Ladies and gentlemen, my dear french and american friends



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LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, MY DEAR FRENCH AND AMERICAN FRIENDS,

IT IS AN HONOR AND A REAL PLEASURE FOR ME TO ADDRESS YOU ON THIS VERY SPECIAL EVENING. FIRST I WOULD LIKE TO THANK VERY WARMLY MRS CAROL FEDERIGHI, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF LAFAYETTE, AS WELL AS STEVE FALK, CITY MANAGER, AND MRS JOANNE ROBBINS, CITY CLERK. AND, OF COURSE, I ACKNOWLEDGE THE PRESENCE OF GAYLE UILKEMA, CONTRA COSTA COUNTY SUPERVISOR AND FORMER MAYOR OF LAFAYETTE.


I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO THANK JAY LIFSON, DIRECTOR OF THE LAFAYETTE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, AND OF COURSE TONY EICHERS, GENERAL MANAGER OF THE HOTEL LAFAYETTE PARK, AS WELL AS MRS PATRICIA KUNZ, AND JAN DOUGLAS, – AND NATURALLY ALL THE STAFF WORKING HERE, IN THIS BEAUTIFUL HOTEL.
BUT HOW COULD WE IMAGINE SUCH AN EVENT WITHOUT SOME GOOD WINE TO ENJOY THE GATHERING ? SO I WOULD LIKE TO THANK ALSO THE DOMAINE CHANDON, FOR ITS GREAT CALIFORNIA SPARKLING WINE, THE CHÂTEAU POTELLE FOR THE CALIFORNIA STILL WINES WE ARE ENJOYING, AND OF COURSE THE COMITÉ OFFICIEL FOR THOSE GREAT WINES FROM FRANCE. I ALSO THANK A NEW INSTITUTION, THE FRENCH-AMERICAN CULTURAL SOCIETY. IT WILL, I HOPE, HAVE A GREAT FUTURE IN THE BAY AREA.

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MY DEAR FRIENDS,



WE ARE HAPPILY GATHERED HERE BY OUR COMMON FRIENDSHIP. OUR TWO COUNTRIES ARE UNITED BY A FRIENDSHIP THAT GOES BACK MORE THAN 200 YEARS, WHICH MAKES FRANCE THE OLDEST ALLY OF THE UNITED STATES. OUR TWO COUNTRIES HAVE NEVER GONE TO WAR AGAINST EACH OTHER.

BOTH THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE AND GEORGE WASHINGTON WERE MAGNIFICENT SYMBOLS OF THIS FRIENDSHIP.

HERE TONIGHT, ON THIS PANEL, YOU CAN READ RESOLUTION N° 171, WHICH THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES VOTED ON MAY 22ND, 2007, HONORING THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE. I INVITE YOU TO READ THIS LETTER, AS WELL AS A MUCH OLDER LETTER  FROM THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS TO KING LOUIS THE XVITH ON NOVEMBER 29TH 1781, JUST FORTY DAYS AFTER THE VICTORY AT YORKTOWN. IN THIS LETTER, THE CONGRESS MENTIONS, I QUOTE, “WITH VERY GREAT PLEASURE THE ZEAL AND ABILITY MANIFESTED BY THE COUNT OF ROCHAMBEAU”.

LAFAYETTE HAD FALLEN IN LOVE WITH HIS ADOPTED COUNTRY FROM THE MOMENT HE ARRIVED THERE, IN 1777. TO HIS WIFE HE WROTE, I QUOTE, "THE MANNERS OF THE PEOPLE HERE ARE SIMPLE, HONEST AND ALTOGETHER WORTHY OF THE COUNTRY WHERE EVERYTHING RE-ECHOES THE BEAUTIFUL NAME OF LIBERTY". YOU KNOW, SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE!

THE YOUNG ARISTOCRAT QUICKLY BECAME ONE OF WASHINGTON'S TOP LIEUTENANTS AND ALMOST A SON TO THE CHILDLESS AMERICAN COMMANDER (LAFAYETTE NAMED HIS OWN SON GEORGE WASHINGTON LAFAYETTE).

TO THIS DAY, THERE ARE OVER 400 FAYETTES AND LAFAYETTES AND FAYETTEVILLES IN THE UNITED STATES. LAFAYETTE IS A SYMBOL: DOZENS OF FRENCH MILITARY OFFICERS VOLUNTEERED TO FIGHT FOR AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE. YES, DURING YOUR REVOLUTION, GEORGE WASHINGTON'S ARMY WAS EQUIPPED LARGELY WITH WEAPONS SMUGGLED IN BY THE FRENCH.

LIKE CHATEAUBRIAND, LIKE TOCQUEVILLE, LAFAYETTE WAS “A MAN BEFORE HIS TIME”, AS YOU SAY. FOR OVER TWO CENTURIES, THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN FRANCE AND AMERICA HAS ALSO BEEN FORGED ON THE FIELD OF BATTLE. WE HAVE ALWAYS FOUGHT SIDE BY SIDE FOR THE MOST NOBLE OF CAUSES, OUR FREEDOM, AND TO PRESERVE THE FOUNDING PRINCIPLES OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE AND OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. THIS SOLIDARITY AND FRATERNITY HAVE STOOD THE TEST OF TIME, AND CONTINUE TO UNITE FRANCE AND THE UNITED STATES.

THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN OUR TWO COUNTRIES IS ESPECIALLY STRONG BECAUSE IT IS ROOTED IN SHARED VALUES. THE AMERICAN DREAM OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS MELDS READILY WITH THE IDEALS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.

FRANCE, LIKE THE UNITED STATES, BELIEVES THAT IT HAS A SPECIAL ROLE IN THE WORLD. THE VIEW THAT FRANCE HAS A “CIVILIZING MISSION” (LA MISSION CIVILISATRICE) IN THE WORLD ENDURES TODAY, AS IT DOES FOR THE UNITED STATES. AT THE HEART OF OUR FRENCH NATIONAL IDENTITY, AND AT THE HEART OF YOUR AMERICAN NATIONAL IDENTITY, THERE IS A PERMANENT SEARCH FOR VALUES THAT MIGHT BE SHARED BY OTHERS.

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YOUR PRESENCE BEARS TESTIMONY TO THE VITALITY AND SOLIDITY OF OUR FRIENDSHIP. THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN FRANCE AND THE UNITED STATES IS EXEMPLIFIED EVERY DAY IN SAN FRANCISCO WHERE THE FRENCH HAVE BEEN LIVING AND WORKING FOR A LONG TIME, WHERE THEIR NUMBER IS EVER-INCREASING. ACTUALLY THE FRENCH HAVE NEVER BEEN AS NUMEROUS AS THEY ARE TODAY IN THE BAY AREA !

THIS PAST MAY, AS YOU ARE ALL LIKELY AWARE, THE PEOPLE OF FRANCE ELECTED A NEW PRESIDENT. MR. NICOLAS SARKOZY WAS ELECTED ON A PLATFORM OF REFORM. HIS MISSION IS TO MODERNIZE FRANCE. AS HE LIKES TO SAY : “THE FRENCH ARE NOT AFRAID OF CHANGE. THEY ARE WAITING FOR IT.”

MY DEAR FRIENDS, THE ELECTION OF MR. SARKOZY ALSO COMES AT A VERY CRITICAL POINT IN THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FRANCE AND THE UNITED STATES. OUR ALLIANCE HAS NOW ENDURED SEVERAL YEARS OF UPS AND DOWNS, WHICH HAVE OFTEN BEEN QUITE EMOTIONAL ON BOTH ENDS. BUT TODAY, THE PRESIDENT POINTS OUT THAT FRANCE AND AMERICA HAVE SIMILAR AMBITIONS ; OUR VALUES AND OUR PRINCIPLES ARE SOUND AND WE SHOULD WORK TOGETHER TO SPREAD THEM. WE ARE NOT AFRAID TO BE CALLED PRO-AMERICAN. BUT MR. SARKOZY ALSO REMINDS US THAT BEING PRO-FRENCH DOES NOT MEAN BEING ANTI-AMERICAN. I BELIEVE THAT THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND FRANCE IS AS IMPORTANT TODAY AS IT HAS BEEN OVER THE LAST TWO CENTURIES. ALLIED DOES NOT MEAN ALIGNED AND WE HAVE ALWAYS FELT, AND WILL ALWAYS FEEL FREE TO EXPRESS OUR AGREEMENTS AND OUR DISAGREEMENTS – PRECISELY BECAUSE WE EMBRACE THE FACT THAT FRANCE IS A FRIEND AND AN ALLY OF THE UNITED STATES.



MY DEAR FRIENDS, TODAY, LET US EXPRESS OUR DEDICATION TO FRANCE, TO THE UNITED STATES, AND TO THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN OUR TWO GREAT NATIONS. LONG LIVE FRANCE. LONG LIVE AMERICA. LONG LIVE FRENCH-AMERICAN FRIENDSHIP. LONG LIVE THE CITY OF LAFAYETTE! THANK YOU.



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