Speech by Ambassador François Delattre
Gala au bénéfice du programme de bourses de la Fondation Louisiane
Lafayette, 28 juin 2012
Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne,
Mayor and Parish President Joey Durel,
Louisiana Senators and State Representatives,
Chère Madame May Waggoner, Présidente de la Fondation Louisiane,
Dr William Arceneaux, Président du CODOFIL,
Mr Tyron Picard,
Monsieur Philippe Gustin, Directeur du Centre International de Lafayette,
Monsieur le Consul général Jean-Claude Brunet,
Monsieur le Consul honoraire Christian Goudeau,
French-American relations, and this is good news, have never been closer than they are today, as illustrated by the very successful visit last month of President François Hollande to the U.S., literally three days after his inauguration.
Indeed, if you think about it (…).
And needless to say, the special relationship between Louisiana and France is a key component of the French-American partnership.
So it is a great pleasure and honor to join you tonight in Lafayette — the heart of Acadiana, comprising the largest number of French-speakers in Louisiana — for this Gala supporting the scholarship program of the Fondation Louisiane.
Louisiana, which celebrates this year its bicentennial, has always been the hub for paths of hope, becoming a land of rich cultural and linguistic identities that have learnt to coexist and prosper together.
Tomorrow I will visit St Martinville and the Acadian Memorial. I am sure they will remind me of Grand Pré and its region, which I got to know while serving as Ambassador to Canada.
Overcoming hard time and centuries, the people from Acadiana have played a crucial role in keeping all the French-speaking cultures alive in Louisiana. It is a very vivid and joyful culture indeed, whose festivals, music, film, spicy food and friendly atmosphere are attracting more and more of our compatriots to your beautiful home.
France has supported from the onset the endeavour of CODOFIL, in particular by seconding for three year periods French teachers. An average of 120 of them is still today present in Louisiana.
Last year, France expressed its readiness to support CODOFIL and the renewed mandate it had received from the Louisiana lawmakers. And here I want to thank Senator Lafleur in particular for his personal commitment to CODOFIL.
Today I’m here to stand with you and among you to support La Fondation Louisiane and CODOFIL in the implementation of these objectives, programs and projects.
What you have achieved to maintain and develop French education is tremendous, and education institutions in France, including school boards and academies, universities and research institutions are very keen to participate to this extraordinary experience and to support you.
CODOFIL is a key asset for Louisiana as a whole and we trust the State of Louisiana for providing it with the resources it needs to fulfill its very important mission.
These projects I was referring to can further develop ties between Louisiana and France and foster new bilateral opportunities in tourism, culture and business relations.
Again, that is a crucial asset in today’s global markets. France is a gateway to 500 million consumers in Europe—the world’s largest regional market— as well as those in the Middle East and Africa. In R&D and higher education, as well as in innovation, France ranks at the very top in Europe. The U.S. is the leading foreign investor in France.
I therefore always encourage my American partners to “Think Europe, and then choose France.”
In Louisiana, it seems to me that I don’t have to. I’m here as a partner to support developing your own asset of a possible bilingual or multi-lingual future for the next generations.
Compared to the other States in the US, you have a unique opportunity to make a difference in promoting your heritage culture and languages.
The visit of Lieutenant –Governor Jay Dardenne next fall to France will offer new momentum in our relationship, to enhance scholars and students exchanges and to bring more French tourists, and more business people to Louisiana, and vice- versa.
Mr. Lieutenant-Governor, Consul Jean-Claude Brunet and I will bring you all the support you need to make your trip a success.
It is also my objective to promote ties between schools, universities, and businesses in Lafayette and in Poitiers, Rennes, La Rochelle and other places in France.
The Fondation Louisiane, chaired by Dr. May Wagonner, was established some years ago with the strong support of Dr. William Arceneaux, President of CODOFIL. And the Fondation has become an invaluable tool in promoting bilateral exchanges of high school and university students, particularly students from the Escadrille Louisiane program, who will eventually become the next teachers of French immersion in Louisiana.
I strongly believe that with the dedication of the many convinced supporters that you have gained over the recent years, and continue to rally, especially those I have the pleasure to meet tonight at this Gala, you will succeed in your endeavor.
France is proud and honored to partner with Fondation Louisiane and CODOFIL to encourage Louisiana living, working and dreaming in French!
So let me conclude on this positive note and express my warmest thanks to each and everyone of you for your commitment and support.
Vive l’Acadiana! Vive la Louisiane et vive la France!