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France Honors Laetitia Atlani-Duault, Kathleen Stein-Smith and Andrew Clark

On April 27, 2018, Laetitia Atlani-Duault, Kathleen Stein-Smith and Andrew Clark were honored with the insignia of Chevalier of the Order of Academic Palms in a ceremony held at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. During the event, Cultural Counselor Bénédicte de Montlaur delivered the following speech. 

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,

As Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy, I am delighted to welcome you this evening to honor three individuals who have dedicated their lives to Academic research and the education of young adults: Laetitia Atlani-Duault, Kathleen Stein-Smith and Andrew Clark.

Mesdames, et Monsieur c'est pour moi un grand honneur de vous accueillir ici et vous remettre les insignes de Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques. Permettez-moi de continuer en anglais pour nos invités.

The Order of Academic Palms, founded in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte, honors individuals who have distinguished themselves in the field of education and recognizes their dedication and accomplishments in teaching, scholarship, or research. Laetitia Atlani-Duault, Kathleen STEIN-SMITH and Andrew CLARK have shown themselves to be exemplary educators by contributing significantly to their respective areas of scholarship, and in particular, by their diffusion of the French language and culture, through hard work, leadership, and passion.

I will proceed in alphabetical order, starting with Laetitia.

Dear Laetitia Atlani-Duault,

You were born in France in the small town of Chesnay in the Yvelines. You were an anthropology student in France and are now a highly-accomplished French anthropologist and the current director of the Collège d’études mondiales at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris.

Your scientific production and activities began very early. You started this discipline at the age of 18 and you chose a difficult area that had been little touched by ethnologists, the political anthropology of humanitarian aid.

Your first topic was the United Nations humanitarian assistance to Vietnamese boat people and traumatic violence, of which women in particular had been victims. It led you to study their language and go to McGill University where the top psychiatrists specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder research can be found. After working with them as a research assistant, you chose to conduct an ethnography from within the UN, first in New York at the UN’s HQs and then in post-soviet Central Asia and Transcaucasia. It led you to put your skills to service as Chief Technical Advisor, in charge of large multi-million dollars health and humanitarian UN programs.

In 2003, ten years after joining the UN, and true to your original objective despite a successful first career, you decided to leave the UN and become an academic focusing, from a critical and anthropological perspective, on the humanitarian industry.

Once again in record time you established yourself, and received a prestigious award for excellence in research awarded by France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) for your contribution to social anthropology. When you chose to move from the UN to Academia and after completing your PhD you were immediately appointed to a tenured position as Associate Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Lyon in 2003 and later on as Associate Professor of social anthropology at Nanterre Paris Ouest University in 2008. In 2010, you completed your “Habilitation à diriger des Recherches”, a postdoctoral diploma which is essential in France if you want to work as full Professor and Directeur de recherche.

Your incredible career does not stop there. In 2011 you were selected for the extremely competitive position of full tenured Directeur de recherche (Research Professor) at the IRD, and at an early age for this position in social anthropology. This is an impressive feat which tells much about public recognition of your work. You also have risen rapidly to executive responsibilities. In addition to being Research Professor at the Centre Population and Développement (CEPED) at IRD / Université Paris V Sorbonne René Descartes, you are the director of the Collège d’études mondiales at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme.

Your work uses theories and methods from social anthropology to establish a critical analysis of the practice of humanitarian aid on both the local and international levels. And you focus particularly on the United Nations and agencies in shaping humanitarian aid policies and practices. You have published on diverse subjects such as global health policy, ‘good governance’ and the UN in the former Soviet Union, the prevention and care of HIV/AIDS in Central Asia and Transcaucasia, social media and rumors of blame in times of ebola, the relations between social scientists and the law, the spread of racist rumor on the Internet, and the history of French international “humanitarian state verticalism”.

Your publications include, among others, “Au Bonheur des autres: Anthropologie de l’aide humanitaire”,  “Humanitarian Aid in Post-Soviet Countries. An anthropological Perspective.” “Les ONG à l’heure de bonne gouvernance », « Anthropologie de l’aide humanitaire et du développement », “Eclats d’Empire, un nouveau Sud ?”,  « La santé globale, nouveau laboratoire de l’aide internationale ? », or « Chercheurs à la barre ».

Chère Laetitia, to express our gratitude for your outstanding career, your illuminating research in the anthropology sciences and your involvement in humanitarian causes, it is my honor to confer on you this medal.

Laetitia Atlani-Duault au nom du Gouvernement français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes académiques.


And now, Kathleen Stein-Smith,

Dear Kathleen, since childhood you used to travel to see your family and friends in Quebec, and spent your time in areas extending from Montréal to Gaspé. Being the eldest of the family, you quickly learned the French language and its culture thanks to your mother.

Those early experiences led you to pursue the French language. So you chose to study in French you obtained the Baccalauréat spécialisé as well as a Maîtrise in Linguistique at Université Laval. You have a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Cincinnati. Since then, you have been a passionate and accomplished professor. You have devoted your professional life to foreign languages with a particular attention to the French language, especially for students of secondary and university level, as well as to Francophile adults.

Since completing your doctoral research on foreign language as a global competency in 2011, you have written 3 books, held in over 700 world-class libraries. You have also written numerous articles on the importance of foreign language learning and the US foreign language deficit.

Today, you are a dedicated foreign language educator and advocate. You believe that a serious conversation about foreign languages in the U.S. will benefit all languages, and this belief has driven your research, writing, speaking, and professional engagements. You fight to promote French and language teaching in the United States; indeed, you are the President of the American Association of Teachers of French's French Defense Commission, for which you are very active.

You authored a book on the language deficit of the United States and the economic and strategic issues of foreign languages for this country: The U.S. Foreign Language Deficit. Your conferences on the theme of the deficit of foreign languages in the United States and French as a professional advantage, give you the opportunity to share your knowledge and experience throughout the country and encourage more and more young Americans every day to acquire the linguistic skills necessary for an increasingly global world.

You dedicated forty years of your life to teaching and spreading French language and culture. For your commitment to the French language, for the quality of your teaching and research, and your contributions to French culture I am delighted to present you with this insignia.

Kathleen Stein-Smith, au nom du Gouvernement français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes académiques.


Let’s now turn our attention to the only gentleman of the evening, Andrew Clark.

Dear Andrew, you began learning French in high school because you wanted to be able to understand and speak when you traveled with your family to France.  Your mother’s best friend was fluent in French and he brought you into a French circle. Like your sister, you decided to study your sophomore year abroad and you spent two weeks in Arcachon but you didn't really learn French: at this time, you learned to dance rock n roll for the first time.

You studied at Amherst College at a time when the Department of French had good specialists of the 18th century and you fell in love with French. You took an 18th-century French literature course through which you discovered Marivaux’s Le Paysan parvenu, a work that you found fascinating. Marie-Hélène Huet was your lecturer and she advised you on your senior thesis. When she moved to Princeton she introduced you to Lionnel Gossman who would become your dissertation adviser at Princeton.

You studied aboard and took courses at La Sorbonne Nouvelle and Paris IV. You can remember your Molière course with Patrick Dandrey, the most challenging course you’ve taken in your life. He introduced you to the importance of seeing things differently in the USA and in France. You use his scholarship in your most recent book project.

Your love for the French language is notable. Paris changed your life, and after college you did an internship in the French Embassy in Washington D.C in the press office where you enjoyed speaking French all day.

You received a Chateaubriand scholarship and returned to France with your wife Jessica Wade. You chose to speak to her only in French, even though she had only taken one semester of French and all that she could do was introduce herself and talk about the weather. She was upset that your linguistic superiority meant that she lost every argument. Then she received her own fellowship from the French government and I suspect she no longer loses arguments!  French is clearly very important to both of you.

Since 2002, you’ve been at Fordham teaching French and French literature with a focus on the 17th and 18th centuries. You have built a French program to encourage more students to major in French, you also started a course on the Flâneur in Paris in 2004, which you taught for 8 years. The course was located in Paris, and students from Fordham, Harvard, Princeton and Yale came to spend a month in a fully immersive setting to study. In 2015 you and Helène Godec started the Concours d’éloquance, for Fordham, NYU and Columbia students in order to promote speaking in French for your undergraduate students. You firmly believe in the benefits of a bilingual education which led you to become a member of one of the committees of FACE Foundation to help promote bilingual education in New York City and for your own daughters.

Andrew, you are a rigorous and innovative teacher. Your talent and dedication led to your appointment as President of the department of literature and modern languages of Fordham University.

With your passion for the French language and education, you have become one of the most active parents in New York advocating for French bilingual education in New York City public schools, in particular within the framework of the program of the France which fosters French-English dual language programs in the city and across the US.

Professor Clark, for your commitment to the French language and the quality of its education, it is my great honor to present you with this award.

Andrew Clark, au nom du Gouvernement français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes académiques.