Address by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Moritz Leuenberger.This content was published on August 1, 2006 - 12:35
Citizens across the world, Friends of Switzerland,
You are celebrating Swiss National Day far from the land where you or your ancestors were born. But by participating in votes and elections, you play an active role in deciding how Switzerland is governed.
And how far away are you, really? Nowadays every continent can be reached within a single day, and it no longer takes 80 days - but just 80 hours - to fly around the world.
Modern transport is making the world smaller, turning it into a true global village.
And this gives us reason to hope that a world community might arise united in the spirit of solidarity.
Yet the reality is very different.
In our global village, there remain huge differences in income and quality of life, and the gaps are threatening to widen further.
For some, the world is full of opportunity. For those with the means, there are no limits to where they can travel and what they can eat. They have access to education and they enjoy the benefits of living in societies with advanced infrastructure and amenities.
For others, life has little more to offer than hunger, government by dictatorship, poverty, war and the threat of natural disasters.
In many countries, the gap between the haves and have-nots is so wide that law and order is breaking down, and the rich are withdrawing to gated communities to protect themselves from the poor.
Switzerland is doubtless one of the privileged nations. Here everyone's basic needs are provided for and consequently we have no social unrest. But Switzerland cannot isolate itself from the problems of the world.
A global migration is underway, with millions of impoverished people fleeing to the rich north, which to them looks like paradise. The industrialised countries - feeling themselves under siege are succumbing to a bunker mentality - and are calling into question basic human rights.
But what has all this got to with National Day?
Whether we live in Switzerland or elsewhere, we are part of this world. We cannot ignore what is happening even if the distances involved are substantial.
Identity is not defined by differences among peoples, but through solidarity, cooperation and mutual respect within communities.
Switzerland joined the United Nations only a few years ago. Before that it enjoyed its special role on the sidelines of the world stage.
That has changed. Today Switzerland's sees its most important role as helping all the people of this world to live in their own communities, where they too have a decent income, have access to clean water, energy and education, and where they can live in freedom.
Wherever people live in harmony with their environment, where they support each other and treat each other with respect, you find hope and possibilities.
That's what makes a place home – "Heimat", we say in German. So let's keep working so that everyone, wherever they live, has a place that they can call home.
And let's live up to the ideals of Switzerland's direct democracy by encouraging and fostering respect and responsibility among all people.
Thank you for your support and your efforts. I wish you all a happy National Day.
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