Column by Bob Goodlatte
Last week, newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed a Joint Session of Congress during his first official visit to Washington. Upon his election in May of this year, President Sarkozy immediately reached out to the United States, signaling his desire to end the tension that has existed between our two countries for several years.
The United States and France have a long history of supporting one another in their fight for freedom. As President Sarkozy remarked in his speech before the Congress, “Since the United States first appeared on the world scene, the loyalty between the French and American people has never failed.”
In 1778, the French came to our aid, helping to turn the tide during the American Revolution. It was the French navy that prevented the British from resupplying their forces, leading General Cornwallis to surrender at Yorktown and eventually leading Great Britain to recognize the independence of the United States.
Nearly, a century and a half later it was the United States fighting for France’s freedom, not once but twice. In 1918, the U.S. sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers to France to fight the spread of imperialism over all of Europe. In June 1944, hundreds of thousand of Americans, including many from our part of Virginia, swarmed the beaches of Normandy and swept across France, liberating the French people from the dark cloud of Nazism.
In his address to Congress, President Sarkozy acknowledged our heroic soldiers of World War I and II, who fought to free Europe from tyranny, “Fathers took their sons to see the vast cemeteries where, under thousands of white crosses so far from home, thousands of young American soldiers lay who had fallen not to defend their own freedom but the freedom of all others, not to defend their own families, their own homeland, but to defend humanity as a whole. … France will never forget the sacrifice of your children,” he said.
Additionally, President Sarkozy took the opportunity to reaffirm France’s commitment to fighting the global war on terrorism. He pledged that France would stand by the U.S. in the fight against nuclear proliferation in Iran and terrorism in Afghanistan and work with the U.S. to bring a real and lasting peace to the people of the Middle East.
Over 200 years ago, George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, the French nobleman who served in the Revolutionary War, formed an alliance between our two countries. Last week the newly elected president of France traveled to Washington to express his strong desire for America and France to renew this friendship and work together as allies to defend and promote the values and ideals of freedom and democracy – the very ideals that first drew Washington and Lafayette together.
Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District in the United States Congress. Contact him at www.house.gov/goodlatte/emailbob.htm.