(Y)our father George

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In case some of you did not notice, the last couple of weeks were full of anniversaries: GW’s 100 years in Foggy Bottom and George Washington’s 223rd birthday. Even before that, I had noticed how dear George Washington was to the university. You run into his bust almost every block. Yet those events were a good opportunity to learn a little bit more about American traditions.

1) S’mores:

This is probably the best thing the US have ever invented (after the Internet of course). I was familiar with marshmallows like anybody who went to summer camps. Yet I had never eaten s’mores. The idea is simple: biscuit- chocolate-marshmallow-chocolate. The result is simply delicious. Too bad we discovered that only in February and I don’t have a fireplace to make them at home. My only complaint: there should really be a seminar on how to make them at the beginning of the semester because chances are you won’t be able to make them properly the first time you try.

2) Bonfire: 

An orchestra, a giant fire and a George Washington mascot… I keep wondering what it would look like if this happened in Paris next to my home university, Sciences Po. This is for me the main difference a campus make. We would never have such social events in France. Firstly, this would mean blocking a whole street and probably starting a fire considering how  narrow the streets are. Secondly, inhabitants of the seventh district of Paris would fear that young people from the “banlieues” are coming to attack their neighborhood. Finally, the sound of an orchestra playing would probably make people think it’s July 14th or the Gay Pride demonstrating early this year (which would be stupid because it’s 30°F in France right now so half-naked dancers would be freezing).

3) The Legendary George:

I did not know about Presidents Day before it actually happened, although I wondered why someone had put a hat on George’s head near Foggy Bottom metro. After I realized this meant I wouldn’t have a test in my investigative reporting class on Monday – which made me pretty happy – I looked up on Wikipedia what was the meaning of this holiday. As it turns out, Americans celebrate their presidents’ birthdays, especially Washington’s and Lincoln’s. It is not a shock that great figures of history are important in the US. In France, less so. First, we don’t usually celebrate dead people’s birthday but dead people’s … death day. Above all, I don’t think everybody would feel comfortable celebrating Napoleon’s birthday for example. Among other things, he is the author of a text that said: “Husbands must protect their wives, wives must be obedient to their husband”. Let’s just say that feminists would not be thrilled to celebrate Napoleon’s birthday. On the contrary, in the US, especially at GW that was named after George, history is still very sacred. Busts of Presidents are everywhere and politicians still refer to the Founding Fathers to defend certain ideas or object to reforms.

All of this to say that there is more than an ocean that separates France and the United States.

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