The United States and Switzerland have long been described as “Sister Republics”—a term that symbolizes their deep and abiding partnership. Sharing common democratic values, the rule of law, free-market ideas, and even similar constitutions, the two nations have a proven record of a dynamic partnership on many critical issues. This Alpine country, despite its small size, is highly influential on a variety of economic and strategic issues important to America.
And no one shaped the relationship between the U.S. and Switzerland in recent decades more effectively than Faith Ryan Whittlesey, a top aide to President Ronald Reagan and America’s two-time consummate ambassador to Switzerland. As a respected Swiss magazine succinctly summed up, Whittlesey was “the ambassador who cultivated the strongest relations between Switzerland and America since the Second World War.”
Reflecting that unique relationship, Abby Spencer Moffat, a long-time member of The Heritage Foundation board of trustees, and her mother, Diana Davis Spencer, were recently honored with the inaugural Ambassador Faith Whittlesey Leadership Award by the American Swiss Foundation.
Accepting the inaugural leadership award, Davis Spencer highlighted that “Faith was such an inspiration and force that brought our two countries together.”
Today, Whittlesey’s legacy of advancing U.S.-Swiss ties is reflected in the dynamic and mutually beneficial relations between the two countries.
Whittlesey once noted, “The importance of Switzerland far exceeds its size.” Switzerland is one of the most advanced and capable free market economies. According to The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Economic Freedom, which measures the entrepreneurial environments of 186 economies around the world, Switzerland, the world’s second-freest economy, tops the rankings in Europe.
On a similar note, The Economist described Switzerland, “Just as the small mountain village punches far above its weight as a talking-shop [a place where things are discussed but no decisions or actions are taken], Switzerland has prospered as a haven for businesses far beyond what might be expected of a small, landlocked country with few natural resources.” The weekly magazine pointed out “common sense” and “low taxes” were “the secret sauce” of the Alpine nation.
It is notable and welcome that Switzerland and the United States have made great strides in deepening economic and business ties. America is one of Switzerland’s largest trading partners worldwide, the most important destination for Swiss exports and direct investments abroad, and a vital hub for education and research.
More specifically on the economic front, American and Swiss companies work together to produce cutting-edge and high-quality pharmaceuticals, aerospace components, machinery, and equipment that flow in both directions and make the two economies more productive and competitive with the world as dynamic, value-adding partners.
The two allies are closely linked, with mutually beneficial trade and investments through numerous subsidiaries of Swiss and U.S. companies. Some 500 Swiss companies operate in the U.S. and are directly responsible for the creation of more than 250,000 U.S. jobs.
In her acceptance remarks for the leadership award, Moffat honored Whittlesey by saying she embodied her boss’—President Ronald Reagan’s—thoughtful wisdom that “the greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”
Indeed, such pragmatic leadership of adding and multiplying, not subtracting and dividing, was ably demonstrated in Whittlesey’s diplomacy and has been the foundation of the American-Swiss partnership and will remain so as the two nations move forward together.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal