Rep. Jim Oberstar, Great Friend of France, Dies at 79
Ambassador Delattre’s Remarks of Remembrance
Mass of Christian Burial for James L. Oberstar
Our Lady of Mercy Church
Potomac, MD, May 8, 2014
As the French Ambassador to the United States, It is such an honor to be here with you today to pay tribute to a man all of us loved and admired, an exceptional Congressman and individual who was also a long-time and treasured friend of France as well as a personnel friend. And he spoke French better than I do …
In 2003, Congressman Oberstar and his esteemed friend and colleague, Amo Houghton, established the Congressional French Caucus. Today, with over 100 members in the House and Senate, the French Caucus is thriving.
An ardent cycling enthusiast, Jim even wore a yellow jersey during the final 40 kilometers of the Centennial of the Tour de France. Afterwards, he explained in French — live on French television — why he was proud to be an American Member of Congress, supporting France.
In 2012, I had the great privilege of presenting to Congressman Oberstar the insignia of Commander of the National Order of Merit: an exceptional award for an exceptional individual, in recognition of his distinguished service to France and my country’s profound gratitude for his exemplary commitment to French-American friendship. France also honored the accomplishments of an outstanding public servant, whose constant motivation was always to serve the public good. To take just one example, his dedication to innovative and clean transportation technologies is a source of inspiration, and his passion for high-speed rail was second to none.
One a personal note, I shall fondly remember the many meetings and conversations I had with Jim.
And, of course, there were his wonderful recitations – in French and from memory – of Baudelaire’s “The Albatross” at the French Residence in Washington, D.C.
James L. Oberstar will be deeply missed, not only in this country, but around the world, in France, and by me.
Personal Message From Amb. François Delattre
I want to express my most sincere condolences following the death of former U.S. Representative James Oberstar at the age of 79.
Having served for 36 years as a Democratic representative of Minnesota’s 8th Congressional district, he embodied the values of service and democratic governance.
A great friend of France, Rep. Oberstar co-founded the Congressional French Caucus in 2003, a bipartisan organization with more than 100 members from the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. He later served as the Caucus’s co-chairman.
In 2012, I was deeply honored to bestow upon him the insignia of Commandeur of the National Order of Merit, an exceptional award, in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments and outstanding services rendered to France.
Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
Paris, May 6, 2014
France was saddened to learn of the death of former Congressman Jim Oberstar, who represented Minnesota in the House of Representatives and co-founded the French-American friendship group in Congress (the Congressional French Caucus).
He was a Commander of the National Order of Merit, a true connoisseur of our culture and always worked actively to promote the friendship between our two countries.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and pay tribute to the memory of this friend of France.
The Congressional French Caucus, which was created in 2003, has about 100 members. It plays a key role in French-American relations.
My thoughts are with Rep. Oberstar’s family, friends and former constituents.