What Is at Stake Today
What Is at Stake Today ?
Fiftieth anniversary of the French Consulate in Houston:
Speech by H. E. Jean David Levitte, Ambassador of France to the United
States. Austin, October 25, 2003.
Source: Embassy of France in the U.S., Washington D.C.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be with you today in Austin to
celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the French Consulate in Houston. I am
delighted to see that so many French and American people came to this event. I
want to thank the organizers, especially here in Austin, and I wish you a
joyfull stay in this beautiful city and a very, very happy celebration.
Even if a golden jubilee marks indeed an important milestone,
we must keep in mind that the common history that France shares with this part
of the United States of America goes back much longer that these last fifty
We should first remember Cavelier, sieur de la Salle, who
landed in Matagorda Bay in 1685 with three vessels among which La Belle, that
was excavated in 1995 and is still under restauration at the University of Texas
A and M in College Station before being shown at the Texas Historical Museum in
Austin. Cavelier de La Salle was among those French explorers, settlers, exiles
or missionaries who came to this part of the world year after year, not only to
Texas but also to Oklahoma and Arkansas.
The presence of France is still recognized among the six
flags of Texas, and of course in names like Little Rock (Petite pierre), La
Grange, Paris (Texas) or Fayetteville, not to mention Louisiana.
That is the reason why the French Consulate wanted to
celebrate this event in a very emblematic place : this beautiful and so charming
former French Legation in Austin. I would like to seize this opportunity to
thank the daughters of the Republic of Texas for allowing us to use this
As you know, France was the first country which recognized
the new republic of Texas founded in 1836 and Dubois de Saligny became the first
Ambassador to the republic of Texas. Other French representatives succeeded him,
in San Antonio, the largest city in the region at that time.
But the real big move was made in July 1953 when France
opened a Consulate in Houston. You could ask yourselves why Houston was chosen
over Dallas or Austin. The main reason, at this time, was the developpement of
the port of Houston, which had quite a lot of trade with France. In 1955,
according to our archives, 363 French vessels anchored there, almost one per day.
Since then, our presence has constantly grown in the three
states from few hundreds in 1953, to more than ten thounsand today.
On trade and economic issues, our links are also very strong. More than 150
French companies or subsidiaries of French companies are employing over 60 000
people. Some of them had a difficult time recently, but many are doing very well
like Schlumberger, Accor, Essilor, Tractebel, EADS, Dassault Falcon Jet,
Oberthur, the French Banks, Axa or Zodiac.
We have also established successfully three French-American
schools in Austin, Dallas and Houston which are very good supports for the
business community and contribute to the cultural diversity of those cities.
I am confident that we will continue to have a lot of common
projects to share in the coming months and years, that will give me the
opportunity to come back : the exhibitions of La Belle’s artefacts which are
taking place all over Texas, the creation of a French-texan Cultural Foundation,
the opening of the French-texan center in Normandy, for which the governor has
deployed a lot of energy, the opening of the Bill Clinton Library, the pursuit
of crossed-investments both in France and in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, in
particular in biotechnology, information technologies, transportation and
agribusiness. As you can see, there are a lot of success stories in this part of
the country between France and the USA.
And we don’t forget that this part of the country is also the
place from where all presidents of the United States of the last 13 years are
Let me conclud with fews words on the French-American
Our two countries were side by side, in the early days of
your war for independance. One week ago, I was at Yorktown to commemorate the
decisive victory of this war and the Franco-American alliance and friendship
forged on this battlefield.
America in turn has given unfailing support to France in the
most tragic circumstances. Twice last century, in 1917 and 1944, American
soldiers have restored freedom in my country, on my continent.
We will never forget.
And forever the names of Pershing, Einsenhower and Patton
will echo in our memories the names of Rochambeau, Lafayette and de Grasse.
In a few months, we will commemorate, on the sixth of June
2004, the sixtieth anniversary of D-day and pay tribute to all the American
heroes who sacrificed their young lives on the beaches of Normandy.
You wanted France to be free, and as a free people we express
our views. Only true friends and family members can argue their differences
through frank and candid discussions. On Iraq, it triggered a diplomatic
hurricane. But today, the storm is abating.
The storm is abating and we rediscover that our alliance has
survived, and the tight bound of friendship which unites us for two hundred and
twenty two years is truly indestructible.
Ladies and gentlemen, my friends,
We live in a dangerous world, a world transformed by 9/11. On
this very day, I was in New York as the French Ambassador to the United Nations.
I saw the destruction of the twin towers from my office, on the forty fourth
floor of an another skyscraper. I will remember this tradedy for the rest of my
days. And President Chirac was the first head of State to come to Washington and
New York to express the solidarity of France with the American people.
France participated in the war in Afghanistan with five
thousand troops and we maintain hundreds of them in Kabul and the border, side
by side with yours. Elsewhere, in the Balkans, in Africa, American and French
soldiers together bring peace and stability to regions destroyed by hatred and
And in Iraq, despite past differences, France is willing to
help because what is at stake today is huge: the future of the Iraqi people, the
future of the Middle East, the future of the relations between the Muslim world
and the Western world.
Yes, in this dangerous world, America and France must indeed
stay together, and fight together their common enemies : terrorism and the
proliferation of arms of mass destruction.
America and France must fight together, as they did from
Yorktown to Normandy, to maintain their freedoms and their values.
That is what we want, and that is what America wants : three
days ago the Congress has decided to establish, for the first time since the
independance of the United States, a bipartisan Congressional Caucus to
reinforce the friendship between the United States and France. This is truly an
historical initiative !
Our friendship is a treasure. And this treasure must be
protected, preserved and maintained.
Thank you. God bless America and God bless Texas !