Susan Lehrman awarded of the insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor
Residence of France, April 19, 2012
Dr. and Mrs. Billington,
Congressman and Mrs. Symington,
The Honorable Joseph Duffey,
Rabbi and Mrs. Lustig,
I am delighted to welcome you tonight to the Résidence de France for this ceremony and dinner in honor of Susan Lehrman, an exceptional individual, a superb professional and a great friend of France.
I would like to extend a warm welcome to Susan’s family and friends who have joined us tonight to show their support and admiration – some of whom have come from very far away.
With a special word of thanks to Susan’s husband Sam and to her mother, Mrs. Mary Johnson, to both of whom I also want to pay tribute this evening. We owe you so much too.
As Susan said in a recent interview – and I quote : “My greatest mentor has been and still is my Mother. From a very early age, she always encouraged me to look beyond the exterior of a person, and really try to discover what’s in their heart. This very fundamental advice has been a wonderful gift to me…” (end of quote).
I see this gathering as a reflection of your personality: your kindness, your loyalty, your attentiveness, your generous spirit…this is what brought all of us together here tonight.
You began your career in photography and advertising, a highly demanding environment in which one must be “in the know” at all times, ready to make instant decisions and able to identify the latest trends while anticipating the future.
Your client list included some of the country’s most prestigious companies: Philip Morris, American Express, Food and Wine Magazine, Gourmet Magazine, and General Foods.
This work gave you the opportunity to develop an extraordinary ability to identify and highlight what is essential, paired with an exceptional sense of communication.
Your subsequent career is better known: You became an important figure in the world of New York commercial real estate, an equally competitive arena. You began by founding a company that created a real estate database, Location, Inc., and spent time at Douglas Elliman Inc. before establishing Lehrman LLC, one of New York’s top commercial real estate firms. You proved yourself to be a very successful businesswoman.
You also have a deep passion for beauty and the arts. You graduated from the University of Florida with a fine arts degree. Your impeccable taste characterizes all of your endeavors: your professional decisions, your working relationships, the causes you choose to support, your thoughtfulness with others. If I may say, your byword is “elegance”. You like everything to be simple, natural, perhaps even understated. That’s the hight of elegance, and for you, this means perfection.
Your extraordinary commitment to cultural and humanitarian causes is perhaps the best expression of this élégance du cœur. You also have a profound understanding of the diplomatic value of culture, and of the lasting impact it can have in forging bonds of friendship between countries with diverse traditions. Your efforts to bring cultures together are so exemplary in many respects that the Diplomatic Courrier recently published an entire article about you entitled: “Madam Ambassador”.
You indeed embraced Washington’s cultural life with great style and insight, and you are one of the city’s most inspired philanthropists.
You have played a major role in the development of the Washington National Opera by supporting its annual Ball for a number of years.
You have done this with great sensitivity and intelligence, achieving two firsts — bringing the Ball to both the Russian and Chinese Embassies.
You have given this event a luster that no one will forget.
What impresses me the most in considering the many causes you support is your long-term vision, and the consistency of your commitments, of which these are just a few examples:
You have eased the suffering of others by aiding in the construction and renovation of major health facilities and institutions, such as the Carmel Cancer Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, a wing at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, and the Robert Carmel Conference Room at Lenox Hill Hospital.
In another sphere, you have always shown great interest in educational projects and have supported such programs as the Fulbright scholarship, the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, and the American University Initiative for Russian Culture.
You are also the major supporter of Kids Euro Festival, which the French Embassy launched in 2008, during France’s presidency of the European Union. Your exceptional generosity enabled this festival to grow, and become not only a highlight of D.C.’s cultural calendar, but also the largest children’s performing arts festival in the United States.
This original program brings together 27 European embassies and 35 prestigious U.S. institutions in a unique cooperative spirit.
Thanks to you, dear Susan, the Kids Euro Festival offers the children of the Metro area more than 200 free performances each year, opening the door to a world of cultural experiences.
You are a real inspiration to this festival and a key partner, suggesting particularly innovative and meaningful approaches.
Dear Susan, your longstanding love affair with France and your appreciation for its culture have made you a precious ally in our public diplomacy, and an outstanding ambassador for our values.
In recognition of your efforts on behalf of our country’s cultural heritage and your contribution to its role and influence, in recognition of your personal involvement in the arts and your humanitarian efforts, President Nicolas Sarkozy decided to name you, from his personal reserve, a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
The Legion of Honor was created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte to reward outstanding services rendered to France and extraordinary accomplishments.
It is France’s highest award and one of the most coveted distinctions in the world.
So tonight is is a great privilege for me to bestow upon you Susan the insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
Susan Lehrman, au nom du Président de la République, nous vous faisons Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur./.