A Surprise Visit from a Former French President


A Surprise Visit from a Former French President

December 05, 2016

Former French President, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, made a surprise visit to the Paris Center on November 30th.  The Columbia Alumni Club in France in association with Columbia Undergraduate Programs in Paris and Columbia Global Centers | Paris hosted the event, keeping mum about the identity of the VIP speaker until the day before when official invitations were sent out.

The Grande Salle was packed for the occasion with a crowd drawn mostly from Reid Hall undergraduate programs' students, faculty and staff, and the French alumni community, who all came to hear the elegant and agile-minded nonagenarian share his thoughts on the future of the post-Brexit European Union.

Giscard, who served as president from 1974 to 1981, spoke with great eloquence and feeling about a subject in which he clearly felt personally invested. Indeed, throughout his career he was a great proponent of the European Union, even serving from 1989-1993 as a member of the European Parliament.  He expressed his hope that, despite Brexit, the core members of the EU will strive to realize the original vision of a united and federated Europe.

After the talk, which was moderated by the alumni club’s vice president, Sophie Dorrer, President Giscard fielded questions from the public. With wit and generosity, he managed to respond in a way that broadened the scope of even the simplest questions, giving a comprehensive overview of the issues at play in European politics.

At the end of the evening, President Giscard greeted students, posing for photos that will surely impress the folks back home.