The Ambassador’s Year in Review 2018
Strengthening Swiss-U.S. Relations at the World Economic Forum
Very early in 2018, I went to the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The talks focused on economic and financial affairs, education and global challenges. At the meeting between President Berset and U.S. President Donald J. Trump, Federal Councillors Johann N. Schneider-Ammann and Ignazio Cassis participated as well. Both delegations commended the quality of bilateral interaction exchanges, in particular, the constantly evolving close and extensive economic relations. They provide a firm foundation for the further development of our bilateral cooperation.
Portraits of the World at National Portrait Gallery Kicks Off with Swiss Painter Ferdinand Hodler
Art plays an important role in my life, and portraiture, in particular, is an art form that truly fascinates me. As the founding Chair of the National Portrait Gallery’s Diplomatic Cabinet, I am honored that one of Switzerland’s most celebrated painters, Ferdinand Hodler, was chosen to launch the new Portraits of the World series. The relationship between the NPG and Switzerland is long-standing. It dates back to the opening of this institution exactly 50 years ago, when Switzerland lent five American portraits to the NPG’s inaugural exhibition.
Switzerland Arrives in Chicago
Together with then-President of the Senate and now newly elected Swiss Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter, I visited Chicago, Illinois, and met with Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel. We announced the reopening of the Swiss Consulate General in Chicago in 2019. The Midwest is important to Switzerland since many Swiss citizens and companies are located in those states. We continued our trip to New Glarus, Wisconsin, where we were welcomed at the Swiss Center, which does outstanding work on Swiss heritage in the United States. We tasted their delicious local cheese and enjoyed discovering the rural landscape.
This summer I decided to do a road trip through states I had not been to yet, with a common destination, visiting cities that have Swiss names or Swiss heritage. I started with Bern in Indiana. Swiss heritage is everywhere in this city—most impressively, the big Zytglogge-Turm in the middle of the town. I also discovered New Bern in Kentucky. Many cities in the southern states I visited have similar Swiss names, yet their own individual charm. Then I made my way to Gallatin in Tennessee. Many places in the U.S. are named after Albert Gallatin, who was a senator, a congressman, and the longest serving Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. I continued my route and later stopped in a small town right outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, and even if it does not have a Swiss name, I discovered a rare breed of Swiss Appenzeller Spitzhauben: Their feather attire recalls the festive traditional dress from Appenzell.
During the road trip, I could not pass up the opportunity to stop in Hannibal, Missouri, the location where my two boyhood heroes came alive: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. There were fewer Mississippi steamboats than in Mark Twain’s days; but the place still looked like I had imagined it when I read the books.
Business Outside of Washington, D.C.
Being Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States also entails meeting with stakeholders outside of Washington, D.C. This year, I had the chance to visit the Contemporary Art Museum of Richmond, Virginia, built by architect Steven Holl, the same architect who, together with his Swiss colleague Justin Russli, built the Swiss Residence in Washington, D.C. I had the chance to meet with President Carter again in Atlanta, Georgia, and had a discussion on human rights defenders. I had an impressive visit to the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Georgia. Later I was back in Dixie again, this time in Charleston, South Carolina, with the U.S. Department of State.
In Texas, I discussed the strong Swiss economic footprint with Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos. Switzerland counts for approximately 60,000 jobs and is the 4th largest foreign direct investor in the state. (Overall in the U.S., Switzerland ranks as the 7th largest foreign direct investor, with Swiss companies and their subsidiaries creating and sustaining almost half a million jobs.) A highlight for me was speaking about Swiss-style apprenticeships to 4,500 participants in the ACTE Conference in San Antonio.
The Journey Continues in California
In Pasadena, California, I discovered Switzerland’s contribution to one of NASA’s most important current projects, the InSight Mission. A spacecraft which landed on Mars in November 2018 carried a Swiss flag and instruments developed by scientists from the ETH Zürich. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory with its control center and test site were truly impressive.
In California, the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce honored me with the 2018 Annual Award. Sadly, our small Consulate General in Los Angeles will be closed at the end of the year, and our colleagues in San Francisco will henceforth raise the Swiss flag high in Southern California and the surrounding states as well.
A Journey through the Swiss Culinary Landscape
On September 12, the 17th Annual Soirée Suisse at the Embassy of Switzerland featured the theme “Food for Thought.” It’s a subject I am greatly interested in. As a diplomat, I have witnessed the value and power of food in facilitating dialogue. The simple act of gathering around a meal creates a framework for conversations that might not otherwise be possible. In accordance with the theme, this year’s Tell Award recipients were two outstanding chefs of Swiss origin: Messrs. Henry Haller and Daniel Humm.
Honoring Carl Lutz
On October 23, I was honored to speak about Carl Lutz (1895–1975) at The George Washington University. Carl Lutz used his role as a Swiss diplomat in Budapest to save the lives of 62,000 Jews during World War II. He negotiated with the occupying Nazis and the Hungarian government and obtained permission to issue “letters of protection.”
Swiss-Style Apprenticeships Continue Provide Inspiration in the USA
On December 3, Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann was in Washington, D.C., to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET) with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reaffirmed the will of the two countries to continue their ongoing cooperation in the area of VPET. It provides a framework for a practical exchange of information and experience.
Swiss Touch Travels across the U.S. and Ends Up at Art Basel Miami Beach
After the SwissTouch campaign traveled across the United States, it went from the desert of the West Coast to Miami Beach in Florida to attend Art Basel Miami. SwissTouch showcased different happenings. You can follow SwissTouch and the famous table’s journey on our social media.
Switzerland Celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
As the former head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, humanitarian issues are close to my heart. This year, the Embassy of Switzerland, together with the Swiss consulates in Atlanta, New York, and San Francisco, celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). We gathered opinion leaders, practitioners, and students to launch conversations on promoting human rights. Our celebration of the UDHR’s 70 years concluded on Human Rights Day, December 10.