DECEMBER 10, 1947
GENEVA —I had a meeting the other evening with some of the government officials of Geneva canton—M. Casai, president of the Council of State; M. Pugin, vice president of the Council of State; M. Traina, head of the Department of Commerce and Industry; and M. de Semarclems, head of the Department of the Interior and Agriculture and of the Military Department.
It was most interesting, as each official represented a different political group. One represented the Christian Democratic Workers Association; another, the Socialists; a third was a Conservative, representing agriculture—which seemed quite to conform with our own pattern; and the fourth was a member of the Radical Party, which seems to be not at all radical from our point of view but a rather conservative democratic group.
I asked for this opportunity of talking over various Swiss conditions because it seemed foolish to be in Switzerland and not learn something about the life of the people—and my opportunities for going around and seeing for myself are certainly limited. This is a very small country, and one has the feeling that, while its problems in miniature don't vary greatly from our own problems, there should be greater ease in solving them. The laboratory is small. However, Switzerland is a federation. The greatest number of people are German-Swiss, with the French and Italians also represented.
* * *
It is interesting to note that in this freedom-loving democracy, perhaps the oldest democracy in the world, traditions are very closely adhered to and changes are difficult to bring about. For instance, while there is a small, very active group of women attempting to achieve woman suffrage, I doubt very much whether there is a real desire on the part of the majority of women to bring about this change. Recently, a vote was taken in Zurich and woman suffrage was defeated.
The women seem active, however, in their organizations, both civic and charitable, and I've never known so many to possess learned titles. It seems to me that almost every other woman who has asked to see me has a doctor's degree representing some intellectual achievement.
* * *
At my meeting with the Geneva officials, I began my questions with an inquiry about the Swiss system of universal military training. I find that every young man, at the age of 20, has a little more than three months of training. After that, he has just seven or eight days of training each year at the place where he works and doesn't go to camp at all. But his obligation to keep in touch with the defense of his country remains with him until he is 60 years old.
The soldier, from the time he enters his country's service, keeps his equipment—uniform, gun, ammunition—in his own home, so that he is ready for duty at any time. Officers have, in addition, small machine guns.
I inquired whether this was ever a temptation, and was told that, if the authorities thought there was about to be some trouble in any area, they removed the ammunition. They were never able to remove it all, yet they have never had any kind of "incident"—which speaks well for the law-abiding instincts of the Swiss people.
The authorities are at present a little worried about the infiltration across the borders of people from other nations, many of them very desperate and reckless due to the hardships they have been through. But the Swiss people themselves seem to cause little concern.
(WORLD COPYRIGHT, 1947, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC.; REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR IN PART PROHIBITED)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, December 10, 1947
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