Statesman sworn in as ambassador to Denmark

His penchant for peace and his desires to do the will of the Lord have led Richard Swett on a journey of high adventure through the halls of Congress and now to northern Europe where he will serve as U.S. Ambassador to Denmark.

"I am obviously honored to serve," said Brother Swett, who filled two terms in Congress from 1990-94.With his wife, Katrina, holding a family set of scriptures, Brother Swett, a high priest in the Concord 2nd Ward, Concord New Hampshire Stake, was sworn in by Gov. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire in ceremonies here Aug. 28.

Brother Swett had no natural inclination to get involved in politics, he said, feeling content to pursue his career as an architect.

But unsettled by the quality of representation his district was receiving in Congress, he went around encouraging others to run for office.

When none would, he decided to run. "I offered myself as an alternative voice," he said.

That decision to run for public office coincided with a call to serve as bishop. Feeling that the calling of bishop was not to be trifled with, he struggled with the course he should choose.

"It was a lengthy night of prayer and discussions," he said, describing the mental struggle he had in the stake president's office when the call to be bishop was extended.

Following the counsel of the stake president, Brother Swett was "willing to relinquish my campaign to serve as bishop," he said. But in a priesthood blessing later that night, the calling was rescinded and he continued the campaign.

He went on to defeat the incumbent in a stunning upset to become the first Democrat to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from New Hampshire in 78 years. Two years later in 1992, he was re-elected, making him the first Democrat in 130 years to serve a second term.

Returning to the private sector for two years following his second term in the House of Representatives, Brother Swett then ran for the U.S. Senate in 1996 which he narrowly lost.

"Politics is a contact sport," said Brother Swett, who has the distinction of being the only member of Congress to serve at the same time as his father-in-law, Tom Lantos, D-Calif., also in the U.S. House of Representatives and a survivor of the Holocaust.

In this often-adversarial arena where decisions are frequently forged in heated debate, Brother Swett strived to take the upper road in human relations by recalling the Savior's admonition to "love your enemies."

"It's difficult," he said, "but it seems to me, you become most like Christ when you love your enemies."

Brother Swett is a convert to the Church who was baptized in April 1980 after a 31/2-year courtship with his wife.

"We met during the spring of my sophomore year at Yale University," he said. "I had a good life, and had met with success in my endeavors. I was captain of the track team and still hold the school record in the decathlon. But I felt a void in my life at that time. I was feeling a need to fill that void when I met Katrina. It was love at first sight. She was also a convert, a Jewish girl who joined the Church in her teens. Joining the Church has been one of the best decisions of my life."

As Brother Swett approaches his new assignment, he takes as his example of leadership the prophets of the Book of Mormon, like King Benjamin. "He is a figure I see as my mentor," he said. "He [led] with the grace of God."

The Swetts will be taking their seven children with them to Denmark.

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