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By Kathleen Parrish

Gilles Siméoni, president of Corsican Executive Council, Skyped with faculty and students Wednesday during a reception in Pardee Hall to mark the opening of Lafayette, Paoli, and the Revolutionary Spirit and celebrate 250 years of Francophone/American friendships.

The 17-panel exhibit is a gift from the Collectivity of Corsica and chronicles the life of Gen. Pasquale Paoli, an important figure from Corsica, a French-speaking island in the Mediterranean. Paoli wrote the first democratic constitution in Europe in 1755, served as the Corsican chief executive, and led the resistance against the French in 1768.

Paoli and the Marquis de Lafayette were contemporaries, both fighting for the establishment of democratic governments.

Siméoni had planned on attending the reception in person but had to cancel his flight at the last minute due to a waste management crisis on the island. After being welcomed by President Alison Byerly and Olga Anna Duhl, Oliver E. Williams Professor of Languages, Siméoni gave a brief history of the island and its people, who are seeking greater autonomy over their own affairs from France.

“When you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know where you’re supposed to go,” said Siméoni, a criminal defense attorney whose father, Edmund Siméoni, led the fight for Corsican independence 50 years ago.

Siméoni invited Lafayette students to visit the French island in hopes of starting an exchange program with University of Corsica. It’s important to dialogue about education, world affairs, and problems, he said.

“When you are an island you can be very close on yourself,” he said. “We need to know what is going on in other countries, and America is very important to us.”

After his talk, French filmmaker Catherine Sorba screened her documentary From Stars to Stars, which traces the island’s turbulent quest for independence and its hope for a peaceful resolution. The script was written by Siméoni as a message to the Lafayette community, said Mary Toulouse, director of the College’s Foreign Languages and Literatures Resource Center and visiting professor of French.  

The relationship between Corsica and Lafayette College was forged by Ed Auble ’61, a two-time president of the Paoli Business and Professional Association in Paoli, Pa., the oldest establishment in America bearing the island hero’s name.  In 2017, Auble was invited to Corsica and then helped to arrange for a Corsican contingent to visit Paoli, Pa.

Categorized in: Art, Featured News, French, Languages & Literary Studies, News and Features