Where you stand depends on where you sit: The challenge of being an academic turned Head of State

25 years ago, Gudni Jóhannesson was writing his doctoral dissertation in modern history at St Antony’s. He then worked in academia but in 2016, he became president of Iceland. That drastic shift provided unique opportunities but also unique challenges.
As academics, we should strive for objectivity and detachment from the perceived interests of government and state. Can presidents enjoy that luxury or freedom? And what about independence and interdependence in a globalized world? Can we be proud patriots and global citizens at the same time? And in the speaker’s particular case: Can a historian turned president uphold ideals of academic freedom and objectivity on the one hand and the need for national unity and a spirit of endless optimism on the other hand?