Presentation of the insigna of Commandeur des Palmes Académiques to Prof. Naas
Remarks by Consul General of France Vincent Floreani on the occasion of the presentation ceremony of the insigna of Commandeur in the French Ordre des Palmes Académiques to Professor Michael Naas.
(May 21, 2015)
Dear Professor Michael Naas,
It is a great pleasure to be with you here today, with Pascale-Anne, with the President of the De Paul University, Father Holtschneider, to bestow upon you the insigna of Commandeur in the French Ordre des Palmes Académiques.
The Ordre des Palmes Académiques is the oldest and most highly respected award presented to scholars by the French government. It was created by Napoleon in 1808 to honor "teaching and the development of knowledge".
The bestowal of the "Palmes académiques" outside of France is always, for us, a declaration of admiration and of thanks to those who have dedicated much of their lives, work and talent to the knowledge, analysis, understanding, and communication of French culture.
The grade of Commandeur is the third and most prestigious one. It is a rare distinction. Only two American citizens have received it in the past five years.
Past recipients include the great scholars Germaine Brée and Rebecca Valette, the President of the American Association of Teachers of French Margot Steinhart, the President of Council for the Development of French in Louisiana William Arceneaux, and the Vice-President of the University of California Ronald Tobin.
For this extraordinary honor, Michael, you are actually skipping a step- advancing directly from the title of Chevalier to Commandeur, without first having been named Officier!
This is an acknowledgment by the French Governement of your significant contribution to the promotion of the French language, to the communication of French ideas, and to the advancement of French culture.
The prevalence of the French culture and language in the United States owes a lot to you, dear Michael
Dear Michael, allow me to try to sum up in a few words your long and rich career .
You have been a professor of philosophy at DePaul University since 1990 and, since 2010, you have also been the chair of the philosophy department, which is the first department of continental philosophy in the United States.
Before becoming a professor and chair of philosophy at DePaul, you received your doctorate at the State University of New York Stony Brook.
In France, you presented a thesis on Maurice Blanchot at Paris I - La Sorbonne after having taken seminars with Jacques Derrida and Julia Kristeva.
Jacques Derrida wrote the following about you: "Mr. Naas is clearly a top researcher and teacher...I have the greatest esteem for his sense of intellectual and academic responsibility...No university should pass up the opportunity of hiring such a candidate."
DePaul has clearly heeded this good advice.
You are a specialist of Greek philosophy, a reader of Plato, and a scholar of the great modern writers, notably Jean-François Lyotard, Emmanuel Lévinas, Jean-Luc Nancy, Hélène Cixous, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, and of course Jacques Derrida, champion of "deconstruction."
You dedicated at least five works to Derrida, including Miracle and Machine, Derrida from Now On, and Taking on the Tradition. your study of Derrida sought to explain Derrida´s context within the history of philosophy. Thiswas not an easy task , especially for a body of work in the process of being created by its author.
All of the aforementioned philosophers are or have been, to a certain degree, great stylists, geniuses of the French language.
Dear Michael, your talent is not only in reading and teaching these works but also in translating them into English, with the help of Pascale-Anne, and in reproducing the beauty of the French language that each author reinvents. Through this work, you brought new life to works originally written in French.
Together with Pascale-Anne, you translated more than ten works and several scholarly articles. Since 2008, you have both also participated in the "Derrida Seminar Translators´ Project" which takes place each summer at the Institut Mémoires de l´Edition Contemporaine. The project brings together six American professors involved in the translation of the seminars given by Derrida at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales during a 20 year period.
These kinds of herculean tasks do not dissuade you and Pascale-Anne. Today, your team is made of both an Officier and a Commandeur . French cultural is certainly well looked after in Chicago.
I would also like to acknowledge your invaluable contribution to the partnerships between DePaul and the French consulate general. Fabrice, Attaché Culturel, and Denis, his deputy, can both confirm that.
This important relationship between the Consulate and the departments of French and philosophy at DePaul University was not created by chance but by the remarkable work of Michael Naas and Pascale-Anne Brault, whose professional and personal teamwork is exceptional.
Together, we have achieved so many wonderful projects. I´m referring to the symposium about capital punishment, a social portrait of Marseille with Arte Radio, a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Proust´s Swann´s Way, and a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I.
This year, the preparation for the international conference on climate in Paris marks a new step in this collaboration.
I´d like to mention also that each semester, students from DePaul work as interns at the Cultural Service. Their presence has become indispensable to the work of our department.
The French philosophers whom you study, like Derrida, Foucault, and Nancy, hoped to better the human condition by educating, by bringing help to the weakest, by including the excluded, by revising preconceived ideas and encouraging human beings to be more sensitive to others, whatever their race, gender, class or religion.
Michael - like Pascale-Anne, you contribute to this collective effort to make the world better, but especially to make it more intelligent.
Now, I would like to officially recognize Professor Naas for all his accomplishments.
Monsieur Michael Naas, au nom du ministre de l´Education Nationale, je vous fais Commandeur dans l´Ordre des Palmes académiques./.