SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Rep. Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield) returned days ago from attending the Young Leaders Conference, held by the American-Swiss Foundation in Rüschlikon, Switzerland from November 8-15. The American Swiss Foundation’s Young Leaders Conference was initiated in 1990 to create person-to-person exchange and foster mutual understanding among the next generation of leaders in Switzerland and the United States. The 2014 Young Leaders Conference was hosted by Swiss Reinsurance Company.
Hough was 1 of 3 nominated Americans who hold public office. The other two include a state senator from Tennessee and a mayor from upstate New York.
The conference brings together approximately 50 Americans and Swiss aged 28-40 for a week of intensive discussion and exchange on a broad range of current issues of importance to American-Swiss relations; meetings with high-level diplomatic, government, business, media, and cultural leaders; and excursions to Switzerland’s beautiful mountains and historic landmarks. The conference included an American election recap that Hough contributed to.
“We emerged with not only relationships, but a better understanding of the differences and similarities between the two countries,” Hough said.
Attendees had an opportunity to meet a Swiss parliamentarian – the equivalent of a congressman – who shared that his election cost $35,000.
“I think it is interesting to know that Swiss parliamentarians do not have to disclose where their financial contributions come from,” Hough said. “I was blown away. You can take as much money as you want, not disclose it, and it is less expensive to run over there.”
Swiss candidates cannot run radio or television ads, which is part of the reason races are substantially cheaper.
Other conference guests included the current ambassador to Switzerland and private business leaders.
Hough was also interested to learn about the Swiss education system.
“Students have to test to get into higher education,” Hough said. “There are two universities and you have to test and make a certain score to get in. If you don’t get in, but you still want to continue learning, there is an apprenticeship program, where they collaborate with private business – very similar to a community college. It is a 3-4 year program and 90-95% of those in program are hired by company they apprenticed with.
“There are some lessons that we can learn there – not necessarily that kids should just be tested,” Hough continued. “You’re not belittled because you didn’t go to college or university, you just took a different path to get to your career. They view it as, ‘good for you.’”
Alumni of the conference include United States Senator John Barrasso, Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Congressman Joe Garcia (D-FL), Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI), State Auditor of New Mexico Hector Balderas, North Carolina Governor Patric McCrory, Grover Norquist, and various elected and business leaders in Switzerland.
Alumni of the Conference now number 1,000 leaders in both countries. The Young Leaders Conference is made possible through the generosity of corporate and individual sponsors and Swiss International Air Lines, which provides travel sponsorship for U.S. participants.
Attendees are selected through an internal nomination process.
Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.
To contact Rachael, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.