Third time lucky: Why does a tiny Swiss town keep asking Obama to visit?

Third time lucky: Why does a tiny Swiss town keep asking Obama to visit?

For most small towns and villages, thinking big usually means planning a new road or public transport service, or perhaps a small market or festival. One town in Canton Fribourg, however, is going above and beyond: they have invited former US President Barack Obama for a visit. Here’s why a small community in Switzerland is preparing to host the former head of state.

Barack Obama to visit Switzerland in April 2023

On April 29, the president is set to grace the boards of the Hallenstadion in Zurich as part of his worldwide speaking tour. While he never visited the country when he was head of state, the event in the largest city in Switzerland will be his chance to meet his Swiss fans, discuss topics with “special guests” and teach "creativity, corporate responsibility, leadership and transformation." 

As Zurich prepares to host the 44th US president, one small town in Canton Fribourg is hoping he will stop by: Ried bei Kerzers has officially invited Barack Obama to come and visit. Authorities in the town of just over 1.000 people told 20 Minuten that they have been trying to get Obama to come to the area ever since he was made an honorary citizen of Ried in 2010. 

US president has Swiss roots

In explaining why the town gave Obama citizenship, they said that Ried was the hometown of one of the president’s ancestors: Hans Gutknecht, his seven-time grandfather on his mother’s side, lived in the town between 1692 and 1762. His son Christian emigrated to the United States - like so many Swiss did in the 18th and 19th centuries - and would change his name to Goodnight. As a result, Obama is around 0,97 percent Swiss, according to genealogists.

Speaking to the newspaper, the former Mayor of Ried Ernst Maeder said that despite snubs in 2010 and 2017, he remains well-loved in the town. In fact, Obama already knows about Ried, as Maeder was able to get former Federal Councillor Joseph Deiss to tell the president about his connection to the area at a meeting in 2017.

Ried bei Kerzers hopes for a visit by Obama

"Due to his visit to Zurich, we tried again to get in touch with him - so far without success”, noted current mayor Guido Wildhaber. He concluded that while a delegation could travel to Zurich to officially give Obama his citizenship, they would much rather do it in the town itself. "We will continue to contact Obama. Hope to see you soon," he concluded.

Thumb image credit: / Evan El-Amin

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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