GU French department greets Emmanuel Macron at White House

December 12, 2022

Photo by Ninabella Arlis

On Dec. 1, Georgetown faculty and students in the French and Francophone Studies department welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron’s arrival at a White House ceremony. The department received the invitation on Nov. 25 from the office of Vice President Kamala Harris and extended the opportunity for students in the program to attend. 

President Macron visited the U.S. from Dec. 1 through Dec. 3. The main focuses of his visit were “the war in Ukraine, the effect of the US Inflation Reduction Act on European industry, and energy costs and relations with China,” as reported by the Irish Times. This meeting also acted as a strong step forward from last year’s submarine deal misstep that resulted in France’s ambassador temporarily leaving Washington. 

“I was pleased to get the invitation, and I’m glad so many of our students were able to go,” Susanna Lee, professor and chair of the Department of French and Francophone Studies, wrote in an email to the Voice. “This is one of the perks of attending university in our nation’s capital. I am grateful that they recognized Georgetown’s strength in both French and politics, and offered that experience to our students.”

“I was so excited,” French major Caroline Bednar (COL ’26) told the Voice. “It is such an honor to be invited to the White House.”

On the chilly morning of Macron’s arrival ceremony, students woke up early, threw coats over their business formal attire, and piled into rideshares at the Georgetown front gates. Most students arrived at the southeast side of the White House by 8 a.m., where they joined a number of other invitees, including French speakers, government employees from all branches and offices, and other guests from the D.C. area. 

“When we arrived, I could not believe the line,” Bednar said. “It went all the way up the street and wrapped around. However, the wait was totally worth it! It was so cool to hear others speaking French in the line and politicians discussing their travels with one another.”

After following the line, students arrived at the park gates, flashed their formal invitations, passed through security, and finally stepped onto the White House’s South Lawn.

“The South Lawn is beautifully kept, with sprawling, green grass and trimmed trees,” Bednar said. “The White House was decorated for the holidays which added to the ambiance.”

While awaiting the presidents’ arrival, attendees were entertained with lively patriotic music performed by both a brass band and a military ensemble of flutes. Uniformed soldiers stood on the mansion’s curved balcony, overlooking the crowd. 

At 9:20 a.m., the presidents and first ladies arrived. As they exited the car, Brigitte Macron in an elegant green and Jill Biden in vivid pink, the pair drew eyes in the bright sun of the day and excited murmurs grew louder in the crowd.

The audience went quiet when President Joe Biden and French President Macron stepped onto a red platform on the lawn and stood behind a podium. Respectively, the two discussed the friendship and diplomacy between the U.S. and France, who President Biden referred to as “America’s oldest ally.”

“From the spirit of Marquis de Lafayette, who helped secure the success of our revolution, to the sacrifice of American GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy, our history has been shaped by the courage of the women and men who crossed the Atlantic, carrying within their hearts the flame of liberty,” Biden said in his speech. “Today, that flame burns more brightly than ever… France and the United States are facing down Vladimir Putin’s grasping ambition for conquest and Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine, which has once more shattered peace on the continent of Europe.”

Both spoke in their native tongue as translators aided communication between the parties. After the presidential speeches, the two families made their way onto the mansion’s balcony, smiling for the cameras. Macron waved to the attendees as he turned towards the house, leaving the cheering crowd and marking an end to the welcome ceremony. 

The visit was “surprisingly moving,” Lee said. “I had not been to the White House since touring it as a seventh-grader on a field trip, and it was really exciting. Both presidents spoke to the historic alliance between France and the United States and of our shared commitment to maintaining democracy. The importance of that commitment cannot be overstated, and to hear it spoken aloud was inspiring.”

Ninabella Arlis
Ninabella is a sophomore studying International Business, Language, and Culture. Spot her working at the Center for Student Engagement or on the university's social medias!

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