Leader Spotlight

REEDKKimberly Reed (Young Leader 2001)

Executive Director, International Food Information Council Foundation

What can Americans learn from the Swiss?

The Swiss have taught Americans many important lessons throughout the years, including the importance of a strong currency.  Personally, I have learned a lot from the Swiss.  For example, when I worked at the U.S. Treasury Department, the American Swiss Foundation asked me to moderate a 2007 panel on the legacy of Albert Gallatin.  I soon learned that Albert Gallatin, the first Swiss-born and longest serving U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (1801-1814, under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison), was the epitome of a true leader.  He made the “hard calls” to considerably reduce the public debt.  Gallatin also helped create the House Ways and Means Committee, where I also had worked, as a check and balance on the U.S. Treasury.  Gallatin’s “lessons” are relevant to discussions taking place in our nation today! 

What can the Swiss learn from the Americans?
As a generality, Americans tend to excel at public speaking.  Even during a formal speech, we tend to be more open and relaxed than our counterparts around the world. Americans can comfortably deviate from delivering written remarks to speaking extemporaneously if it means better engagement with an audience.  This skill can be an asset in a variety of settings, including from the highest levels of public diplomacy to private sector boardrooms to “grassroots” community events.  Americans like to connect with the heart as well as the mind, and I know the Swiss do too. 

What defines your leadership style?
I am a hard worker who supports my colleagues, yet am always mindful of the ultimate goal.

What qualities do you most admire?
I admire those who can find goodness and joy in most everything and everyone. 

What are your greatest strengths?
I am soft and sweet, yet my core is steel.  My determination has helped me to reach many goals, and also be resilient when hurdles come my way.

What is your greatest weakness?
I believe in the importance of living in the moment, as life is precious.  Yet, at times, I can find myself struggling with work-life balance.  I should not be at work on a Friday night, but it’s too easy for me to do to this.  An invitation to a Swiss dinner party is a sure way you can get me focus on fun! 

Where do you live?
I currently live in Washington, DC.  I have lived in our nation’s capital for the majority of my professional life (1996-present, and as a summer intern during law school).  I also had two wonderful years (2007-2009) in New York City and hope to return there some day.  But, while I thrive in a big city, I also appreciate the goodness and virtue of a simple, small-town life.  I am a “city girl” with a “country heart.”

Where are you from?
I am from Buckhannon (Upshur County), West Virginia, which is a small town in the center of the state.  I am the eighth generation of my family to grow up in this wonderful place.  My family’s Upshur County lineage even pre-dates the 1863 creation of the state of West Virginia.  Looking even further back in my heritage, I have Swiss roots.  Although I did not first visit Switzerland until my college years, I developed an affinity for “Swiss life” at a young age because of family outings to the nearby community of Helvetia.  Helvetia, which was founded by Swiss settlers in 1869, is a charming “Swiss village” in a high mountain valley.  Because of its isolation, Swiss traditions have survived through the generations, such as the Fasnacht celebration and Swiss-German delicacies at the Hutte Restaurant. Even Swiss Ambassadors to the U.S. will travel five hours from Washington, DC, to Helvetia, West Virginia, to get a little taste of home.

What is your goal in life?
I want to absorb as much as possible in this world, including through travels to every nation.  Thus far, I have been to 90+ countries. As a long-term “stretch goal,” which will involve factors far beyond my control, I would love to be a U.S. Ambassador some day.  Perhaps it will be the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland!  Ambassador Faith Whittlesey is one of my heroes, and I have learned so much from her about the importance of fostering strong ties between our two nations.


About Kimberly Reed

Kimberly Reed is Executive Director of the International Food Information Council Foundation, the nation’s leading nonprofit focused on effectively communicating science-based information on health, nutrition, and food safety. Previously, she served as Senior Advisor to U.S. Treasury Secretaries Henry M. Paulson, Jr. and John W. Snow.


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