Today is Bastille Day, with presidents Macron and Trump joining together to recognize America’s entry into WWI a century ago. No matter what you think of the politics of these two men, it is heartening to see this recognition of the long friendship between our two countries.
It reminded me of a story from a few years ago, when my wife and I were living in France…
We were walking through town with our dog Lucca when an older gentleman asked what breed he was. We stopped to talk and he quickly figured out from our accents that we are not native French speakers.
“Are you English?” he asked suspiciously. Relations across the English Channel are not always the friendliest.
His frown became a smile when we explained that we are Americans. He shook our hands warmly and thanked us for “saving” France in 1944.
It wasn’t the first time this had happened. It was always gratifying to know that American sacrifices during the war are still remembered and honored.
When someone thanked us for 1944 we always tried to return the favor.
We would express our gratitude for France’s essential support during our war of independence. We would point out that France is America’s oldest ally.
And we would tell them something that even most Americans don’t know.
There are only two portraits in the House of Representatives, one of the centers of American government. These large paintings hold pride of place, flanking the Speaker’s rostrum. On the left is the father of our country, George Washington; on the right, French general Lafayette.
And the painting of Lafayette came first.