Dear Friends,

November 14, 2012 | By Antonin Baudry, Cultural Counselor

Today France and the United States share a particularly robust spirit of partnership in the economic, political and cultural spheres. The mission of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States is to enrich and strengthen this relationship through various educational and cultural initiatives. As the Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy and Permanent Representative of French Universities in the United States, I have made the development of language programs and university partnerships our core priority.

Universities are the places where the world is being invented, the cradle of the future, and I am deeply convinced that our best tools to effect change are interdisciplinary exchanges and international mobility of students and researchers.

American universities have an incredible richness and diversity: they are interdisciplinary in nature, and their liberal arts model is so successful that it is replicated throughout the world. Indeed, the word “university” means “the whole” in latin: so simply put, a university can’t be a university without a thriving humanities program. However today, many universities face budgetary challenges that threaten the future of all European languages and Classics departments.

The Humanities remain more relevant than ever, and so is French. Over 1.3 million Americans speak French at home, which makes it the fourth most popular foreign language in use in the US. Some of the latest and greatest technological revolutions – such as sustainability, life sciences and parts of the digital revolution – are taking place in our country, and there is a flourishing generational renewal.

In such scientific fields, double-degree programs in French are a worthy added value for innovation and research. At the University of Rhode Island for instance, French is taught alongside engineering in one of the most talked about double degree programs. French isn’t only about words; it is about a critical and creative way of thinking. It is about  Cartesian logic, about experiencing philosophy and mathematics.

I believe this not only because the Embassy promotes French as a language and culture, but because I believe in America and its interdisciplinary model, having studied both literature and mathematics myself. This struggle for the humanities binds us together on both sides of the Atlantic. I believe in culture, in learning, in imagination, in thinking. I believe together with our American partners we can fight for and defend the humanities.

Antonin Baudry
Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy
Permanent Representative of French Universities in the United States

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