Sunday, June 7, 2009

First Ladies In Paris

Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961, at Versailles with Charles de Gaulle
No first lady will be the recipient of the wild adoration that enveloped Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy when she landed in France in 1961 as the spouse of a head of state. For her in a sense, it was going home, back to a beloved city where she received her junior year of education on the Left Bank at the prestigious La Sorbonne. The 31 year-old was there for a European state visit with all the pomp trimmings and managed to charm the irascible President Charles de Gaulle with her Française, élan and savoir faire. She ably served as the interpreter between the French and American presidents. The French state dinner was a feast in the Hall of Mirrors at the palace of Versailles followed by a Jackie Kennedy favorite performance art, the ballet, as Rendezvous pirouetted in the Louis XV Theater.

A video in the black and white cinematic features of the 1960's showing highlights of the three day state visit against the backdrop of President Kennedy's speech.
Mrs. Kennedy's ensemble was Oleg Cassini in a pale yellow with a triple strand of pearl.
On June 8, 1994 another First Lady stood in Paris in the shadow of Jackie and embraced her. Mrs. Onassis had recently passed away and it was a sad opportunity for Hillary Rodham Clinton to pay tribute to her. Five years later, Hillary was in Paris again to present an award at the Sorbonne. By that time Parisians embraced her and what she represented as a woman with grace weathering through triumph and tragedy in the White House. It is remarkable how many modern First Ladies travel to Paris in June. First lady Laura Bush in Paris, France June 11, 2008, for a cultural evening with the American Ambassador to France, Charles Stapleton on the evening before the International Support Conference for Afghanistan. Mrs. Bush Photo courtsey Sheelah Craighead, White House.

A noble 65th D-Day anniversary is the cause for Michelle Obama to join the president in Colleville-sur-mer, France. As it was collective visits for heads of state and the crown prince of England, a state dinner is not possible on this trip as it was not a state visit. Hence, very little official pomp and circumstance for this particular trip though the French line the streets to the Notre Dame cathedral. Minus one daughter who had other plans, the adult Obamas dined at a hundred year old restaurant in the 7th arrondissement, La Fontaine de Mars on Rue St. Domonique after visiting the cathedral. The girls will have to wait (who knows, maybe they will get this treat) for the evening bateau moche ride where Paris is beautifully lit and travel the River Seine to the Île de la Cité, the island that hosts Notre Dame de Paris in all its 12th century French Gothic glory.
In their apartments, delighted Parisians take digital images as the Obamas exit their motorcade for the restaurant.

Awaiting the Obamas motorcade, Parisiens line the streets to get a glimpse as they tour Notre Dame. Sasha & Malia obliged by waving from the highest parapets. 2009
The Obamas got up early to see some world class modern art at the Pompidou Center or Site du Centre Pompidou completed in 1977. There is an exhibition in the Children's Gallery as well as Alexander Calder's, Les Années Parisiennes 1926-1933. There are over 60,000 works, including Vassili Kandinsky, in that museum alone. The building is quite colorful amidst all the steel and glassand here are the Obamas at one of the highest points with a heart stopping view of Paris. Personally, I like the view from Sacre Couer and the Petit Palace. No mention of the Obamas getting a private tour at the Louvre, with President François Mitterand and I.M. Pei no less, as the Clintons did on their state visit.

Obamas at Pompidou Center

Photo, exterior
· Centre Pompidou · Paris, France
This was a second trip to France by the Obamas. Neither occasion was a full state visit. The French government needs to issue an invitation to France, as China has for September, and the full diplomatic response would kick into high gear and a response to hold a state dinner in return at the White House. Even in England the Obama trip was not a state visit, but it was a highly formal visit with introductions to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The Browns had a formal dinner for everyone. Only if the Queen issues the invite and held a state function with a full white tie dinner, would it be a full state visit. The Obamas have to be exceedingly careful about state dinners as America is in financial dire straits and the dinners would be seen as extravagant. The French wanted so badly to see the full Obama glamor against the backdrop that is the timeless elegance of Paris.


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