The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, looking every inch a politician on the campaign trail, has met nearly 30 future Swiss voters in an informal reception at the parliament buildings in Berne.This content was published on August 21, 2000 - 16:48
The children were Swiss expatriates from nine countries, who treated Ogi to a song and some close questioning about his private and working life.
Ogi's guests were from a summer camp in Einsiedeln, one of nine such camps in Switzerland organised by the Foundation for Young Swiss Abroad.
In welcoming the children from Germany, France, Italy, Britain, the United States, Ecuador, Portugal, Spain and Kenya, Ogi described Switzerland as a political success story and said the children had a role to play in telling that story.
"As Swiss living abroad," he said, "it's important to explain what is behind the idea of Switzerland."
Switzerland is a model of political stability in Europe, he added, saying that young Swiss had good reason to be proud of their country.
He also stressed that although the children were born and have grown up outside Switzerland, the country is still their homeland.
Ogi also fielded questions from the children, who were aged 8 to 15. They asked him what kind of music he liked - "Alphorn and all kinds of Swiss folk music" - and what his favourite food was - "fish and Rösti".
As sports minister, he was naturally asked about his favourite sports, which elicited the response: "Skiing in winter and football in summer."
The children didn't shy away from putting some direct questions to the president. They wanted to know how much he earned - "SFr400,000 ($230,000) a year, I think. My wife manages my money".
And they asked what he thought about the number of refugees in Switzerland, to which he replied: "We must be open. We must accept those who need shelter."
This year the Foundation for Young Swiss Abroad has welcomed 300 children to nine summer and two winter camps. It's a tradition that goes back 80 years, and which has given 90,000 young Swiss abroad the opportunity of getting to know the country better.
by Paul Sufrin
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