Norbert GAILLARD awarded Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite
Rainier Club, Seattle, October 17, 2011
Cher Norbert GAILLARD,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure, and a true honor for our Consul General Romain Serman, our Honorary Consul Jack Cowan and for me, to be with you tonight, here in the Rainier Club, a prestigious and historical landmark of the City of Seattle.
Tonight, France wants to express her gratitude to an outstanding professional and also a wonderful and a special person whom you all know : Norbert GAILLARD.
I would like to greet Norbert’s family and friends who have joined us this evening to show their support and admiration. With a special word of thanks to his lovely wife Sylvie, to whom I would also like to pay tribute today.
We can judge your merit by your qualities, which are numerous: high professionalism, tenacity, and dedication to work ; but also loyalty, genuine kindness, an enormous amount of generosity, modesty (this is not a typical French quality) ; taste for adventure – Sylvie could testify that you are fond of the unexpected.
You graduated from two engineering schools in Paris, ESTACA and ESTA - two leading French schools dedicated to aeronautical and aerospace disciplines.
As an expert – a brilliant expert – in the field of propulsion and aeronautics, you joined the French engine manufacturer, SNECMA, right after your graduation in 1973.
And you never left your company, a jewel of the French industry, now part of SAFRAN. As I said, loyalty and high professionalism are your trademarks.
Through your career, you worked on key industrial programs: the Concorde ; the A320 ; the A340 ; the CFM56 engine, which is, as we all know, the most successful engine in the world.
Your career was exemplary, and you never stopped assuming increasing responsibilities within SNECMA and then SAFRAN.
Let me tell you that as current Director of SAFRAN USA and Senior Vice-President for Boeing Programs, you are a great source of pride for the French industry and for our country.
Cher Norbert, the use you made of your many qualities has led the President of the French Republic Nicolas Sarkozy to bestow the Medal of National Merit, one of France’s highest awards, on you.
Let me develop this in three words : leadership – diplomacy – dedication to France.
Leadership. You have always considered that you should put your talent to the service of those you work with.
You have always considered success being the result of team-work, and certainly not of a single person’s effort.
In the early 1990’s, you were heading an Integrated Product Team within Boeing, in charge of the development of the “Next Generation 737 (Seven Thirty-Seven)”. This was the first time that a supplier – and a French one ! – was leading a group of Boeing engineers. And you did a fantastic job, because you were respected for your leadership.
Diplomacy. With you, the customers are always 100% satisfied, because you have all the skills of a pure diplomat : your ability to listen to people’s concerns, to resolve crisis, to make friends.
So it should come as no surprise that you have strongly contributed to the strengthening of French-American relations. Some of your friends – I will not drop any names – even describe you as “a modern Lafayette”.
Indeed, you have built trust between French and American industries. You have built true and long-lasting friendships. You have built Franco-American products.
If you decide to leave SAFRAN, I can assure you that you will get a great job at the French embassy in Washington !
Dedication to France. You never stopped promoting the image of France and supporting French influence : as French counsellor for foreign trade, as board member of the French-American Chamber of Commerce Pacific North-West, as member of the Alliance française.
You put your talents to the service of France, and for this too our country is very grateful and proud of you.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The medal of Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite was founded in 1963 by the General de Gaulle. It is one of France’s most prestigious disinctions.
So today, on behalf of President Sarkozy, it is my pleasure and my privilege to bestow this Medal on you in recognition of your exceptional commitment to France, to French-American friendship and to the community.
Au nom du Président de la République, et en vertu des pouvoirs qui nous sont conférés, nous vous faisons Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite”./.