Sophie Meunier awaded of the insignia of Chevalier des Palmes Académiques
Princeton University, April 16, 2012
Dear Sophie Meunier,
Ladies and gentlemen,
What a pleasure it is for our Attachés for University Cooperation Emilienne Baneth-Nouailhétas and Camille Peretz and for me to be here with you today, within these venerable walls, to honor Sophie Meunier and to acknowledge her outstanding contribution to scholarship on France, and to political science in general.
On a personal note this ceremony means a lot to me as Sophie and I have known each other for more than ten years and as she is not only a great professional but also an exceptional individual.
I want to recognize Sophie’s family, friends and colleagues who have joined us this afternoon to express their support and admiration. With a special word of thanks to her husband Yacine Aitsahalia and her children Idir and Inès. You can be proud of your mother!
The bestowal of the “Palmes académiques” outside of France is always, for us, a kind of declaration: a declaration of love (I hope Yacine will not blame me…), a declaration of admiration and of thanks toward those who have dedicated much of their lives and work to the knowledge, analysis and understanding for things French.
But in this case, dear Sophie, the situation is particularly interesting because it all starts with your own admiration for the country in which you now reside.
As a student, you dreamed of doing your PhD in the U.S. And you achieved your goal, through hard work and determination which characterize you so well.
After your brilliant studies at the Lycée Henri IV, considered among the best in Paris, and then Sciences Po, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago, you were admitted to a PhD program at MIT, where you specialized in the study of EU-US relations.
Though you started out with broad EU studies, your Frenchness somehow caught up with you, and one of your most remarked works focuses on that most mysterious of relationships, that of France with globalization”: it is “The French Challenge: Adapting to Globalization”, which you co-authored in 2001 with our friend Philip Gordon.
This work won the prestigious France-Amériques book award, and was a cornerstone in your growing reputation as an expert on the Franco-American relationship.
This is where your initial love affair with the USA comes into play: the countless contributions you have made to journals and publications on this topic and your many contributions to US and French media have demonstrated your very special skill in navigating both French and American waters, politics, and psyches.
You also wrote several books on Europe (“Trading Voices: the European Union in international commercial negociations”, in 2005; “Making History : European integration and institutional change at fifty”, in 2007; “Europe and the management of globalization”, in 2010). In addition to your teaching and research activities, you brilliantly lead the prestigious EU program at Princeton University and organize first-class conferences and symposiums on France, Europe and globalization.
Your expertise on Europe and globalization, combined with your American viewpoint, produce a unique perspective on Europe’s role on the world stage, but also on the signals that “anti-Americanism” might provide for the leaders of this great country. And we know you are working on new books on these topics.
I would also like to underline your unflagging commitment towards organizations and entities that promote a better understanding between the continents.
These include: the Council for European Studies, since 2009; the International Political Science Association’s Research Committee on European Unification, also since 2009; the American Political Science Association’s European Politics and Society Section, since 2010; and I could also mention the Council on Foreign Relations, (2004-2009); the Transatlantic Academy of the German Marshall Fund (2008-2010); and the European Union Studies Association (2003-2007).
Last, but not least, I am told that your scholarly expertise has left a lasting mark on the art of American pastry-making. I hope, one day, to have the privilege of tasting your celebrated chocolate-chestnut pie…
All these qualities, and many others I do not have time to detail, have unsurprisingly led you into the heart of American scholarship and academic excellence, the University of Princeton, and the Woodrow Wilson school.
I would like to applaud the leaders of Princeton University, and your colleagues, for fostering an atmosphere of intellectual stimulation and sharpness that has enabled you to thrive as an impressive researcher. And today, on behalf of France, it is a great honor for me to express our gratitude for your commitment to France and to Franco-American friendship, and to bestow upon you the insignia of Chevalier des Palmes Académiques.
Sophie Meunier, au nom du gouvernement de la République française, je vous fais Chevalier de l’ordre des Palmes académiques./.