Therese Larsson, Chief Foreign Analyst for Svenska Dagbladet, one of Sweden’s top daily newspapers, visited Ohio University, courtesy of the Institute for International Journalism, from Sept. 29th to Oct. 3rd. She is currently travelling across America on a fellowship with theCenter for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) for three months to study the future of the Democratic and Republican parties, the role of religion in American life, U.S. foreign policy and the changing role of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Her many lectures with Scripps students discussed what it’s like to be a foreign correspondent and how American and Swedish lifestyles differ.
Ohio University was the first college campus she visited and she admits her first lecture was frightening. “I have hosted television and radio shows for a million people but it’s not the same thing to be in front of the people,” she said. “But, I hope I managed to be a little bit inspirational.”
So far, Larsson has studied the divide between Democratic and Republican parties and how religion ties into it. “The Republican party interests me because we don’t have them in Europe,” said Larsson, adding that most countries in Europe would be considered democratic.
Income inequality is much less evident between the rich and the poor in Sweden compared to America. Salaries are more evenly spread and everyone pays a high amount of their paycheck into taxes for benefits like universal healthcare, subsidized childcare, free university tuition, unemployment wages and elderly pension. “We just think we should pay taxes, we should have healthcare and childcare. We don’t think any differently,” shares Larsson.
The role of religion is almost non-existent in the Swedish government. According to Larsson only 3.5 percent of the population associates themselves with the religious party and they only receive about 5 percent of the vote overall. In fact, no one truly belongs to a church. “If you’re not invited to a wedding, it could be decades before you go to church,” Larsson said.
She also noticed how in the U.S., presidential candidates must open up about their faith and must believe in God to have a chance at presidency. But in Sweden, it is the exact opposite. “The President can’t say things like that or people become suspicious.”
Larsson hopes to delve deeper into these differences when she visits several churches and universities around the country and to gain a better understanding of how the American government operates.
Listen to her conversation with WOUB's Tom Hodson about her observations on American life so far.