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Le Cercle Francais seeks to foster good relations with the country and culture it loves

Members of the French Club are planning a unique expression of paying their respects to the Marquis de Lafayette for the 250th anniversary of his birth. They will lead the crowd in a toast to the Marquis at the All-College Dinner at 5:30 p.m. during the Marquis’ birthday celebration Sept. 6 on the Quad.

The College is planning a yearlong celebration during 2007-08 in recognition of the life and legacy of the man for whom it is named. In addition to the birthday party, major events will include a lecture series, entitled Lives of Liberty, featuring renowned speakers, and a historical exhibit at the Williams Center for the Arts, entitled A Son and his Adoptive Father: The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington.

  • A web site dedicated to the celebration and to the Marquis’ unique connection to the College provides information and updates.

According to French Club president Allison Shapp ’08 (Plainview, N.Y.), at the time when Lafayette paid his last visit to America for his farewell tour in 1824, it was customary to give 13 toasts, likely having to do with the 13 colonies, and one traditional toast to France. The French Club will be delivering this toast to France at the festivities with possibly more to follow.

Shapp, a music and language studies double major, says that among the French Club’s mission is to promote good relations between America and France and their respected cultures.

“Students in the French Club have a love and respect for the French language and culture and want to share this with others, especially during this time of particular bad feelings between the two countries,” explains Shapp. “The Marquis de Lafayette used to be an incredibly well known and famous person in the United States, but as relations between the two countries became altered, his name and persona have become more and more obscure. The French Club is very excited to be involved in the celebration to support Lafayette, France, and the help that they both extended toward the United States in our time of need.”

International affairs major and French Club treasurer Elina Stelman ’10 (Trumbull, Conn.) could not agree more.

“[Lafayette’s] presence during the Revolutionary War helped form the country in which we live today,” Stelman comments. “The celebration of the 250th birthday of the Marquis is a chance to remember, honor, and learn more about this inspiring individual who achieved so much on both sides of the Atlantic. Lafayette’s accomplishments have left a legacy that is visible to this very day and is very pertinent to all our lives.”

Joe Fallon ’10 (Scotch Plains, N.J.), who is an international affairs major and secretary of French Club, adds that it is Lafayette’s philosophy more than his person that this celebration commemorates.

“Personally, I feel as though this celebration does much more than remember a man,” says Fallon. “It is commemorating a set of beliefs, an ideology which in many ways contributed to the foundation of our nation. As Americans, we should pay homage to Lafayette’s ideals. I think this celebration does just that.”

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