We were gratified by the nod to New Orleans culture during the recent visit of French President François Hollande to the United States.
The president made flattering references to New Orleans and Louisiana, and John Besh was featured chef for the luncheon of welcome at the State Department; New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu was prominent on the guest list.
We are delighted that both Hollande and President Barack Obama drew attention to the magnificent historical and cultural heritage of France that is so much a part of Louisiana’s DNA. Joie de vivre, obviously, is more than just another French phrase in Louisiana.
The two presidents and others spent a lot of time on serious business, from European trade to Syria to Iran. If the two countries sometimes clash, relations are probably as close as they’ve been in decades, and the French have been useful partners for the United States in many ways.
Still, Hollande’s stay was brief, and he deplored how little time he had for the visit.
What we noticed, though, was that in his limited time available, he used it for a quick visit to California to meet with Silicon Valley industrialists and venture capitalists.
Not many of France’s cousins there but a lot of money and even more technological savvy than the real cousins in Louisiana can muster.
Who can fault Hollande for that? It is part of his job to promote his country for business partnerships in the technology world.
And one day, we hope, he will be able to pay a visit to Louisiana and celebrate the French heritage of which we are so proud. French companies are among those investing in Louisiana today.
But would we not be prouder if it was not California but Louisiana that was highest on the list for foreign visitors, cultural ties or no?
It is not that we can or should diminish the real economic advantages of Louisiana’s Francophone culture. From Mardi Gras to Lafayette’s Festival International de Louisiane, our state benefits greatly from visitors from around the nation and the world, drawn by extraordinary experiences.
Yes, we’ve a great deal to be proud of, but we’d be prouder had we made better decisions on economic and social progress over the last few decades. Perhaps New Orleans would be as much a must-see city for a French president as San Francisco.
We look forward to the day when Louisiana once again becomes the international commercial center that it was when Lafayette visited almost two centuries ago. But it is up to us to make it so.