The Seventieth Anniversary of the American Swiss Foundation


Keynote Speech by His Excellency Martin Dahinden, Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States of America

At the Occasion of The 70th Anniversary of the American Swiss Foundation

The Union League Club, New York

Speaker: Ambassador Martin Dahinden



It is a great pleasure to be your cohost tonight. I am still excited about the thoughts on innovation Joe Jimenez just shared with us.

Since last November I have had the great privilege of serving as Swiss Ambassador to the United States. It is an outstanding honor to be here and represent  one of the most innovative and globalized countries and also one of the world’s twenty biggest economies.

Being innovative is important to every country and to every company. Through innovation, comparative advantages arise and last. More than for other nations, innovation is vital for Switzerland since human brain power and skilled labor are almost its only resources.

Pragmatically and without much policy planning, the Swiss have done what was necessary. We have invested in people for centuries. We have managed to create the necessary conditions for the private sector as well as for cutting-edge science and research. We have built up international cooperation with the United States and with many other countries. Recently there has also been very welcome curiosity in the United States about the Swiss model of technical and career education.


Today Swiss know-how and innovation are recognized worldwide in areas such as pharmaceuticals, medical technology, machine tools, watchmaking, food, engineering, architecture, trading, insurance and banking. Many Swiss government policies are innovative and go beyond the beaten track.

Innovation, Ladies and Gentlemen, is more than having an idea, just as realism is more than having no ideas. Innovation means bringing ideas together in such a way that they impact society and the economy.

We are constantly called upon to maintain an environment that encourages innovation and progress. At the very core of this endeavor are educated men and women, a free society and free enterprise, the rule of law and a culture of democracy and participation.


When I met with President Obama last November to present my credentials to him, he reminded me of those outstanding values Switzerland and the United States share.

Those values are not taken for granted and have been questioned and challenged throughout history. And it will not be different in the future. Many people experience anxiety when they look at the gloomier parts of the world and are likely to exchange freedom for security.

For the past seven years, I was head of Switzerland’s humanitarian aid and international cooperation agency. I went to some of the most difficult places on earth and encountered the effects of the most demanding challenges like climate change, shifting demographics, migration, and fragility of all sorts.


Those challenges are complex and difficult to address. They concern the physical world, but also the mindset of people. Swiss and Americans, who not only have a long and common tradition of democracy, but also a long and common tradition of reaching beyond conventional modes of thinking, should work even closer together to bring about solutions in the future. By doing so, we will not only be able to tackle specific problems but also preserve our values.

In that endeavor, we should never forget the words of our famous Swiss and American fellow citizen Albert Einstein, who said that we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. That is a very Swiss and a very American statement on innovation.

Thank you for your attention.


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