France Honors Fabrice Jaumont
On Tuesday evening April 23, Cultural Counselor Antonin Baudry bestowed the insignia of the Palmes Académiques on Fabrice Jaumont, who, as Education Attaché of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, has helped lead the vanguard of the bilingual revolution in American classrooms.
I am very excited to honor our local French superstar: the education attaché of the French Embassy, the famous editor of New York in French, the commander of the “bilingual revolution”, and, above all… the badminton champion of NYU!
From a ch’ti, he became a New Yorker. Tonight, he moves from a super star status to that of a knight. This way, he will be both very American and very French, which, I think, is quite enviable.
Firstly, I would like to extend a warm welcome to your family: your parents, who are visiting from France; your daughter Cléa; and of course your wife Nathalie, whom we all know very well at the Embassy! I must also acknolewdge all the guests present today from the education world who have worked and fought with you to achieve the bilingual revolution. Tonight they show their admiration and support.
A man like you can only be introduced by his achievements.
I begin by calling you a “man of many turns” (“aux mille tours”) as your Masters at University of Lille III drew a comparison between Homer’s Odyssey and… Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey. Because your life is a kind of Odyssey. Your Trojan horse is the French language.
“A man of many turns”: American cinema and Greek literature were not enough and you had to study Irish civilization. So I will call you the French “Douglas Hyde”. He was a great scholar of Irish language, and the first President of Ireland. Like him, you became a vitriolic protector of your language. However, unlike him, you have not become a President, but I dare say that you are the first emissary of French language in New York.
Your Odyssey began with an English teacher in 6th grade, who inspired your love for foreign language. I wish to highlight this point as teachers are really crucial in our lives and their impact is often decisive. I know there are several teachers among us tonight, and I acknowledge their mission and dedication. The public should say thank you more often. By the way, the medal of Palmes Académiques has this specific vocation: to recognize the men and women who spend their lives teaching children how to think for themselves and open their minds to culture. In our fight to promote culture at the Cultural Services, education is our best ally. Promotion of French culture would be vain, if only the happy few could have access.
And your achievements, Fabrice, are our best ally. After teaching French culture and language throughout the Anglophone world, you taught instructors how to teach French at the Boston Consulate. In particular, your passion for linguistics allowed you to create a very useful tool: the audio presentation “Accents de la Francophonie”, which later became “Accents à la carte”. Your passion for language is not superficial: it is deep and concrete.
Then the second part of your Odyssey began: your relentless fight for bilingualism.
As a School Director at Ecole Bilingue in Boston, and with the support of your former Directrice and friend Darcey Hale, you saw firsthand the power of bilingualism on students. Once again, and like Ulysses, you learned from experience, from real facts, from real people.
And after this adventure, you moved south. Valenciennes, Ireland, Boston and now: New York! I would not say that like Ulysses “tu es tombé de Charybde en Scylla”! (French expression which means to land in a bad place and then in an even worse place)
As an Education attaché in New York, you have played a principal role in fostering French-American educational cooperation and your success is brillant.
I insist on your leadership with the French Heritage Program and the French-English Dual-Language programs in New York City's public schools. Because they are a revolution indeed –to use a word you like! In 2007, the Embassy’s French bilingual program in public schools began with one school and 24 students enrolled. Today over 1, 000 children are educated in English and in French in 8 public schools in the city, from kindergarten to middle school, and soon to high school. And thanks to the French Heritage Language Program, its coordinator, Benoît Le Devedec and the President of its advisory board, Jane Ross, who is with us tonight, immigrant children and underserved communities are able to preserve their native language and reap educational benefits. As culture and language rely on the heart and spirit of every person who speaks this language, its democratization remains vital.
And you have not given up your passion for learning. On the contrary, your involvement in French and American educational systems gives you the opportunity to foster your reflection on public-private funding. You are currently a Ph.D. candidate at New York University, in the International Education program at the Steinhardt School of Education, with the famous sociologist Richard Arum as your dissertation Chair. Your research focuses on innovative programs led by several U.S. philanthropic foundations on African universities. Professor Phil Hosay, and Professor Teboho Moja who is with us tonight, have played a great role in your research.
Fabrice, I am really impressed that you can still play badminton steadily after all this! But that is certainly the way “men with many turns” work.
More than a superstar, you have truly become a community builder. Your website has more than nine thousand members! Today nobody can speak French in New York and say: “Fabrice Jaumont? Jamais entendu parler.”
To conclude please allow me to speak a few words in French, as to honor our guest’s « Ithaca ».
Cher Fabrice, au nom de cette intelligence vive que vous avez mis au service de la mission éducative de notre pays pendant 16 ans, au nom de votre infatigable implication en faveur de la langue française, je suis très heureux de vous conférer cette Médaille.
Fabrice Jaumont, au nom du Gouvernement français, je vous fais chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques.
Merci Antonin, c’est un honneur de recevoir ces Palmes académiques que d’illustres éducateurs ont reçues avant moi.
Chers amis francophones, permettez-moi de continuer en anglais pour les personnes ici présentes qui ne parlent pas notre langue. Enfin, pas encore.
Dear friends and family,
Thank you for this great honor, and for being with us tonight. When I first started this job here at the Embassy in January 2001 I would never have thought that one day I would stand on this side of the medal.
I didn’t know much about New York City, or working for an Embassy, or working for an Embassy in New York City. The Cultural Counselor who hired me then, Pierre Buhler, took me to lunch one day and told me this: Comprenez la chance qui vous est donnée. Trouvez chaque jour une nouvelle idée. (Just think of the opportunity that has been given you. Find one new idea for each day that you are here.)
One idea for each day, that’s 365 ideas in a year, 4,127 ideas since I started. I don’t think I managed to reach that goal. But I gave it a good try! Still, it was a smart thing to tell me, and it turned out to be a good way to handle a city like New York.
There are many people in the room whom I’d like to thank, too many to name them. I'd like to thank my parents without whom all of this would not have happened. Literally!
I am also fortunate to have my American family here as well. As well as very close friends, all brothers and sisters to me. My family and friends have made me who I am. They also helped keep my sanity in a city that demands that you always be at your best.
This place is very special to me. I have spent the last 12 years serving my country and trying to convince Americans that French is not such a bad language to learn after all.
My wife and I even celebrated our wedding here with our colleagues who treated us to a pleasant reception upon our return from Las Vegas. Yes, we got married at the Monte Carlo in Vegas. The one that burned down a few weeks after our wedding.
It turns out that my wife is also my colleague and sits in the office next to mine. That way I can keep an eye on who comes and talks to her. She works in the Film, TV and New Media Department and runs the annual Films on the Green program, which will start up again this June (I know she'll like me for saying this).
My daughter has been running in this building since she was born. She even took a few naps in what is now my office on the 5th floor. Being a parent in New York can be challenging. Trying to find a school, trying to find the time, trying to instill our heritage…Trying to catch up on one’s sleep.
I have met many inspiring parents who have made me understand the importance of keeping one's language alive. Together we started a revolution, the bilingual revolution. And as a sign of our revolutionary spirit, Antonin and I, and Christophe, and Benoit, have decided to grow beards. Soon my colleagues and I will be wearing berets and chanting revolutionary songs.
A native of Valenciennes, in northern France, I was not the brightest kid on the block but I always managed to get by thanks to my teachers' patience and care. In the 6th grade I met a very inspiring English teacher who took me to England on a class trip. This teacher, and this trip to England, have had, and continue to have, an impact on my life.
I have been working with educators all my life and together we have shared many innovative ideas. These ideas aimed at transforming obsolete methods. This has become a Leitmotiv for me which I pursue in everything I do.
This award is recognition of this revolutionary state of mind. I owe it to the many educators who helped me be who I am. And to all the educators who are here in the room. This award is for them.