Tribute to President Jacques Chirac
My dear compatriots,
It is with great sorrow and sadness that I speak to you this evening.
Jacques Chirac passed away this morning.
We, the French people, have lost a statesman whom we loved as much as he loved us.
A life in politics spanning over 40 years made Jacques Chirac a familiar face.
And regardless of whether we shared his ideas, his struggles, we all saw ourselves in this man who looked like us and brought us together.
In this grandson of primary school teachers who, as a top-ranking civil servant, member of parliament, minister, Chairman of Corrèze General Council, Prime Minister, Mayor of Paris and President of the Republic, held the highest offices in our country without ever forgetting his roots.
In this leader, who represented the nation in all its diversity and complexity.
In this child of Corrèze who was happy in France, in Paris and the provinces, in mainland France and Overseas France.
President Chirac embodied a certain idea of France.
A France whose unity and cohesion he continuously sought to ensure, and which he courageously protected from excesses and hatred.
A France that looks history in the face and whose responsibility during the darkest hours of World War II he acknowledged during his speech at the Vel d’Hiv site. Just as he honoured the “righteous” 12 years later.
An independent and proud France, capable of protesting against an unjustified military intervention when he refused to take part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 without a UN mandate, when pledged to put an end to the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and when he sought to re-establish peace and security in Lebanon.
A France that fulfils its historic role of universal conscience.
President Chirac embodied a certain idea of the world.
By committing to a Europe of the people rather than a market-driven Europe, a stronger and more protective Europe, founded on an unfailing French-German friendship.
By committing early to climate. Because Jacques Chirac always took a long-term view, a view that teaches us about the infinite fragility of life. "Our house is on fire": the alarm he sounded to urge leaders to take action to protect the environment and combat global warming was not just the call of a head of state rising up to meet the challenge of history, but of a man among others, refusing with his entire being to allow the survival of our planet to be threatened.
He devoted his life to ensuring respect for differences and promoting dialogue between cultures. In his view, no art was superior to others. But the art and sensitive expressions of man, his soul, should be evaluated equally, promoted equally. That’s what he did when he launched the museum that now bears his name, where the treasures of the civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas reach out to us across the centuries.
Yes, a certain idea of France, a certain idea of the world, exchanges, cooperation. This evening, President Chirac will not just be mourned in France. He will be mourned throughout Europe, he will also, I know, be mourned in the beautiful continent of Africa that he loved so much, and around the world.
Jacques Chirac was a great Frenchman.
Free, passionate about our country, steeped in our history and a discreet lover of our culture.
He – who farmers and captains of industry alike were drawn towards, who took the time to talk at length to the factory worker as he did to the greatest artists – deeply loved people in all their diversity, whatever their beliefs, profession or position in society.
He loved to greet French people, talk to them, smile at them… embrace them.
Those from the most humble backgrounds, the most vulnerable, the weakest, were his great cause. He didn’t stop working for those who, struck down by AIDS, suffering from cancer, affected by disability, had had their lives turned upside down.
For Jacques Chirac, no personal journey or story was of greater or lesser value than any other. Only women and men, lives which all deserve equal attention, equal affection.
Jacques Chirac was the mirror of France’s destiny. Initially getting involved in his Corrèze homeland, driven by an ambition that led him to conquer Paris, over the course of several decades he learned everything about our country’s political life. Those were years of victory, energy, appetite and enthusiasm. Successes and a few failures. Loyalties and disappointments. For so long we dared not love him, until finally we formed an affectionate, almost filial attachment to him.
Jacques Chirac also experienced personal tragedies which, in his modesty, he kept shrouded in silence – the silence in which he took refuge over recent months. For there are also wounds from which a man cannot recover.
His gaze, his facial features still conveyed something of him to the family and friends who visited him. But always – and I want to testify very personally to this – he carried within him a love of France and the French people.
Nearly a quarter of a century ago, through your choice, Jacques Chirac’s destiny joined that of the men who have led our country. He followed in the footsteps of his beloved General de Gaulle and President Pompidou, and he respected every one of his predecessors: President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, and President François Mitterrand, to whom he paid glowing tribute on his passing.
Our country is shaped by these traditions, which are steeped in mystery and are greater than ourselves.
This evening Jacques Chirac has our gratitude. He did so much for our nation, our values, fraternity and tolerance.
Our Republic was deeply ingrained in him throughout his life.
We remember with sadness and affection his free spirit, his personality, and the talent he had for combining modesty and greatness, approachability and dignity, love of the nation and openness to the universal.
On your behalf I want to express to Mme Chirac our friendship and respect, and offer our condolences to his daughter, his grandson, his family and all his friends and loved ones. They shared so many of his struggles and did so much to protect him.
From this evening, the Elysée Palace will remain open so that everyone may come and put their condolences in writing and pay their respects.
Monday 30 September will be a day of national mourning, and a ceremony in honour of President Jacques Chirac will be held at midday.
My dear compatriots,
Let us now carry within us his share of our history, conscious of our debt to him and strengthened by what he has bequeathed us.
He has entered history, and every one of us will now miss him.