Metz: Historic ties, bright future
About the Author: Mr. Evan G. Reade is the U.S. Consul General in Strasbourg
Ambassador Rivkin visited Metz, the largest city in the region of Lorraine, on October 19-20, to commemorate the historical ties the U.S. has with the region and to learn more about what the future holds for this dynamic corner of France.
Most Americans know the story of the Marquis de LaFayette, the dashing young Frenchman who came to the aid of the Thirteen Colonies during the Revolutionary War and who then remained perhaps America’s best friend in Europe until his death in 1834. But few probably realize that his adventure began in Metz, in 1775, where as a 19-year-old military officer, he was training with his unit and attended a dinner where he heard for the first time about the American Revolution. He was immediately captivated, and decided that he must travel to America to take part.
To commemorate this original “Souper de Metz”, the Lorraine – United States Association hosted a gala dinner, at which Ambassador Rivkin was the guest of honor. Prior to the dinner, the Ambassador placed a wreath at the statue of Lafayette and enjoyed a concert of American military marches performed by the French Army’s band. His remarks at dinner recalled the long and enduring ties that have linked France and the United States ever since Lafayette made his fateful decision that night in Metz.
But America’s ties with the Lorraine region did not end with Lafayette. The region, which borders Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium, was the site of fierce fighting in both World Wars. So just as Lafayette was there for America when we needed him, the United States was there for France during their darkest hours. In 1918, American forces under the command of General Pershing helped liberate the region, and on November 22, 1944, American forces under the command of General George S. Patton liberated Metz a second time. These campaigns were difficult and costly, and today the remains of thousands of American servicemen from both wars lie interred in military cemeteries in the region. During his visit, Ambassador Rivkin visited the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in St. Avold, the largest American World War II cemetery in Europe, with over 10,000 graves. This beautiful and serene memorial serves as a reminder to all who visit of the sacrifices both our countries have made for our shared ideals and principles.
But America’s ties to Metz and Lorraine are not just in the past. They will be strengthened in the future, as well, by joint business and educational ventures. The best demonstration of this is to be found at the Lorraine campus of Georgia Institute of Technology, one of America’s leading and most respected universities. Since 1990, Georgia Tech has operated a campus in Metz. In the intervening years, over 2,500 American student have studied there, and over 100 Georgia Tech professors have taught there. Today, the campus hosts over 500 international students who are earning BS, MS, and PhD degrees in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science. And at the same time it gives some of America’s brightest technical students the opportunity to forge international ties, its French and international students complete their studies at Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus. It is links like these that will help both the United States and France maintain into the future their leading positions in the fields of science, research, and high technology. Ambassador Rivkin visited the campus where he met with PhD students and viewed their research, and addressed the student body about leadership, the importance of mentors and an international outlook, and of having the courage to follow their dreams.
The brand new, ultra-modern Centre-Pompidou Metz, the recent commencement of direct TGV service to Paris, and the ongoing construction of new buildings and a modern tram system all attest to the bright future that Metz is building. So if you have the time, retrace the Ambassador’s visit to Metz. Experience some of this region’s fascinating past, and witness it’s modern new buildings and institutions. It’s now only a quick train ride from Paris!
Evan G. Reade