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Turning 18, and thus transitioning to adulthood, is serious business in Swiss society. It’s noted and celebrated by mayors across the country. A couple of weeks ago my son, along with 1,000 other youth born in 1998 were invited by their communes and then the canton for official ceremonies and entertainment.

imageHis evening began at our local town hall where our mayor’s message was the importance of community in our lives. He invited the kids to look around at the people in the room. Many were childhood friends, others acquaintances and due to the rapid growth of our commune, several kids were new. As adults they now had responsibilities to the village. He encouraged them to be active, inclusive, educated about the issues and vote.

Of course the highlight of this party was the mayor’s gift: a Swiss Army knife and pen with our commune’s flag.

Then they loaded up a bus and headed to the cantonal ceremony at the Theatre du Leman. Before the second half entertainment came on stage; Geneva’s mayor said a few words, led the national anthem and introduced two powerful speakers: a Tutsi woman who witnessed and survived the massacre of her family only because she was an 8 year-old girl, and a former child soldier who escaped the brain-washed power of terror after learning a lesson about love and respect.

This was a strong message the canton shared with these young adults about gratitude for living in a safe, prosperous country while highlighting the reality of atrocities in the world by hearing the stories directly from the young people affected.

Bravo to the Swiss who take the time to celebrate and stress the importance of this moment when children become adults and must step up to their responsibilities as full-fledged citizens. My son got the message.