Remarks by Deputy Consul General Jean-Christophe Paris on French Connection Day 2016.
On Sunday, August 14, 2016, Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois hosted French Connection Day 2016. French Connection Day brings together 15,000 French and French enthusiasts to celebrate French culture and the common history between France and the United States.
It is a great pleasure to be with you today to celebrate French Connection Day. I would like to sincerely thank the organizers of this exciting event, The French Market and Cantigny Park, for their kind invitation. Congratulations on this wonderful event that combines French culture and our collective history.
I have to admit, this is my first time at Cantigny, and what an impressive and beautiful place it is!
The French-American ties at Cantigny run deep. It is a friendship that was born from the ashes of two world wars.
It started in 1918, on the battlefields of Picardy in Northern France. In May of that year, the American troops engaged in the very first American battle of World War I. The 1st Division, the most experienced of 5 divisions in France during that time, led a successful attack against the German 8th Army in the village of Cantigny. This victory was crucial for the Allied forces in Europe.
One of its heroes is Colonel Robert McCormick of Chicago. He left for Europe as a war correspondent for the Tribune in 1915 and later joined the Illinois National Guard. He commanded the famous 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment with the 1st Division, during the battle of Cantigny. His military unit was the oldest on continuous duty having existed since the Revolutionary War.
His experience at Cantigny left a lasting impact on his life and legacy. Today, 98 years later, we celebrate this history and friendship on his extraordinary estate which he renamed Cantigny in memory of the historic battle, and the men he served with.
In Cantigny, France there stands a monument he dedicated in 1937 immortalizing the Battle of Cantigny of May 1918. Two other monuments stand in this French village; one erected in 1919 by the 1st Division honoring the soldiers who perished during the battle. And the other one, “The Lion of Cantigny” dedicated in 2008 depicting a 1st Division doughboy.
Our common history continued during the Second World War. At the dawn of June 6, 1944, on D-Day, the 1st Division was part of the first wave of troops to land on Omaha Beach. The “Big Red One” suffered many casualties but fought bravely across France, and later Belgium and Germany.
The sculpture located in the south Courtyard behind the 1st Division Museum is another reminder of our common history. This remarkable piece is a half size bronze casting of “The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves” located in France at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer.
Thanks to Colonel McCormick, his legacy, leadership, and the important work of his foundation, the memory of these times will remain for future generations.
The consulate general of France in Chicago is proud to partner with Cantigny and the 1st Division museum on remembrance projects, such the Centennial commemoration of the Great War, and ceremonies to honor veterans who fought on French soil during WWII.
France and the U.S have a unique relationship based on multifaceted cooperation. Every year, our two countries partner in the cultural, education, and scientific fields with cross-exchanges and programs benefitting both our peoples.
Our economic ties are strong. The USA is France’s largest trading partner outside of the EU. It is the first foreign investor and the first destination of French investment abroad.
Perhaps the most crucial players in the collaboration between our two countries are all of you here, and all of the members of our community and local government who continue to work toward a common understanding of our two cultures.
Today, French Connection Day is an affirmation of these human connections and the importance of keeping the memory of our common history alive.
I wish you a great day, and please stop at our booth "A la carte Chicago" to learn about the second annual French Food Festival to take place in the Chicago area this October.
Thank you for your kind attention! ./.