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Ambassador Ed McMullen: On Optimism

Elected as Vice Chairman of the American Swiss Foundation in 2021, Ed McMullen served as Ambassador of the United States to Switzerland and Liechtenstein from November 2017 to January 2021. Ambassador McMullen is an alumnus of the 1995 Young Leaders Conference.

At the core of ethical and effective leadership is a culture that drives positive change and the overall betterment of our world around us. In my experience, the single most important attribute of leaders who embrace such a culture is an attitude of optimism. During my Ambassadorship to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, I had the great honor of speaking at the University of Zurich from the same podium where Sir Winston Churchill gave his “Let Europe Arise!” speech. In my remarks, I referred to a famous quote from Churchill that captures the spirit in which I strive to lead. Churchill said, “For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else.”

The optimistic leader envisions a future where improvement and success is the expected outcome. Many of the successes that I experienced at Embassy Bern were the result of an optimistic team who focused on what could be done rather than what could not be done. As a result of this optimism, we see today Switzerland as the sixth largest foreign direct investor to the United States, a consular office that stayed focused on keeping European investment strong and vibrant during the pandemic, Swiss success in working with the administration to bring home American prisoners from Iran, and the strongest U.S. Swiss bi-lateral relationship in history. Thus, demonstrating the value of optimism in leadership.