Americans overseas lose one of their staunchest defenders
Update: Andy Sundberg services will take place at 15:00 on Monday 3 September at the Lutheran Church, in Geneva.
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GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The US presidential election in November will be missing a key voice, but most voters will not know this: Andy Sundberg, who fought long and hard for the rights of a minority group, Americans living abroad, died Thursday 30 August, in Geneva following a massive coronary attack. He was 71 years old. He is survived by his wife Chantal, two daughters and one grand-daughter, all of whom live in the Geneva area.
Sundberg, who moved to Geneva in 1968, cherished a dream and was fighting hard in the days before he died for separate representation in Congress for the estimated nearly 7 million Americans who live overseas, the public role for which he is probably best known.
He had also been working for a number of years to develop new micro-finance projects in Africa in partnership with African diaspora groups in Europe.
Andy Sundberg’s claims to fame are numerous, including his own race for president in 1988, when he ran as a favourite son for the worldwide overseas Democratic Party primary. He came in third, having won the vote in five countries.
A life rich in friendships, politics, business and moral reflections
His warm personality, keen intelligence and unflagging energy won him the admiration and friendship of a wide range of public figures and ordinary citizens, particularly Americans in Switzerland, whose problems with their own government he took to heart. He was one of the main figures behind a change in American law that made it easier for Americans abroad to transmit their children for US citizenship, founding the American Children’s Citizens Rights League in 1977 and American Citizens Abroad in 1978. The latter now has members in 90 countries.
And yet later, when American citizenship became a handicap for some of these same overseas US children and their parents, thanks to changes in taxation rules, he became a prime mover in efforts to raise American public awareness of their problems.
He fought long and hard against what he described as the injustices created by the worldwide taxation of US citizens, but equally hard to spare his country from what he saw as its own folly, an overseas taxation system he labeled a “weapon of massive self-destruction that the United States uniquely deploys against itself.”
His work, including thousands of letters sent to people in positions of influence, put him on a first-name basis with politicians, government leaders and celebrities, whether they agreed with him or were targeted by him as someone to be convinced of the need for change.
He still found time for other projects: more than one person will be surprised to discover he was a founder of Iprolink, and he was active in the Overseas American Academy, and an enormous fan of Albert Gallatin, working to see that this Swiss-American, the longest serving US Secretary of the Treasury, was not forgotten.
Ed. note: he also wrote regularly about issues that concerned him, including guest blogger contributions to GenevaLunch.com. He had a lighter side and in one guest blog here he shared a game he had created on his 69th birthday.
An extraordinary career
Sundberg was born in New Jersey in 1941, finished grammar school in Japan, high school in Germany and he graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1962. The following year he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England, taking a degree in Politics, philosophy and Economics. From there he went on to serve on combat ships near Cuba during the Cuban Quarantine and in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam war.
He moved to Geneva in 1968, a time when he began to work as a consultant for major corporations, international organizations and governments, helping them evaluate investments and other key business areas.
He was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, a member of the board of the Millennium Institute in Washington and the Key Largo, Florida-based Marine Resources Development Foundation. He was a keen seaman and told GenevaLunch in early August, following a question about Hawaii, that he remembered well his many visits to that island state.
“I was stationed at Pearl Harbor for two months during the summer of 1961, serving on an old fashioned submarine while a Midshipman at Annapolis.
“I went back in 1967 as a Lieutenant in the Navy (equivalent to a Captain in the Army) as the head of the Combat Information Center on a Guided Missile Frigate when we were assigned to the north of the Gulf of Tonkin. We were supposed to control all of the airspace in that part of the war zone. Our ship stopped over in Hawaii on our way there.
“Been back several times, surfing, enjoying the fabulous scenery, food, entertainment. Ah, the memories….”
He poured his energy into political work after his move to Switzerland, serving as the worldwide chairman of Democrats Abroad from 1980-85 and as a member of the Democratic National Committee from 1981-88.
He became a French citizen thanks to his French wife, keeping dual nationality until his death. He was active in world and European politics, notably as a member of Liberal International since 1984 and as a participant in meetings of the Committee on Migration of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.