Ambassador Martin Dahinden’s First Year Hightlights
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|Highlights of My First Year as Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States of America|
|Thinking back on my first year as Swiss Ambassador to the United States, one thing is certain: it has been one of my busiest and most interesting years ever. Working in Washington, D.C., and traveling throughout the U.S. has given me an opportunity to work on a large variety of important projects, meeting people from very different backgrounds and establishing new relationships with our American friends.I was particularly impressed by the huge economic footprint of the approximately 700 Swiss companies in the U.S. They create half a million jobs and make Switzerland one of the ten most important investors. Swiss companies invest more in the U.S. than in Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain together. During my travels, I am always proud to visit Swiss companies. Some of them follow the successful Swiss apprenticeship model. Swiss Vice President Johann Schneider-Ammann signed an agreement with the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Education and Labor to enhance cooperation on the Swiss Apprenticeship Model in the US.The past year was also important with regard to the political relationship between Switzerland the U.S. Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter was invited to the Anti-Terrorist Summit in Washington, and explained Switzerland’s long-term prevention approach toward combating terrorism at its roots.For more than fifty years, Switzerland was the protecting power for the U.S. in Cuba. That mandate ended on July 20, 2015, when the United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations. I was very proud to be part of that historic moment and to remove the Cuban Interests Section sign at the entrance to the Embassy of Switzerland. The sign is now in the National Museum in Zurich.As the former head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, humanitarian issues are close to my heart and they are important to Swiss foreign policy. Last year I was part of two outstanding events on humanitarian issues. When inaugurating the War from the Victims’ Perspective exhibit by Swiss photographer Jean Mohr in Atlanta, I had the opportunity to meet former President Carter and discuss the humanitarian challenges in the Middle East with him. On May 8, I also had the honor of hosting the Red Cross Red Crescent International Day celebration at the Residence with many very special guests including Mike Durant and ICRC delegate Suzanne Hofstetter, known from Ridley Scott’s movie Black Hawk Down.Switzerland and the United States are leaders in innovation. Switzerland ranked first in the Global Innovation Index for the fourth consecutive year and in the IMD World Talent Report. That is an excellent starting point for even more intense cooperation with the U.S. I am proud of the many events with that theme at the Embassy of Switzerland, the Swiss Consulates and the swissnex houses. The most outstanding event was the 2015 Soirée Suisse with its focus on space and aerospace. I spent the evening with our guest of honor, Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier, who is a great ambassador for Swiss science and innovation!Throughout the year, I traveled across the U.S. to visit all our Swiss Consulates, to visit Swiss companies, but also cities with Swiss heritage such as New Bern, North Carolina, and New Glarus, Wisconsin. Of course, I could not meet all 80,000 Swiss citizens living in the United States or the 1 million U.S. citizens of Swiss descent. However, the many meetings with fellow Swiss were highlights in 2015 and I hope many will follow.
Becoming Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States also meant moving to Washington, D.C., with my family. We have explored its many interesting and diverse neighborhoods and enjoyed the concerts, museums and restaurants the city has to offer, and we love our new city. But more than living in Washington, D.C., we live in the Ambassador’s Residence and welcomed some 3,500 guests during the year! You can only imagine how busy it can get.
I was fortunate to have the architect Steven Holl as my guest at the Residence. He not only created our Residence, but he is also the architect of the current expansion of the famous Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Having a chance to listen to him talk about his concept, his ideas and thoughts when he first designed the Residence was truly amazing.
My wife Anita and I enjoy sharing our home with people and hosting events for individuals from the political, cultural, and artistic worlds, and almost every other field. The six concerts when pianists, violinists, singers and other musicians enchanted the audience at the Residence were some of the highlights for us. Music brings people from different generations and different cultures together and allows us to put our differences aside and simply enjoy the performance that is taking place before us.
One of my favorite rooms in the Residence is the so-called Generals’ Room with the paintings of Generals Sherman and Robert E. Lee. Behind those two paintings is an interesting and not very well- known story about the two Sister Republics, Switzerland and United States. It inspired me to write a booklet with the story that includes recipes from Delmonico’s Restaurant named after persons who played a role in the story. I discovered that many Swiss and American visitors do not know that Delmonico’s was founded by Swiss citizens from the Canton of Ticino. I am tempted to go on with the story, but the little history book with recipes tells it better.
For those I didn’t meet during my first year and whom I might not have the chance to meet in the years to come, I certainly hope we can be in touch via social media. I have not always been on Twitter and Facebook, but I have discovered how important it is to connect with people and share information on the work we do at the Embassy of Switzerland every day. Stay connected. I look forward to sharing with you my next adventures here in D.C. and beyond as Ambassador of Switzerland.
I wish you all a wonderful holiday season,