Annual Meeting of the Federation of Alliances Françaises
Chicago, October 25, 2013
Chère Présidente, Dear Carole Crosby,
Monsieur l’Ambassadeur Savadogo,
Cher Hervé et Isabelle de La Vauvre, Président de l’Alliance Française de Chicago,
Cher Jack McCord, Directeur de l’Alliance Française de Chicago,
Chère Madame Morieux, Représentante de la Fondation Alliance française,
Dear Members of the Federation, Dear Friends, Chers Amis,
It’s a great pleasure for our Consul General Graham Paul and for me to join you today for this convention and the annual meeting of the Federation of Alliances Françaises, and to see so many familiar faces and friends. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to return to the great city of Chicago, where the Federation is based, and to pay tribute to the outstanding work done by the Alliances Françaises in the U.S. I want to thank each and everyone of you for your hard work and commitment to French language and culture.
Created in 1902, the Federation comprises more than 100 chapters, making it the largest and strongest network of its kind in the world. What a great success story !
As a musician, Carol Crosby conducts this diverse organization as a maestro, the way a composer unites all the different parts of a symphony. Under her great leadership, the Federation plays a major role in promoting the French language and culture in the U.S. and we all know that culture is a cornerstone of the French-American relationship.
In this respect, I have good news today : French-American relations have never been stronger than they are today.
This is true on the diplomatic and security front
- Mali/fight against terrorism
- Central African Republic
There is a very active political dialogue between the two administrations but also, thanks to a growing French Caucus, with Congress.
The economic partnership between our two countries is also growing stronger every year, as indicated by the many business ties and cross-investments. The U.S. is France’s largest trading partner outside of the EU, and even more importantly, it is the number-one destination of French investments abroad and the top foreign investor in France. This robust American investment demonstrates the vitality of the French economy, and the fact that the situation of the euro zone is improving. France is currently implementing new structural pro-business and pro-growth reforms, to bring more flexibility into its labor market and promote innovation in particular – and innovation is France’s number 1, number2 and number 3 priority.
On a more human level, what truly connects our two peoples is cultural understanding. That is why your work is so crucial. In many regions and cities, the Alliance Française is the flagship of France and often the only opportunity to be exposed to French culture. Your groundwork is invaluable in the promotion of French culture and language, but in addition to that, it is a way for Americans to experience the best of France and everything French without leaving the country.
Today, French is spoken in 55 countries across five continents and by around 220 million people worldwide. It will be close to 800 million in 2050. In that context, it makes sense that the Alliance network is increasingly opening up to the broader world of La Francophonie.
In the U.S., for instance, there are around 2.1 million French-speaking people and the French language is the second-most-taught foreign language in American schools.
You, the Alliances Françaises, are showing the different facets of French culture and art de vivre to all audiences. I am always impressed by the wide array of programs you offer, from academic conferences to cinema and cooking classes. It is remarkable how you have succeeded in diversifying your activities in order to appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds.
To support your mission, you can rely on the full support of the Foundation and its delegation in the US. Here, I would like to recognize Madame Isabelle Morieux, déléguée géographique Amérique du Nord, who has come specially from Paris to be here with us today. May I also acknowledge Jean-François Hans, délégue général, and Carlos Tabernos, délégué général adjoint, who are now hosted at our Embassy in Washington. This proximity will enable us to even further enhance the cooperation between the Foundation, the Federation and our cultural services – represented today by our deputy cultural counselor Thomas Michelon. Currently, the French government is funding six directorial positions, including one in Chicago, within the U.S. Alliance network, which also enjoys the support of the Institut français for its programming. Now more than ever, it is essential that all the partners work together to advance our common goals.
As you know, culture is an integral part of our diplomacy and one of our major priorities. Here in the U.S., in particular, we would like to further promote cooperation between universities and institutions of higher learning, to showcase not only our heritage but the innovative and creative French culture of today, and to stimulate intellectual exchanges and cross-cultural debates. For that I know we can count on you. As Ambassador, promoting University collaborations is one of my top priorities (…)
One of our challenges is to be present and relevant in the face of rapidly changing technology. Many initiatives have recently been launched. For instance Culturthèque now offers digital resources for participating Alliances. Here in the Midwest, through an exemplary cooperation between the Alliance Française, the University of Chicago and the cultural services, interactive Webinars featuring French speakers have been broadcast to audiences at several other Alliances in the region. I hope that this project will serve as a model for future programs. I, personally, am committed to developing new synergies, sharing best practices and maximizing the potential of our cultural network in order to broaden our reach to the national level. There are so many examples of this concept in action, such as film festivals, author tours, the Francophonie month in March, and much more.
As a representative of the French government, I am very grateful to all of you for your passion and personal commitment to French culture and language. I am impressed that so many of you are devoting your time and energy to advance the mission of the Alliance Française in the United States. I wish you a great and inspiring convention and much success in the coming year !
And again, from the bottom of my heart, MERCI !