Braving a long line, cold rain, and French grammar, Bwog’s Ambassador to France Contessa Gayles reports from President Sarkozy’s speech today:
After waiting in a line that stretched from the main entrance of Low Memorial Library down onto rainy College Walk, members of the Columbia community joined the scores of press to hear Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic, speak at the World Leaders Forum at Columbia University.
After acknowledging the event co-sponsors and First Lady Carla Bruni, President Bollinger applauded President Sarkozy’s oratory skill and fearless outspokenness while expressing his views on major contemporary issues including economic recovery, climate change, the war in Afghanistan and a rise in censorship at a time when open communication is most necessary. Bollinger expressed his pride in the strength of both Columbia University’s and the United States’ relationships with France.
President Sarkozy then stepped up and proceeded to deliver his charismatic and unscripted speech entirely in French. While there were translating headset devices sat on every seat, most were not used, as the majority of the audience was Francophone. Sarkozy opened by echoing Bollinger’s pride in the strong alliance between the United States and France, expressing the importance of open communication between the U.S. and Europe while working together to solve the global crises.
He assured his American listeners that Europeans look up to and have great expectations for the U.S. as the world’s foremost super power. “When you elected Obama, the whole world was proud of you”, he said. Furthermore, he stated that if Europeans ever seem disappointed in us, it is only because they hold the U.S. to such high standards. Repeatedly making the distinction between the 20th century and the new demands of the globalized 21st century, Sarkozy stressed that the U.S. must accept that power necessitates frank dialogue with the rest of the world, which he claimed is his one request to President Obama for their private dinner tomorrow evening in the nation’s capital.
Asserting that what the U.S. does affects the rest of the world, Sarkozy expressed his desire to work with the U.S. to reign in unbridled capitalism and irresponsible speculation by the privileged minority in the banking system. With a nod to the apprehension and suspicion of Americans toward French statesmen–“Is he a socialist?” he asks–Sarkozy was nonetheless adamant about greater regulation and accountability in capitalist systems in order to prevent an unacceptable repeat of the financial crash eighteen months ago and to save capitalism from self-destruction. He mentioned Columbia University’s own Economic Nobel Prize Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, with whom he will work to develop new, broader criteria for evaluating economic growth.
Sarkozy also called for a new world government, in which the marginalized continents and countries whose combined population is two-thirds of the global population, including Africa, Japan, India, Latin America and Arab countries, will have permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. He claimed that if we do not include these emerging powers in a new system of global governance, we do not stand a chance to respond to tomorrow’s conflicts. Calling New York “the martyr city” in the war on terrorism and citing Iran’s nuclear program and this morning’s suicide attacks in Moscow, Sarkozy asked for global solidarity and cooperation in the fight against all forms of terrorism.
The President concluded by addressing the students. He said, “You must never turn your back on the rest of the world,” and asked us to not lag behind our president and his goals. Sarkozy opened up the forum to questions, requesting everyone to be as open with their inquiries as he had been in his speech. During these final ten minutes, he applauded Obama for passing health care legislation and welcomed the U.S. to “the world of not turning your back on those in need,” expressed a desire to reform the French university system using the American schools as models, and called for a new international monetary system.
Unattributed photos courtesy Eileen Barroso, University Photographer