Mr. Smith Hollande Goes to Washington

J – 1. In less than 24 hours, French president François Hollande will land in the United States for a whirlwind 3 day official state visit. It’s a big deal. While you may remember Nicolas Sarkozy eating some half smokes at Ben’s Chili Bowl back in 2010, that was not, in fact, a state visit but an official visit. Ah protocol 😉 The last State Visit from a French president dates back to the Clinton days:

Jacques chirac, bill clinton, jacques chirac and bill clinton, state dinner, french state dinner, hollande state visit, hollande,

Don’t know about you, but I miss these two! Pic from the French Embassy in the US

François Hollande is expected to get a super-red carpet treatment while he is here, starting with a quick trip aboard Air Force One to visit Monticello and culminating in a black tie State Dinner at the White House. Unlike Jacques Chirac and François Mitterand before him, François Hollande will not address the US Congress. The White House and l’Elysée insist it is not a snub, but due to a lack of time. Hollande will find some time, however, to meet with representatives of the French business community here in D.C., visit Arlington Cemetary, grab dinner at the French Embassy with IMF head Christine Lagarde and Dr. Jim Yong Kim, of the World Bank decorate 6 World War 2 veterans, lunch at the State Department with John Kerry and Joe Biden… as well as give a joint press conference with the American president and attend the State Dinner. Busy Busy.

Meanwhile, since Francois Hollande is traveling solo, Michelle Obama’s schedule probably cleared up quite a bit. No first lady to have tea or go on a school visit with 😦 And that’s probably a good thing. She has a state dinner to focus on. Hillary Clinton, was said to be particularly stressed out about the state dinner she hosted for Chirac, due to the perceived high culinary standards of the French hosts. And perhaps she was justified in her apprehensions. Apparently, ever since that 1996 dinner, state dinners have no longer listed the year and appellation of wines on the dinner menu, simply stating instead that “an American wine will be paired with each course.” I wonder what went down with the wines at the Chirac state dinner 😉 I also wonder SO many things about this particular State Dinner: what will be on the menu? How sexy will Bradley Cooper look? (obviously, très sexy.) Who else is on the guest list? What will Michelle wear? Who will seat next to Barrack Obama, in the seat that Valérie Trierweiler should have occupied? So many questions. I guess I’ll just have to wait until Wednesday morning to get some answers…

Barrack Obama and Francois Hollande at the White House in 2012

Hollande & Obama at the White House in May 2012. Pic from French Embassy in the US.

And on Wednesday morning, Hollande will be on his way to San Francisco. The West Coast city is home to some 60,000 French expats, maybe of them working in the tech sector. There he will meet with Edwin M. Lee, the mayor of San Francisco, and Jerry Brown, the Governor of California. Hollande may not be traveling with any lady friends but his US-posse includes Pierre Gattaz, the head of the Medef (the Medef is the largest union of employers in France, yes, even the bosses are unionized in France… though they don’t usually strike.) Together they will lunch with American CEOs. I’ve heard the names Eric Schmidt, Sheryl Sandberg as well as Jack Dorsey (Twitter) et Mitchell Baker (Mozilla) thrown around so I hope they both brushed up on “Lean In” 😉  They’ll inaugurate a US-French Tech Hub in San Francisco before meeting with local French civic leaders and addressing the French community. Also traveling to the United States are Pierre Moscovici, miniter of economy and finance, Arnaud Montebourg, Minister of Industrial Renewal (his job is basically to promote the made in Framce… even though the delegation itself will be staying in a made in China hotel while they’re in town) and of course, Laurent Fabius, John kerry’s French counterpart.

All in all, it will be a very busy agenda for a very important visit. Thanks for coming to see us Flamby!

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