands is a leader in greenhouse and agricultural technology, though the king joked that he lacks green fingers and prefers to look at plants, rather than grow them himself.

He also intends to talk with President Barack Obama, Chicago’s most famous dad and political leader, about fatherhood. The king and queen have largely shielded their three princesses from the media spotlight, helped by a press culture that gives public figures more privacy than their American counterparts. When the royal parents took their daughters to school by bicycle, for example, the king said, he took only one security escort along-–an activity impossible for the Obamas.

Royal or not, the family still fights normal parenting battles, trying to help their daughters learn from their mistakes, become independent and–crucial for royal teeth–avoid sweets.

Photo caption:

The king of the Netherlands met with a group of American journalists Wednesday at the palace in The Hague.

Photo at top: The king, at the center of the photo, discussed similarities between the Netherlands and the U.S. Wednesday. (RVO)