Bernard Duhaime, Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Mérite
Remarks by Consul General of France Vincent Floreani on the occasion of the presentation of the insigna of Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Mérite to Bernard Duhaime former Honorary Consul of France in Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota.
(Omaha, Nebraska - November 7, 2014)
Dear Bernard Duhaime,
It is a great pleasure to be with you today, with all your family and friends - and you have so many friends, on the occasion of this ceremony to bestow upon you the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Mérite.
I was mentioning earlier the ancient and deep relations between our two countries.
Bernie, you are a great friend of both the U.S and France.
It is customary in such circumstances to highlight the exceptional achievements of the recipient. With your permission, Dear Bernie, I will carry on with this good tradition.
1) For many years, from 2008 to 2013, you served as Honorary Consul of France for not only Nebraska but also South Dakota and North Dakota. In this vast territory, far from Chicago, you helped many French people, providing them administrative or other assistance.
With your wife, Rosemary, you also hosted many French dignitaries in your home. You told me about the excellent relations you developed with French Ambassadors in Washington.
We are very grateful to you for that.
I know what we owe to our Honorary Consuls throughout the Midwest.
2) Earlier, from 2002 to 2008, you were president of Alliance Française in Omaha, for 3 terms.
It was during your mandate that the first French classes were held in this Alliance Française, as a result of your efforts. The classes continue today, with increased interest. It is also during your term as president of the Alliance that you arranged many of the monthly French cultural programs, including programs at Omaha’s Jocelyn Art Museum, highlighting French art.
You were also elected to board of the Directors of the US Federation of Alliances Françaises and served as a Treasurer.
Alliance Françaises are very important to us.
To me, they epitomize the type of relation I cherish between our two countries:
They are local organizations, who are totally in touch with their local audience;
their board is made of American people, who want to promote French culture and French language;
doing so, they make the francophone world better known to American people and are instrumental in increasing further the relations between the U.S and the francophone countries.
In 2008, you were awarded the prestigious “Pro Lingua Award” by the Nebraska Association of Teachers of French, for the promotion of French language.
3) You are also a key member – perhaps the most important, as a Treasurer – of the American Friends of Musée d’Orsay. You also serve in many committees in this organization.
When we met, in the spring in Paris, it was in this great Museum. Musée d’Orsay is magnificent, in a large part, thanks to the generosity and involvement of people like you.
4) In your professional career, in the insurance sector, you met a lot of success. In particular, you played an important role in the merging of your company with Axa, the French insurance company.
You won many coveted President Awards.
5) I noted that your French is excellent. If I remember well, you told me you learned it in the place where you were born, in the U.S. It is close to the Canadian border and people used to speak French there.
Your knowledge of French culture is remarkable. Actually, you are relentless in your efforts to discover even more. And I think you know much more about French culture than many French people.
I’m told that:
you have visited every single Metro Station in Paris – and there are many of them – to discover the surrounding;
I was also told that, consequently, Rosemary – who deserves to be recognized for standing by you - made you visit all churches that exist in Paris – and there are many;
You visited more French places than many French citizens have ever done;
When we were considering the distinction for you, we received well-deserved support letters from friends of yours. One person wrote “I know of no one who donates as much time and expertise to helping promote French language and culture in the U.S”.
Dear Bernie, it is my great, great pleasure to award you the National Order of Merit, with the rank of Knight.
The National Order of Merit is an order of the State awarded by the President of the French Republic. It was founded by President Charles de Gaulle to reward French and foreign nationals for distinguished achievements.
(I now have to say some official words in French)
Monsieur Bernard Duhaime, au nom du Président de la République, et en vertu des pouvoirs qui nous sont conférés, nous vous faisons Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite./.