"France will not abandon the women who are condemned to the burqa"

by David B. Kopel

Originally published on The Volokh Conspiracy weblog

[May 9, 2007 at 3:40am] Trackbacks

President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy's first speech to the French nation concluded with a wonderful endorsement of human rights. (Video here.)

Sarkozy spoke from a prepared text , which appears on his official campaign websites. If you read the text while listening to the speech, you will find various minor ways in which he deviated from the text, such as by inserting an extra word. The text of the speech as actually delivered is on Le Figaro's website.

In the prepared text, the penultimate paragraph is:

Je veux lancer un appel à tous ceux qui dans le monde croient aux valeurs de tolérance, de liberté, de démocratie et d’humanisme, à tous ceux qui sont persécutés par les tyrannies et par les dictatures, à tous les enfants et à toutes les femmes martyrisés dans le monde pour leur dire que la France sera à leurs côtés, qu’ils peuvent compter sur elle.
In English: "I want to launch a call to all those in the world who believe in the values of tolerance, of liberty, of democracy and of humanism, to all those who are persecuted by the tyrannies and by the dictators, to all the children and to all the martyrized women in the world to say to them that the pride, the duty of France will at their sides, that they can count on her."

(The italicized words were in the speech as delivered, but not in the prepared text.) Pretty good so far. Then, Sarkozy delivered a paragraph which did not appear in the prepared text, and his rising passion matched that of the audience:

La France sera aux côtés des infirmières libyennes enfermées depuis huit ans, la France n'abandonnera pas Ingrid Betancourt, la France n'abandonnera pas les femmes qu'on condamne à la burqa, la France n'abandonnera pas les femmes qui n'ont pas la liberté. La France sera du côté des opprimés du monde. C'est le message de la France, c'est l'identité de la France, c'est l'histoire de la France.
In English: "France will be at the sides of the Libyan nurses locked up for eight years; France will not abandon Ingrid Betancourt; France will not abandon the women who are condemned to the burqa; France will not abandon the women who do not have liberty. France will be by the side of the oppressed of the world. This is the message of France; this is the identity of France; this is the history of France."

The speech concludes:

Mes chers compatriotes, nous allons écrire ensemble une nouvelle page de notre histoire. Cette page de notre histoire, mes chers compatriotes, je suis sûr qu'elle sera grande, qu'elle sera belle. Et du fond du coeur, je veux vous le dire, avec la sincérité la plus totale qui est la mienne au moment où je vous parle: Vive la République et vive la France.
"My dear compatriots, together we will write a new page of our history. This page of our history, my dear compatriots, I am sure that it will be grand, that it will be beautiful. And from the bottom of the heart, I want to say to you, with the most total sincerity which is mine at the time when I speak to you: Long live the Republic and long live France."

If Sarkozy can govern as he spoke, if he can lead France in leading the worldwide fight for human rights, if he can energize 21st century France with the eternal truths of liberty that are the best elements of France's tradition, then Nicolas Sarkozy--like Charles de Gaulle and Ronald Reagan--will earn a place in the pantheon of the most important democratic leaders, who took a tired and timid nation in decline, and led it to a new era of greatness.

French political rallies often conclude with La Marseillaise. It is inspiring to listen to the Marseillaise among the huge crowd at Sarkozy's victory speech at La Place de la Concorde.

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé.
Contre nous, de la tyrannie,
L'étandard sanglant est levé...
Liberté, Liberté chérie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs !

Arise children of the nation
The day of glory has arrived.
Against us, tyranny's
Bloody banner is raised...
Liberty, dear Liberty,
fight alongside your defenders!

Aux armes citoyens!

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