This post is part of an archived series of blogs called The LeVine Line, written by former Ambassador Suzan G. LeVine during her time at U.S. Embassy Bern.
6 July 2014
Has it really only been a month? And did all that happened this past week really only happen within 7 days? It feels like just yesterday – and yet feels like it’s been years!
For all those who’ve read Harry Potter, I feel like my time turner necklace actually started to work.
While I’ll share with you the whirlwind of what I’ve had the honor of doing over the past week and month, more important, I believe, is what I’m hearing from the vast array of people with whom I’ve been connecting. I’m still in “listening mode” – and will continue to be throughout my time here – so this is just a partial picture that’s starting to come into focus.
With an eye towards increasing our economic ties, increasing collaborations around security and development, and increasing awareness and appreciation of our respective cultures, values and policies, here is a view into my past week and my first month….
In just this past week alone, I …
- Addressed the Annual Meeting of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce
- Was inspired by an innovative group of the Swiss Game Developers Association
- Visited the Landesmuseum
- Held a festive and meaningful Independence Day party for quite a few people at the residence
- Spent time with an American Hero: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
- Snuck a photo of returning Swiss futbol team members at the airport
- Discovered the wonders of Brezel Köenig
- Spoke in depth with several members of the Swiss media in both print and TV media.
- Welcomed my family to Switzerland
- Presented my credentials to President Burkhalter
And that’s just a fraction of my extraordinary week. To say I’m humbled by this opportunity is a dramatic understatement.
In looking across the month – from the welcome from the US Marines to the Independence Day celebration, it has been filled with meaning, substance, incredible people, and a lot of fun. Here’s just a sampling of the activities over the month:
- Helping dedicate the new memorial to the rescue of the Dakota C-53 on the Gauli Glacier
- Speaking at lunches dedicated to the Swiss-American relationship
- Meeting with the dedicated and talented members of the Swiss government – across the spectrum of organizations
- Walking with and supporting the LGBT community in the Zurich Pride Parade
- Delivering my credentials in Liechtenstein to Prince Alois
- Attending and meeting amazing business leaders at the Swiss Economic Forum
- Donating my e-reader to the Museum für Kommunikation
- Meeting Swiss student applicants for the Ben Franklin Summer Institute
- Hiking in the Alps
- Seeing stunning art at Art Basel
- Watching GirlBeHeard’s powerful performance on the shores of Lake Geneva
- Visiting US companies generating Swiss jobs
- Being accelerated at CERN
- Enjoying futbol/soccer with new friends
- Getting to know my fellow global diplomats through many national day celebrations
And so much more….
Fundamentally what I am experiencing here are countries focused on positive impact and on quality of life. I’ve also seen in Switzerland a country of contrasts. A couple of examples: it’s a country in which there’s fierce independence AND a deep dedication to rule of law; it’s a country in which there’s very hard work and productivity AND a deep dedication to down-time; and it’s a country that has a tremendous insurance industry AND where it’s acceptable to jump off (certain) bridges into rivers.
My remarks at the Independence Day celebration do a lot of the heavy-lifting on synthesizing what I’ve heard and observed thus far. But to further boil down what I shared: I couldn’t be more humbled, honored and fired up about the opportunity here. We are at a time and place where we need to remind ourselves of the strong foundation in our relationship, celebrate what’s great about it, grow and amplify those areas AND at the same time, make sure we work on and turn the page on areas that need some work. And it will take a full team effort to do all of that!
Through all of this – a very special highlight for me has been getting to know the extraordinary team in place at US Embassy Bern – whether it’s the highly skilled and seasoned local staff who have been with us anywhere from 1 week to 30+ years – or the foreign service staff who rotate positions around the globe. The full team’s dedication, loyalty and, frankly, brilliance, is the heart and soul of our bilateral relationships with both the Swiss Confederation and the Principality of Liechtenstein. Every citizen in America should be proud of the quality and heart with which this team dedicates itself to its responsibility in order to keep us safe, help us have shared prosperity and make the world a better place.