Emmanuel Macron

Address to a Joint Meeting of the U.S. Congress

delivered 25 April 2018, Washington, D.C.

Audio mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Honorable Members of the United States Congress, Ladies and gentlemen:

It is an honor for France, for the French people and for me to be received in this sanctuary of democracy where so much of the history of the United States has been written. We are surrounded today with images, portraits and symbols which reminds us that France has participated with heart in hand in the story of this great nation from the very beginning.

We have fought shoulder-to-shoulder many battles starting with those that gave birth to the United States of America. Since then, we have shared a common vision for humanity. Our two nations are rooted in the same soil, grounded in the same ideals of the American and French Revolutions. We have worked together for the universal ideals of liberty, tolerance and equal rights. And yet, this is also about our human, gutsy, personal bonds throughout history. In 1778, the French philosopher Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin met in Paris. John Adams tells a story that after they had shaken hands they embraced each other by hugging one another in their arms and kissing each other’s cheeks. It can remind you of something.1

And this morning, I stand under the protective gaze of La Fayette2 right behind me. As a brave young man, he fought alongside George Washington and forged a tight relationship fuelled by respect and affection. La Fayette used to call himself a son of the United States and in 1792 George Washington became a son of America and France when our first republic awarded citizenship to him.

Here we stand in your beautiful capital city whose plans were conceived by a French architect, Charles L’Enfant. The miracle of the relationship between the United States and France is that we have never lost the special bond deeply rooted, not only in our history, but also in our flesh. This is why I invited President Donald Trump for the first Bastille Day Parade of my presidency on the 14th of July last year. Today, President Trump’s decision to offer France his first state visit to Washington has a particular resonance because it represents the continuity of our shared history in a troubled world. And let me thank your president and the First Lady for this wonderful invitation to my wife and myself.

I am also very grateful and I would like also to thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for welcoming me on this occasion. And I will like to specially thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your invitation. I want you to know how much I appreciate this unique gesture. Thank you, sir.

The strength of all bonds is the source of our shared ideals. This is what united us in the struggle against imperialism during the First World War, then in the fight against Nazism during the Second World War. This is what united us again during the era of the Stalinist threat. And now, we lean on that strength to fight against terrorist groups. Let us for a moment transport ourselves to the past. Imagine, this is July 4, 1916. Back then, the United States had not entered World War I. And yet, a young American poet enlisted in the ranks of our Foreign Legion because he loved France and he loved the cause of freedom. This young American would fight and die on Independence Day at Belloy-an-Santerre, not far from Amiens, my hometown, after having written these words: I have a rendezvous with death. The name of this young American was Alan Seeger.

A statue stands in his honor in Paris.

Since 1776, we, the American and French people, have had a rendezvous with freedom. And with it comes sacrifices. That is why we are very honored by the presence today of Robert Jackson Ewald, a World War II veteran. Robert Jackson Ewald took part in the D-Day landing. He fought for our freedom 74 years ago. Sir, on behalf of France, thank you. I bow to your courage and your devotion.

In recent years, our nations have suffered wrenching losses simply because of our values and our taste for freedom. Because these values are the very ones those terrorists precisely hates. Tragically, on September 11, 2001, many Americans had an unexpected rendezvous with death. Over the last 5 years, my country and Europe also experienced terrible terrorist attacks. And we shall never forget these innocent victims nor the incredible resilience of our people in the aftermath. It is a horrific price to pay for freedom, for democracy. That is why we stand together in Syria and in Israel today. To fight together against these terrorist groups who seek to destroy everything for which we stand. We have encountered countless rendezvous with deaths because we have this constant attachment to freedom and democracy.

As emblazoned on the flags of the French Revolutionaries: Vivre libre ou mourir. "Live free or die." Thankfully, freedom is also the source of all that is worth living for. Freedom is a call to think and to love. It is a call to our will. That is why, in times of peace, France and the United States were able to forge unbreakable bonds from the grief of painful memories. The most indestructible, the most powerful, the most definitive knot between us is the ones that ties the true purpose of our people to advance -- as Abraham Lincoln said, the "unfinished" business of democracy.3 Indeed, our two societies have stood up to advance the human rights for all. They have engaged in a continual dialogue to impact this unfinished business.

In this Capitol Rotunda, the bust of Martin Luther King, assassinated 50 years ago, reminds us of the inspiration of African-American leaders, artists, writers who have become part of our common heritage. We celebrate, among them, James Baldwin and Richard Wright, whom France hosted on our soil. We have shared the history of civil rights. France’s Simone de Beauvoir became a respected figure in the movement for gender equality in America in the 70s. Women’s rights have long been a fundamental driver for our societies on both sides of the Atlantic. This explains why the Me Too Movement has recently had such a deep resonance in France.

Democracy is made of day-to-day conversation and mutual understanding between citizens. It is easier and deeper when we have the ability to speak each other’s language. The heart of Francophonie also beats hear in the United States. From New Orleans to Seattle, I want this heart to beat even harder in American schools all across the country. Democracy relies also on the faculty of freely describing the present and the capacity to invent a future.

This is what culture brings. Thousands of examples come to mind when we think of the exchanges between our cultures across the centuries. From Tomas Jefferson, who was ambassador to France and built his house in Monticello based on a building he loved in Paris, to Hemmingway’s novel, [A] Moveable Feast, celebrating the capital city of France. From our great 19th century French writer, Chateaubriand, bring to the French people the dream of American’s open spaces, forests and mountains, to Faulkner’s novels crafted in the Deep South that first read in France where they quickly gained literary praise; from Jazz coming from Louisiana and the Blues from Mississippi finding in France an enthusiastic public to the American fascination for Impressionists and the French Modern and Contemporary Arts. These exchanges are vibrant in so many fields: from cinema to fashion, from design to high cuisine, from sports to visual arts. Medicine and scientific research as well as business and innovation are also significant parts of our shared journey. The United States is France’s first scientific partner. Our economic ties create hundreds of thousands of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

The story of France and the United States is a story of an endless dialogue made of common dreams of a common struggle for dignity and progress. It is the best achievement of our democratic principles and values. This is this very special relationship. This is us.

But we must remember the warning of President Theodore Roosevelt [Ronald Reagan]:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, handed on for them to do the same.4

This is an urgent reminder indeed because now, going beyond our bilateral ties, beyond our very special relationship, Europe and the United States must face together the global challenges of the century. And we cannot take for granted our transatlantic history and bonds. At the core, our Western values, themselves, are at risk. We have to succeed facing these challenges and we cannot succeed in forgetting our principles and our history. In fact, the 21st Century have brought a series of new threats and new challenges that our ancestors might not ever have imagined. Our strongest beliefs are challenged by the rise of a yet unknown new world order. Our societies are concerned about the future of their children. All of us gathered here in this noble chamber, we elected officials all share a responsibility to demonstrate that democracy remains the best answer to the questions and doubts that are raised today. Even if the foundations of our progress are disrupted we must stand firmly and fight to make our principles prevail.

But we bear another responsibility inherited from our collected history. Today, the international community needs to step up our game and build the 21st Century world order based on the perennial principles we established together after World War II. The rule of law, the fundamental values in which we secured peace for 70 years, are now questioned by urgent issues that require our joint action. Together, with our international allies and partners, we are facing inequalities created by globalization; threats to the planet our common good; attacks on democracy through the rise of liberalism; and the destabilization of our international community by new powers and criminal states. All these risks aggrieve our citizens. Both in the United States and in Europe, we are living in a time of anger and fear because of these current threats. But these feelings do not build anything. You can play with fears and angers for a time but they do not construct anything. Anger only freezes and weakens us. And as Franklin Delano Roosevelt said during his first inaugural speech: “The only thing we have to fear, it is fear itself.”

Therefore, let me say we have two possible ways ahead. We can choose isolationism, withdrawal, and nationalism. This is an option. It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears. But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world. It will not douse but inflame the fears of our citizens. We have to keep our eyes wide open to the new risks right in front of us. I’m convinced that if we decide to open our eyes wider we will be stronger. We will overcome the dangers. We will not let the rampaging work of extreme nationalism shake a world full of hope for greater prosperity.

It is a critical moment. If we do not act with urgency as a global community I am convinced that the international institutions, including the United Nations and NATO, will no longer be able to exercise a mandate and stabilizing influence. We would then inevitably and severely undermine the liberal order we built after World War II. All the powers, with the strongest strategy and ambition, will then feel the void we would leave empty. All the powers will not hesitate one second to advocate their own model to shape the 21st century world order. Personally, if you ask me, I do not share the fascination for new strong powers, the abandonment of freedom, and the illusion of nationalism.

Therefore, distinguished members of the congress, let us push them aside; write our own history and birth the future we want. We have to shape our common answers to the global threats that we are facing. The only option then is to strengthen our cooperation. We can build the 21st century world order based on a new breed of multilateralism, based on a more effective, accountable and results-oriented multilateralism -- a strong multilateralism. This requires, more than ever, the United States’ involvement, as your role was decisive for creating and safeguarding today’s free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one now who has to help to preserve and reinvent it.

This strong multilateralism will not outshine our national cultures and national identities. It is exactly the other was around. A strong multilateralism will allow our cultures and identities to be respected, to be protected, and to flourish freely together. Why? Because precisely our own cultures is based on both sides of the Atlantic, of this unique taste for freedom, on this unique attachment for liberty and peace. This strong multilateralism is the unique option compatible with our nations, our cultures, our identities.

With the U.S. president, with the support of every 535 members of this joint session, representing the whole American nation, we can actively contribute together to building the 21st century world order for our people. The United States -- the United States and Europe have a historical role in this respect because it is the only way to defend what we believe in; to promote universal values; to express strongly that human rights, the rights of minorities and shared liberty are the true answer to the disorders of the world.

I believe in these rights and values. I believe that against ignorance, we have education; against inequalities, development; against cynicism, trust and good faith; against fanaticism, culture; against disease and epidemics, medicine; against the threats on the planet, science.5

I believe in concrete action. I believe the solutions are in our hands. I believe in the liberation of the individual and in the freedom and responsibility of everyone to build their own lives and pursue happiness. I believe in the power of intelligently regulated market economies. We are experiencing the positive impact of our current economy globalization with innovations, with jobs creations, with the, however, the abuses of globalized capitalism and digital disruptions which jeopardize the stability of our economies and democracies. I believe facing these challenges requires the opposite of massive deregulation and extreme nationalism. Commercial war is not the proper answer to these evolutions. We need a free and fair trade for sure. A commercial war opposing allies is not consistent with our mission, with our history, with our current commitment for global security. At the end of the day, it will destroy jobs, increase prices, and the middle class will have to pay for it. I believe we can build the right answers to legitimate concerns regarding trade and balances, excesses and over capacities, by negotiating through the World Trade Organization and building cooperative solutions. We wrote these rules. We should follow them.

I believe we can address our citizens’ concerns regarding privacy and personal data. The recent Facebook -- the recent Facebook hearings highlighted the necessity to preserve our citizens’ digital rights all over the world and protect the confidence in today’s digital tools of life. The European Union passed a new regulation for data protection. I believe the United States and the European Union should cooperate to find the right balance between innovation and ethics, and harness the best of today’s revolutions in digital data and artificial intelligence.

I believe facing inequality should push us to improve policy coordination within the G20 to reduce financial speculation and create mechanisms to protect the middle class’ interests because our middle classes are the back bone of our democracies.

I believe in building a better future for our children which requires offering them a planet that is still habitable in 25 years. Some people think that securing current industries and their jobs is more urgent than transforming our economies to meet the global challenge of climate change. I hear -- I hear these concerns but we must find a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy. Because what is the meaning of our life, really, if we work and live destroying the planet while sacrificing the future of our children? What is the meaning of our life if our decision, our conscious decision, is to reduce the opportunities for our children or grandchildren? By polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions, and destroying our biodiversity, we are killing our planet.

Let us face it. There is no planet B. On this issue, it may happen we have disagreements between the United States and France. It may happen, like in all families. But that for me is short-term disagreement. On the long-run we will have to face some realities and we’re just citizens of the same planet. So we will have to face it. So beyond some short-term disagreements we have to work together. With business leaders and local communities, let us work together in order to make our planet great again and create new jobs and new opportunities while safeguarding our Earth.  And I am sure, one day, the United States will come back and join the Paris Agreement. And I am sure -- and I am sure we can work together to fulfil with you the ambitions of the Global Compact on the environment.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe in democracy. Many of our forebears were slain for the cause of freedom and human rights. With the great inheritance they gave us comes the responsibility to continue their mission in this new century and to preserve the perennial values handed to us and assure that today’s unprecedented innovations in science and technology remain a service of liberty and in the preservation of our planet for the next generations. To protect our democracies, we have to fight against the ever-growing virus of fake news which exposes our people to irrational fear and imaginary risks. And let me attribute the fair copyright for this expression “fake news,” especially here. Without reason, without truth, there is no real democracy, because democracy is about true choices and rational decisions. The corruption of information is an attempt to corrode the very spirit of our democracies. We also have to fight against the terrorist propaganda that spreads out its fanaticism on the internet. It has a gripping influence on some of our citizens and children. I want this fight to be part of our bilateral commitment and will discuss with your president the importance of such an agenda. I want this fight to be part of the G7 agenda because, here again, it deeply harms our rights and shared values.

The terrorist threat is even more dangerous when it is combined with the nuclear proliferation threat. We must therefore be stricter than ever with countries seeking to acquire the nuclear bomb. That is why France supports fully the United States in its efforts to bring Pyongyang, through sanctions and negotiations, towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. As for Iran, our objective is clear. Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now. Not in five years. Not in 10 years. Never. But this policy should never lead us to war in the Middle East. We must ensure stability and respect sovereignty of the nations, including that one of Iran which represents a great civilization. Let us not replicate past mistakes in the region. Let us not be naive on one side. Let us not create new walls, ourselves on the other side.

There is an existing framework, called the JCPOA, [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] to control the nuclear activity of Iran. We signed it at the initiative of the United States. We signed it, both the United States and France. That is why we cannot say we should get rid of it like that. But it is true to say that this agreement may not address all concerns, and very important concerns. This is true. But we should not abandon it without having something substantial and more substantial instead. That’s my position. That’s why France will not leave the JCPOA, because we signed it. Your president and your country will have to take in the current days and weeks its own responsibilities regarding this issue. But what I want to do, and what we decided together with your president, is that we can work on a more comprehensive deal addressing all these concerns.

That is why we have to work on this more comprehensive deal based, as discussed with President Trump yesterday, on four pillars. The substance of the existing agreement, especially if you decide to leave it, the post-2025 period, in order to be sure that we will never have any nuclear activity for Iran, the containment of the military influence of the Iranian regime in the region, and the monitoring of ballistic activity. I think these four pillars, the one I addressed in front of the General Assembly of the United Nation last September, are the one which cover the legitimate fears of the United States and our allies in the region. I think we have to start working now on these four pillars, to build this new comprehensive deal and to be sure that whatever the decision of the United States will be, we will not leave the floor to the absence of rule. We will not leave the floor to these conflicts of powers in Middle East. We will not fuel ourselves in increasing tensions and potential war. That’s my position and I think we can work together to build this comprehensive deal for the whole region, for our people, because I think it fairly addresses our concerns. That’s my position. Thank you very much.

And this containment, I mentioned in one of these pillars, is necessary in Yemen, in Lebanon, in Iraq, and also in Syria. Building a sustainable peace in a united and inclusive Syria requires, indeed, that all powers in the region respect the sovereignty of its people and the diversity of its communities. In Syria, we work very closely together. After prohibited weapons were used against the population by the regime of Bashar Al-Assad two weeks ago, the United States and France, together with the United Kingdom, acted to destroy chemical facilities and to restore the credibility of the international community. This action was one of the best evidence of this strong multilateralism. And I want to pay special tribute for our soldiers because they did a very great job in this region and in this occasion.

Beyond this action, we will together work for humanitarian solution on the short-term, on the ground, and contribute actively to a lasting political solution to put an end to this tragic conflict. And I think one of the very important decision we took together with President Trump was precisely to include Syria in this large framework for the overall region, and to decide to work together in this political deal for Syria, for Syrian people, even after our war against ISIS.

In the Sahel, where terrorist networks span a footprint as large as Europe, French and American soldiers are confronting the same enemy and risking their lives together. Here, I would like to pay special tribute to the American soldiers who fell this past fall in the region. And to their French comrades who lost their lives early this year in Mali. Better than anyone, I think, our troops know what the alliance and friendship between our country means.

I believe facing all these challenges, all these fears, all this anger, our duty, our destiny is to work together and to build this new strong multilateralism.

Distinguished members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen, on April 25, 1960, General de Gaulle affirmed in this chamber that nothing was as important to France as the reason, the resolution, the friendship of the great people of the United States. Fifty-eight years later, to this very day, I come here to convey the warmest feelings of the French nation and to tell you that our people cherish the friendship of the American people with as much intensity as ever.

The United States and the American people are an essential part of our confidence in the future, in democracy, in what women and men can accomplish in this world when we are driven by high ideals and an unbreakable trust in humanity and progress. Today, the call we hear is the call of history. This is a time of determination and courage. What we cherish is at stake. What we love is in danger. We have no choice but to prevail. And together, we shall prevail.

Vive les Etats-Unis d’Amerique! Long live the friendship between France and the United States of America! Vive la Republique! Vive la France! Vive notre amitie! Merci.

Thank you.

1The reference is to a kiss on the cheek President Donald J. Trump gave President Macron at the end of a joint press conference a day earlier.

2 In 1824, Marquis de Lafayette became first foreign dignitary to address a Joint Meeting of the Congress during his extended visit to the United States. The portrait hangs to the left of the Speaker’s rostrum, as it has since the opening of the current House Chamber [Source: http://history.house.gov/Collection/Detail/29551]

3 Apparent reference to Lincoln's line in the Gettysburg Address: "It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced." [emphasis added]

4 Reference error. This quote originated with Ronald Reagan who used it in full during his speech to the Orange County Press Club [Source: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/macrons-presidential-mix-up]

5 A stylistically notable passage blending anaphora, parallelism, asyndeton

Audio Source: HouseLive.gov

Image of Lafayette Source: history.house.gov

Image of Memorial to American Volunteers Source: en.wikipedia.org

Image of Martin Luther King Bust Source: aoc.gov

Video Note: AI Upscaled and Enhanced to 60fps

Research Note: Transcribed and translated by South Transcription Unlimited, Inc. | www.southtranscription.com | info@southtranscription.com | (+63) 920.921.8709.  Supplementary transcription work and editorial oversight by Michael E. Eidenmuller.

Page Updated: 5/26/22

U.S. Copyright Status: This text and audio = Property of AmericanRhetoric.com. Image of Lafayette = Likely public domain in its country of origin (the U.S.) and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. Image of Seeger = Public domain (see source note here). Image of King bust = Public domain.



































































































































































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