DISCOURS DE M. DE BOISSIERE LE 14 JUILLET 2007
I am delighted to be here with you today to celebrate Bastille Day. I am also very happy that Beatrice, my wife, could join me for the event. She just arrived in Chicago with 5 of our 6 children. Since my arrival 5 months ago, as Consul General, I have greatly enjoyed Chicago .
I believe Chicago qualifies as a “moveable feast”, the expression Ernest Hemingway used to describe his life in Paris, where he spent a few years during “les années folles” and perfected his extraordinary writing skills.
For him, Paris was more than a great place. Paris was a lasting experience, which you could carry with you and enjoy forever. As Hemingway puts it in the last page of his book : “there is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it ..."
I feel the same about Chicago.
I would like to start by saying to the American community how much I appreciate your friendliness, your warmth, your open minds and entrepreneurial yet socially conscious attitude. The social market economy is a European concept but if it were to apply anywhere in America it would certainly be in Chicago !
Being posted in Chicago is a wonderful opportunity and a great honor indeed. I hope I will be up to the challenge.
I use the word challenge because I sincerely believe in furthering the mutually fruitful, long-lasting partnership between France and the Midwest.
The French presence and the cooperation between us is already economically and culturally significant. We have established strong and valuable ties with prominent institutions such as the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the Chicago Public Schools. French companies are active and successful here : let me mention the contract awarded by the City of Chicago to Jean-Claude Decaux for bus shelters, the water distribution concession of Veolia Water in Indianapolis, and the Joint Venture in airplane engines between Snecma and General Electric in Cincinnati. Culturally, the appeal of France in Chicago and the Midwest is evident, through the numerous exhibitions and events taking place year round.
In my view, the untapped potential is enormous. France and the Midwest have many things in common : our populations and economies have roughly the same size. Both are very diversified and internationally oriented. Here, as in France, values are deep-seated, maybe because we share a strong agricultural tradition and a passion for innovation and excellence.
I believe this potential can be used to build a new partnership, greatly benefiting both parties. This partnership could also be a role model for the strong relations that France and the United States should establish in the 21st Century.
This is the vision I would like to share with you. Nothing can be done without your support and commitment.
Now, I would like to turn to Eileen Hubbell who is representing Mayor Daley today and thank her for the very kind message she has given us on his behalf. Thank you Eileen for your constant support.
Thank you friends, officials, businessmen, professors, men and women of talent and culture. I see your presence as a token of recognition for the role of France in the Midwest. This is of great value to us.
I would also like to express my regards and appreciation to my fellow Consul Generals who are not only great individuals, but are also deeply dedicated to their missions. It is a pleasure to work with you and to learn from your experience and advice.
One of the reasons why it is so enjoyable to be the Consul General of France in the Midwest is that we have a formidable French community. Though we are not the largest community, the numbers are significant - 8,000 registered French citizens, probably 20,000 in total. - This is a high quality group of individuals. Whether CEO’s, architects, doctors, professors, artists, all are well integrated in the local community, to which they actively contribute yet maintain strong ties with France.
The French community has followed with great interest the latest presidential elections, as evidenced by the very high turnout rate in the Midwest, about four times as many voters than during the 2002 elections.
As you probably know, French citizens residing abroad are represented by elected counselors who defend their interests in the Assemblée des Français de l’Etranger, the Assembly of French abroad.
I am especially happy today to pay tribute to Monsieur Charles Balesi, Conseiller des Français de l’étranger, a long time Chicago resident whose commitment to the well being of the French community is well known and greatly appreciated.
I would also like to emphasize the role played by the various French-American institutions of Chicago, who fulfill very important functions for the community, while contributing to the promotion of friendship and cooperation between France and the United States : the Alliance Française, the French-American Chamber of Commerce, the French Lycée, the French American School at Abraham Lincoln School, the France-Chicago foundation, le Groupe professionnel francophone, and the two associations UFEC and ADFE.
Thank you Jack McCord, Genevieve Gandal, John Costello, Sylvette Nicolini, Dr. Tinich, and Dan Bertsche ... for being here with us today and thank you for your extraordinary dedication and drive.
I would also like to commend the men and women who work with me at the French Consulate. Their task is not always an easy one. It is a small team, facing many daily requests and demands. The officers of the Consulate are servicing users of many nationalities, while making sure that our laws and regulations are properly implemented. They do it with commitment, competence, availability and respect.
Over the past 5 months, I have come to know each one of them, and I appreciate their human qualities and their commitment to public service. I am proud to represent them and from the bottom of my heart I want to say thank you.
Finally, I would like to recognize our partners who are generously contributing to the success of this celebration, Air France, TV5-DishNetwork, and of course, the prestigious Union League Club.
The fourteenth of July is about celebrating the values of the French Republic and our national unity.
The storming of the Bastille is a historical event but more importantly a symbol. It would not have left such a deep mark in history without the abolition of the privileges of the Old Regime, and the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in 1789.
This Declaration is arguably one of the most important documents in the history of mankind. It was succeeded a few weeks later by the American Bill of Rights. Both declarations are inspired by the same principles, drawn from the philosophy of enlightenment.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Republican principles have been inspirational in our political life over the last two centuries. The attempts to restore the Old Regime, from Louis the Eighteenth to the Second Empire, did not prevent the Republic from prevailing after the fall of Napoleon the Third.
During the last Century, the Republic was temporarily brought down during the dark hours of the Nazi invasion and of the Vichy regime. But the flame of the Republic was kept alive by the General de Gaulle. The liberation of France in 1944, thanks to our American and British Allies, was also a political liberation, and the Republican ideals have been thriving ever since.
Is the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen still a relevant reference at the dawn of the 21st Century ? I would adamantly say yes.
Today’s global world is far from being a place where peace, freedom, liberty of speech and fraternity prevail ! We can understand some of the mysteries of matter, we can describe the human genome, our command of technology is unprecedented, and yet the planet is still suffering, and democracy is a mere shadow in so many places !
This is why it so important, for countries such as France and the United States, to relentlessly remain faithful to the eternal values of essential human and political rights, as established by the Fathers of our respective democracies.
These universal principles of democracy and freedom take on a new dimension in a global and emerging world. In this world cultural diversity and inter-cultural dialogue, preservation of the resources of our planet, and the right to education and health, are becoming the key elements to our common destiny and the future of our children.
In working together on the preservation of these fundamental principles, we honor the spirit of our forefathers and the ideals they established.
Let me conclude by reasserting how much we, French men and women, value our friendship with the American people. Over the past 250 years, we have fought together for freedom and democracy. On many occasions, we have shared joy and pain. In 1944, General Eisenhower led the Army that freed France from the scourge of fascism. Since then, we have stood together to defend our values against totalitarian ideologies, terrorism, and crime. We have had our disagreements, as is normal between free and strong-minded countries, but we have always been able to overcome our differences. There is much we must do together to make the world a better place. The election of the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has - and rightly so in my view - raised expectations about a new momentum in French-American relations.
Let us celebrate Bastille Day. Let us celebrate the historical friendship between France and the United States.
Vive l’amitié franco-américaine !
Vive les Etats-Unis !
Vive la France ! ./.