Yesterday was an excellent day to be a Francophile or Francophone in D.C.!
Being born in Louisiana (in Lafayette, the coeur of Acadiana at that), French culture has been a constant love in my life. I studied French in middle school, high school, and university and found my way to Bordeaux for my studies. There, I fell deeper in love with the country, flaws and all. When I graduated, I applied for the French Ministry of Education’s Teaching Assistantship Program and found myself living in the petite town of Les Sables-d’Olonne. When I got back stateside, I never thought that my hobbies of tweeting and such would enable me to see an official Arrival Ceremony at the White House, let alone one for the French President.
I have to thank Laetitia for tweeting the link to tell me about the #WHSocial opportunity. What’s #WHSocial you ask? It’s a chance for those who engage with the White House in the social media realm to meet up and interact in real life (like the #zoomeet Laetitia just attended… except with presidents instead of pandas…). When I saw that President Hollande’s official welcome for this historic State Visit was open to, I was ecstatic! I applied, was selected, and got even more excited for the big day.
When I arrived at the White House’s visitor entrance at 6:50AM, there was a much longer line than I expected (I was naïve), but people were in good spirits and excited for the event. Ellie Schafer of the White House Visitors Office estimated that about 6,000 guests showed up on the South Lawn to fête president Hollande. We were given French and American flags as well as a program and explanation of some of the rituals and protocols we were about to take a part of. After about an hour and a half waiting, the official ceremony started.
It was worth the wait. Hearing President Obama attempt French and laud the historic friendship our two nations share dating back to the Revolutionary War, solidified on the beaches of Normandy, and continue to today was beautiful and nearly brought me to tears. It was either that or the cold wind 😉 It was also wonderful to be able to listen to President Hollande, even when he switched to French. All these years of French paid off… I was able to understand most of what he said! If you’re interested in their full remarks, read them here.
After the pomp and circumstance, we were invited to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to hear from various White House staff who were involved with planning the big bienvenue. The opportunity to listen to members of the State Department and White House speak about the logistics and logic behind hosting an official State Visit was insightful. Meanwhile, Hollande and Obama were having a little tête a tête… too bad we were invited to witness that 😉
I’m toujours proud to be an American but today made me even prouder to be a Francophile. As President Hollande said to end his remarks, Vive Les Etats-Unis! Vive La France! Vive l’amitié franco-américaine. Long live the United States. Long live France. Long live the Franco-American friendship.
ps: wanna find out more about #WHSocial? Read the storify recap too.
About the author: born in Lafayette, LA, Kaylé has lived in seven different states, two cities in France, and one district, but considers herself a Texan and a Bordelaise. She currently works in development for an education reform advocacy group. We made each other’s acquaintance through Twitter, naturellement. She tweets often about macarons, Olivier Giroud, and other random things. Find her on Twitter under the handle @petitekaybee.