Speech by Swiss President Samuel Schmid
To all Swiss Abroad
Fellow compatriots far from home
Distinguished guests at this year’s National Day celebrations
Bonsoir, Buona sera, Buna Sera, Guete’n Obe, Good Evening!
On whichever continent, in whichever city you are attending this year’s National Day celebrations: The church bells of Attiswil - the home of my ancestors at the foot of the Jura hills - bring you my best wishes.
I wonder if the sound of these bells evokes any patriotic feelings, or maybe even makes you feel a little homesick?
But then again, you wouldn’t have accepted the invitation for this celebration if you did not know these feelings or if you had broken all ties with your home country.
Yet you are here. And I hope this celebration is a small reminder of home in a globalised world.
I am convinced that your hosts have provided all that is needed for the occasion: paper lanterns, grilled sausages, Swiss wine... and maybe even a bonfire as it gets dark!
And of course Swiss flags.
The white cross against the red background - the symbol of our country – has come into fashion over the past few years. It is emblazoned not only on army knives, but can also be found on wallets, umbrellas, bags, hats and T-shirts. The white cross couldn’t get any closer to your heart! Swissness has become a lifestyle choice!
But this newly-awakened patriotism shouldn’t stop us from being open to the world. The Swiss flag flaps in front of the Council of Europe buildings in Strasbourg, at the United Nations in Geneva and New York and in the camps of our peacekeeping troops in the Balkans.
It is not a contradiction to be patriotic and open towards the world. They go together, just like at this National Day celebration.
Dear fellow citizens abroad! I chose the slogan "meeting 05" for my year as Swiss president. I am convinced that in an era of mass communication and worldwide link-ups, of email, text and picture messages, and video conferences – there is only one real kind of communication: a face-to-face meeting.
That is why I’ve met Swiss expatriates during my visits abroad. And I will meet them in an official capacity at the traditional Unspunnen festival in Interlaken in September.
I’d like to know from you how you are, what your concerns might be and what it’s like in your new home country. I’m keen to know how you perceive our country from outside it.
Seven hundred and fourteen years of the Swiss Confederation, One hundred and fifty-seven years of modern-day Switzerland! The history of Switzerland is a success story. It’s by no means something to take for granted that such a small country like ours has survived so many centuries.
It took courage, good fortune, intellect and tenacity – over many generations - to achieve such a feat.
But it also needed the providence and protection of Almighty God. This is something I became strongly aware of again in May when we commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Our country was fortunately spared the horrors of the war.
A National Day celebration is therefore a celebration of gratitude. Even if many of us don’t use this word, we have every reason to be grateful.
We share some concerns with other industrialised nations which have increasingly multi-cultural populations. Public spending and revenue are not on an even keel, economic growth is below average and our welfare system is in need of reform. All this is true - but compared with other countries we are in a comfortable situation.
Let’s not forget our trump cards. You, the Swiss Abroad can see these trump cards much better because you look at the country from a distance.
The spectacular beauty of our landscape, our modern transport infrastructure, high-quality education and health systems, low inflation and unemployment rates, tolerance towards minorities and political stability.
All this gives us reason not only to be grateful but also happy and even a little bit proud as well.
It’s up to us, and the coming generation, to hold on to these assets. The community of the Swiss Abroad - more than six hundred thousand expatriates - has an important role to play. You, my fellow compatriots, are spreading the good reputation of our country – with values such as reliability, quality and innovation - across the globe.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m happy to see your fondness for Switzerland across all continents and time zones. On behalf of the Swiss government I wish you all the best in your personal and professional lives.
And I hope you enjoy this event under the banner of the red flag with the white cross!