French president visits New Orleans

Katherine Dawson, Staff Writer

French President Emmanuel Macron made a historic trip to New Orleans last week, marking a momentous occasion for French students and faculty at Tulane University. (https://tinyurl.com/macronphoto)

The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, arrived in the Crescent City on Friday, Dec. 2. In proper New Orleans fashion, he, the French first lady and his team were greeted with live music from a jazz band and a warm, humid welcome. 

Macron’s visit to New Orleans is not only a symbol of French comradery but also of political progress. This past weekend, he discussed issues such as French immersion in schooling, cultural affairs and matters of climate change and energy transitions with officials like New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. 

Before diving into his busy itinerary, Macron made a primary pitstop in the French Quarter where hundreds of New Orleans locals excitedly gathered to witness the president’s arrival. 

The visit marked the first time a French head of state has visited New Orleans since 1976.

Fayçal Falaky, the chair of the French department at Tulane University, said Macron’s visit was a momentous event that will influence the city. 

“It was very exciting to see a head of state come to New Orleans,” Falaky said. “It’s not something that happens every day.” 

Charles Mignot, a senior professor and director of the French language program at Tulane, said Macron’s visit was a symbol of friendship between France and the U.S. and marked New Orleans as the “high symbol of French and the Francophone world in the U.S.”

New Orleans “is the American melting pot,” Mignot said. The city is “an honor of French culture.”

Falaky said he had the chance to hear Macron speak on French cultural affairs and his plans to initiate and fund French programs at immersion schools. 

“The people at the Consulate, they were also very excited about it,” he said. “Very surprised as well that he actually made the trip over here.”  

Falaky said that Macron himself reciprocated the excitement of New Orleans residents.

“The head of state who actually goes to Frenchmen Street, actually wants to enjoy jazz, wants to listen to all of that … I think he’s going to keep a very good souvenir of this visit,” Falaky said. 

On Saturday, Macron discussed topics surrounding climate change with Governor Edwards, ultimately signing a memorandum that signified the creation of a French position on the Governor’s Climate Initiative Task Force during Louisiana’s energy transition

“Both Louisiana and France share similar goals of becoming carbon neutral, and there will be companies in attendance that focus on energy transition,” Nathalie Beras, the consul general of France in Louisiana, said to WWNO Public Radio last week. 

Tulane student John Alberto took note of the differences in American and French habits regarding environmental responsibility.

“I was even talking to my roommate yesterday … people don’t recycle” and everyone is “dependent on cars here, you cannot just take public transportation,” he said.  

“France is more responsible in terms of environment. You know, we’re trying. We’re more cautious about that than the U.S., generally speaking,” Mignot said.

Macron has maintained environmental responsibility as a major role throughout his leadership. He has worked towards legislation related to climate change within France and in a global context with the Paris Climate Agreement. 

From the historic relevance of the city to the cultural ties back to France, New Orleans has been considered the French focal point of the United States. Macron’s visit seemed to strengthen that bond. 

“I think we are going to see a change, and we’re going to see, the French language and French culture being more valorized,” Falaky said.

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