DECEMBER 11, 1947
GENEVA—The other afternoon Mrs. John Carter Vincent, wife of our Minister to Switzerland, accompanied me to the capital, Berne, where I was to dine with the members of the Federal Council and their wives.
Berne is a fascinating old town where the houses form arcades over the streets. Our Minister's residence has just been bought by our Government and is a most charming house with nice grounds around it. You'd expect any house with so much ground to be far from the center of the city but it took us only about three minutes to get to the government house where we were entertained for dinner.
This very lovely house formerly belonged to an old family of the town who left it to the Government with the provision that nothing be changed in it. Hence, not even a picture can be moved. The house is used in much the same way as Blair House in Washington—for entertaining official guests. And it's certainly most delightful for that purpose.
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The dinner was charming and somehow they managed to make it informal. President Philipp Etter made a very kind speech, which not only touched me personally but also showed there was a tie between this little country and our great country across the ocean.
I'm thankful all the time that I can speak French easily, but I'm also conscious of the fact that I don't speak it sufficiently often to be able always to find the right word or the right phrase to express my meaning. So when I realized that I had to answer this welcoming speech in French, my knees trembled. Somehow I got through, however.
When we went back to the drawing room, the gentlemen were kind enough to gather round and answer questions on the Government and the life of the people of Switzerland—which added to the knowledge I'd already acquired from the Geneva Councilors.
The President of Switzerland is elected for only one year, and so in reality, instead of the President being head of the state, the Ministers of the Confederation are jointly head of the state. They are elected for four years by a congress (Federal Assembly) which is modeled on ours. It has two chambers—one made up of two representatives for every canton, large or small; the other elected on the basis of the population of the various cantons.