The Obamas welcome French President Hollande to the White House

McClatchy Washington BureauFebruary 11, 2014 


U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome French President Francois Hollande during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC, on February 11, 2014


President Barack Obama and first Lady Michelle Obama welcomed French President Francois Hollande to the White House on Tuesday with a military salute and a tribute to the deep ties between the two countries.

Obama even tried a bit of French, greeting the frozen audience on the South Lawn at the White House with "Bonjour," which he said was the extent of his French. he later, however, managed to recite France's national motto: "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité." And managed a welcome to the United States -- in French.

Obama called it a "great honor" to welcome Hollande for the first state visit by a French president in nearly 20 years.

He said that the two presidents during a visit Monday to Thomas Jefferson's estate, Monticello, "reflected on the values that we share.

"Here," he said. "Under the red, white, blue and the blue, white, red, we declare our devotion once more to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

He noted that France and the U.S. have pursued those values together, and "our citizens have bled to preserve them. From a field in Yorktown to the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan."

He led a round of applause for "two extraordinary men," -- two D-Day veterans who attended the ceremony.

"We owe our freedom to each other," Obama said of the US-French alliance. And he noted, Americans can also thank the French for the design of Washington, D.C., the Statue of Liberty and "something many Americans are especially grateful for, New Orleans and the French Quarter."

And Obama called on the two countries to "do even more together."

Both leaders wore dark overcoats against the cold; Obama wore gloves, but Hollande did not.

"Dear Barack, Dear Michelle, ladies and gentlemen, it's cold in Washington," he said as he began his remarks, speaking in English. "But it's a beautiful day, great day for American friends."

He switched into French and said through a translator that he was "particularly touched" by the reception from Obama. He noted the longstanding ties between the two countries and said that later today at Arlington Cemetery, he will award the Legion d'Honneur, the highest French distinction, to the American unknown soldier. He said he'll also present American veterans who fought in World War II with an award.

"I wish to demonstrate the fact that France will never forget the spirit of sacrifice shown by these American soldiers, nameless heroes who left their homes to liberate my country and Europe," he said, personally inviting Obama to attend the 70th anniversary of the landing at D-Day in Normandy in June.

Hollande noted France and the US are working together to "address the threats of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons" and to support development in Africa. He got particular applause when he noted the countries were working to combat global warming and climate change.

"It is not just about friendship," Hollande said. "It is about an alliance that will enable us to make this world a better place, a safer place, a more humane place.

"Long live the United States. Long live France," Hollande said. "Long live the Franco-American friendship."

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