During a speech at the Pantheon to celebrate the 150 years of the Republic on Friday, the head of state announced that a bill to fight separatism will be presented “from this autumn”.
French President Emmanuel Macron during a speech at the Pantheon to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Republic, Friday, September 4. JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP
“The moment, I gauge it, is solemn and moving”. Friday, September 4, at the Pantheon, Emmanuel Macron presided over a naturalization ceremony: “The very day the Republic celebrates its birthday. It was September 4, 1870”, recalled the Head of State in the preamble to his speech, the date of the proclamation of the Third Republic by Léon Gambetta after the defeat of Napoleon III at Sedan.
Macron’s speech in full: “« The Repulic is will, the Republic is transmission. Never completed, always to be recaptured
Tribute to great figures
The President of the Republic took the opportunity to pay tribute to “so many figures, French not by heritage but by the battles waged”: and to quote not only Léon Gambetta, but also Marie Curie, who “made the choice to serve France in the trenches like a simple nurse”; Josephine Baker, who “loved her adopted homeland so much that she risked her life for it, entering into resistance”; or Félix Eboué, “descendant of slaves, [who] answered General de Gaulle’s appeal on June 18”.
For Emmanuel Macron, these personalities are “so many examples (…) of lives in the Republic. So many destinies including Matthew, Noura, Patricia, Catherine, Rana [whose naturalization ceremony the head of state is presiding over this Friday] from which you are today the legatees “. The head of state then called on them to “fully endorse the clothes of French citizens”. For the President of the Republic, becoming French means “accepting to be more than an individual pursuing his own interests; a citizen, who contributes to the common good, shows responsibility towards his compatriots. ”.
The President of the Republic also announced that a national tribute would be paid in the courtyard of the Invalides to the lawyer and figure of feminism Gisèle Halimi, who died on July 28. “From her dear Tunisia to our National Assembly, from the courtrooms to the hemicycles, from pleadings to manifestos, the one who was born Zeiza Taïeb pleaded for the emancipation of peoples and made giant leaps for the cause of women”, he said.
Equality as a “priority of the five-year term
“To be French is first of all to love freedom passionately”, added Emmanuel Macron. “Freedom, in our Republic, is a block”, he said, referring to the freedom to participate in the choice of its leaders, “and therefore the right to vote”, freedom of conscience and secularism, “which guarantees the freedom to believe or not to believe”, but which is “not separable from a freedom of expression going as far as the right to blasphemy”..
Emmanuel Macron went on to focus on another pillar of the Republic: equality. “To be French is to recognize the same dignity in each woman and man. To be French is to love justice”, he said. “Every citizen, regardless of where he lives, where he comes from, must be able to build his life through his work, through his merit. We are still far, too far from this ideal “, he admitted, promising to go “further, stronger” to promote “equal opportunities”, which is “a priority for the five-year term”.
Condemnation of “separatism”
The president then strongly condemned any form of “separatism”, stressing that the Republic was “always to be protected” because it is “fragile” and “precarious”:
“There will never be a place in France for those who, often in the name of a god, (…) intend to impose the law of a group, no. The Republic, because it is indivisible, does not admit any separatist adventure”.
This is why “a bill to fight separatism will be presented this fall”, announced Emmanuel Macron.
The Head of State then insisted on the importance of “bonds of respect and civility”: “The police, gendarmes, magistrates, mayors, all those who fight against violence, against racism and anti-Semitism, play a determining role and, by symmetry, those who attack them should be heavily condemned”. Just to add: “Those who attack the police forces, the elected officials, will not pass”.
For Emmanuel Macron, being French also means being linked by “references, a culture, a common history”: “The Republic begins” (…) “well before the Republic itself because its values are rooted in our history”.
“Love our landscapes, our history, our culture. As a whole, always. The coronation of Reims and the Federation Day. This is why the Republic does not debunk statues”. (…) “We never choose a part of France, we choose France”.
“Matthew, Noura, Patricia, Catherine, Rana. The moment, I gauge it, is solemn and moving, for you, for your loved ones. Not only do you fulfill a dream, but you do it in a special place, the Pantheon, where the great women rest, the great men honored by our homeland; yours now. What’s more, your naturalization ceremony is held on the very day the Republic celebrates its anniversary. It was September 4, 1870.
As the Empire had just been defeated in Sedan, a young 32-year-old MP, Léon Gambetta, answered the call of the people of Paris and proclaimed the Republic from the balcony of the Hôtel de Ville. Léon Gambetta, whose words we have just heard, was like you: son of an immigrant, recently naturalized. French of mixed blood. It was he, however, who resuscitated the Republic, that political regime of freedom under which we have lived for 150 years.
There are so many other Léon Gambetta. So many figures, French not by heritage but by the battles that have shaped our history. Marie Curie was born and raised in Poland. She received two Nobel prizes, made the choice to serve France in the trenches as a simple nurse. Before opening to women two doors that had been closed to them until then: those of the teaching chairs of the Sorbonne and the bronze doors of the Pantheon. Joséphine Baker, born American, chooses France to make her shine with her talent and energy. She loved her adopted homeland to the point of risking her life for it, entering into resistance.
And many other heroes, French by birth, sometimes born far from home, have carried our values so high and marked the building of our Republic. Félix Eboué, descendant of slaves, answered General de Gaulle’s appeal on June 18. He was the first to plant the banner of free France in Chad. Without him, who would become a companion of the Liberation and rest in these places, the epic of the free French Forces would not have been the same. How not to mention Gisèle Halimi, who disappeared this summer? From her dear Tunisia to our National Assembly, from the courtrooms to the hemicycles, from pleadings to manifestos, the one who was born Zeïza Taieb pleaded for the emancipation of peoples and made giant leaps in the cause of women. A national tribute will soon be paid to her in the courtyard of the Invalides.
Léon Gambetta, Marie Curie, Félix Eboué, Joséphine Baker, Gisèle Halimi: so many examples, with other figures that we are honoring today, of lives in the Republic. So many destinies of which Matthew, Noura, Patricia, Catherine, Rana, you are the legatees today. Because now is your turn. Your turn, beyond the diversity of your origins – you come from the UK, Algeria, Peru, Cameroon, Lebanon, to write your lives in the Republic. I’m not talking about shaping your personal lives: at 35, 36, 42, 46 and 48, you all already have a job, often a family here. But to fully take on the clothes of a French citizen, by lifting yourself beyond yourselves.
Becoming French is in fact accepting to be more than an individual pursuing their own interests; a citizen, who contributes to the common good, shows responsibility towards his compatriots, who cultivates a very republican virtue. Duties and rights. But always duties first. Becoming French means having anchored in oneself the awareness that, because the Republic is always fragile, always precarious, it must be a combat of each dawn, a conquest of each day. What I call “republican patriotism”.
“Freedom, cherished freedom”, sings La Marseillaise. To be French is first of all to passionately love freedom. De Gaulle spoke of the “twenty-fold secular pact between France and the freedom of the world”. From today, you are bound by this pact.
Freedom, in our Republic, is a block. It is the freedom to participate in the choice of its leaders – and therefore the right to vote. But which is inseparable from submission to the verdict of the ballot box, to the collective freedom of the people. It is freedom of conscience and in particular secularism, this unique regime in the world which guarantees the freedom to believe or not to believe. But that cannot be separated from a freedom of expression going as far as the right to blasphemy.
And I say this as the trial of the January 2015 attacks opens: being French means defending the right to make people laugh, the freedom to tease, to mock, to caricature of which Voltaire maintained that it was the source.of all the others. To be French is to be on the side of the freedom fighters. And even more so when renunciations flourish, when censorship progresses.
Equality. To be French is to recognize in each woman, in each man, the same dignity. To be French is to love justice. Abolition of privileges and Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen in 1789, universal male suffrage and abolition of slavery by Schœlcher in 1848, women’s right to vote in 1944, lowering of the majority to 18 in 1974, abolition of the death penalty in 1981: you are part of a great and beautiful story, that of the progress of equal rights.
You are also the continuers of a still unfinished march towards tangible, effective equality. Péguy, Jaurès, Blum, Mendès France, carried high the Social Republic. This idea is basically simple: every citizen, regardless of where he lives or where he comes from, must be able to build his life through his work, through his merit. We are still far, too far from this ideal. How many children in France are still discriminated against for their skin color, their name? How many doors closed to young women, young men, because they didn’t have the right codes, were not born in the right place? Equal opportunity is a priority of this five-year term. We will go further, stronger in the weeks to come, so that the Republican promise is kept in the hard facts of lives.
But equality, too, is a block. Rights, duties. Equality before the law thus implies that the laws of the Republic are always superior to particular rules. This is why there will never be a place in France for those who, often in the name of a god, sometimes with the help of foreign powers, intend to impose the law of a group, no. The Republic, because it is indivisible, does not admit any separatist adventure. A bill to fight separatism will be presented this fall.
Fraternity. To be French is to see in your compatriot more than a similar one, one of your own. Our nation is unique in that it has developed a welfare state, a model of social protection that leaves no one by the wayside. However, this unique system in the world is only held together by the ever fragile bonds that unite our fellow citizens. Bonds of respect and civility that violence and hatred can break at any time. This is why in the Republic, the police, gendarmes, magistrates, mayors, all those who fight against violence, against racism and anti-Semitism, play a determining role and that, by symmetry, those who attack them must be heavily condemned. According to the law. Never arbitrarily. Those who attack the police, the elected officials, will not pass.
Links of solidarity and commitment. Our welfare state has once again shown its strength by supporting every French person during the pandemic. And we will long remember the courage of our caregivers, the dedication of volunteers, the mutual aid between neighbors who enabled us to face the height of the crisis. But again, the brotherhood is a block. It can only live, endure, if everyone recognizes the other as worthy of being helped, accompanied. This is why sharing a common is decisive. I can only make sacrifices for my compatriots if I feel bound to them not only by a social contract, but by references, a culture, a common history.
“France”, wrote Marc Bloch, “is the homeland from which I cannot uproot my heart. I have drunk from the sources of its culture, I have made its past mine, I only breathe well under its sky, and I, in turn, have tried to defend it as best I can”. That’s all that, entering the French Republic. Love our landscapes, our history, our culture. As a whole, always. The coronation of Reims and the Federation Day. We never choose a part of France, we choose France.
The Republic begins, you understood it, long before the Republic itself because its values are rooted in our history. Becoming French also means marrying a language that does not stop at our borders, but was one of the foundations of our nation. “My homeland is the French language”, wrote Camus. Mastering French of course allows us to communicate, to exchange with our compatriots, to understand our law. This is why language is a prerequisite for accessing nationality. Mastering French is a passport to an incomparable culture and history, on the dimensions of five continents. It is access to the imagination of Hugo, Dumas, Zola, Malraux, Césaire, all of them honored here at the Panthéon. It is to accompany the characters of Mauriac, who died fifty years ago, and also of all these writers whose greatness honors not only the French spirit, but the universal genius.
To master our language is even more, to touch the soul of the nation, a form of “eternal French”. France is indeed one of the few countries which, with the Villers-Cotterêts ordinance of 1539, was created, conceived by its language.
Our language has forged our relationship to freedom and the universal: didn’t Abbé Grégoire, who rests here, say that French is “the language of freedom”? Our language is the cradle of the Republic long before it was proclaimed by the Convention members of 1792. The Republic takes shape in the texts of Bodin during the Renaissance, it asserts itself in Condorcet, Rousseau, all the thinkers of the Enlightenment. Our language is what holds our people together, our history, it is what makes Charles Péguy able to proclaim “the Republic … our Kingdom of France!” In France, decidedly, everything starts with words.
The Republic is transmission. The Republic is will. Never completed, always to be recaptured. If it has held since the Revolution, it is because between those who dreamed it, those who made it happen, those who defended it, sometimes in the most tragic hours of our history, and those who renewed it in the European project, a “chain of times” has been tied which has spanned the centuries.
On this anniversary, it is not so much joy that dominates, but a clear-headed gravity in the face of the threats hanging over France. Matthew, Noura, Patricia, Catherine, Rana, it is up to you today to take up the torch, to bring the Republican promise to life in the storms of the times. Take over. And entrust it to our youth represented by college students who surround us this morning. Our youth, to whom I wished to restore a taste for Republican rites by creating universal national service.
I wish our youth in France to love the Republic with a passion still intact. Whenever it is ashore, hoist the flag. Whenever a few threaten it, defend with all its might this regime which allowed us to be born and live free. So let us all be gathered, you who have just joined the national community and all the others who have been members for a longer time. Being French is never just an identity. It is citizenship, adherence to values, to a language, a fight that starts all over again. Together, let us form United France. So we will be able to proclaim, for a long time yet: long live the Republic! And long live France!”
Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic