My speech on 11 November for our Together-Ensemble session about RESPECT

In order to approach the unfolding of the crises before our eyes, there is no other way than to internalize the value of RESPECT in our culture. Let me illustrate why here.

For my introduction, I must have remembered dozens if not hundreds of stories from my own career in the European institutions to illustrate in concrete terms why respect is difficult to find. And to be honest, thinking about everything I have had to go through to be here with you still hurts.

But we don’t like to blame on our Together-Ensemble show, it’s way too easy. If I started this, I would just give my own individual prism of a multi-faceted reality, which some of you may disagree with anyway. No really .. It would get us nowhere. I think we deserve a lot better than that.
Today, we must see the lack of respect in our organization as a simple reflection of a civilization that has become abusive. Tell me: Why should someone feel more guilty than another? We live in democracies. We choose our present, we decide our future. We have all played a part in the current crises and all the abuses we see.

And so, instead of joining the current movement which makes people talk about hatred, racism, anti-Semitism with no complexes at all, as if they were talking about care or love…. I want to talk more about respect by addressing my fond memories of a man who lived the value of respect until his death at the age of 100 years old and what it says about the conditions to bring back respect everywhere.

This man was my great-grandfather, François. Excuse me if I cry here because every time I think of him I cry and it’s great because that means he is not really dead. Today is November 11, 2021. A special day in Europe to mourn and respect the millions of people who gave their lives in this fratricidal war between Germany and France, and which involved other European countries, some of which have sadly left us at a time when Europe probably has the best chance of showing its worth.
But let’s come back to François, who at the age of 18 years old was called to join the 1st World War. He went to Verdun, he saw his best friend, his acolytes, his leaders die, he slept in the mud in the trenches, in the cold, he had to kill young people like him, he was seriously injured and left for dead.. And despite a terrible youth, the worst start in life for such a young man, the memories I have of him are first his deep sense of humor and joy… and second how much he lived the value of respect more than anyone else.
For him, respect meant taking care of others (from the youngest to the oldest, from those in power to those in service, he was always listening and making us feel like we were the most important in the world to him. I can still hear him tell me how grateful he was for these men who came from Africa and other distant countries to fight in this Great war by the side of the Europeans.
You know, I never heard Francois complain about anything, and when we were going to see him it was always with great excitement. He never made us feel his difficulties, and even till the end I remember that he stood up proudly from his chair with energy that some at 20 years old already lack … You know I think Francois knew respect more than anyone because he had braved fear. It is FEAR that causes people to do strange things. Today, if we are to reconsider respect to save our humanity then I think we also need to talk about courage. And I’m so happy to see once again in this room so many people eager to change the world with us in these dark times. Let’s stop being abused and disillusioned by letting terrible things happen without moving. That’s the whole point of this session. 

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