Ambassador Colonna pays tribute to Samuel Paty
21 October 2020
Ladies and gentlemen headteachers,
Ladies and gentlemen elected representatives,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Madam Director of the Institut français,
I should like to begin these few words by asking you to share our thoughts for Samuel Paty, his family, close friends and the whole education community, in France and abroad, as is the case here. Let’s think about him.
On Friday, an extremely serious act occurred: in France, in Conflans-Ste-Honorine, a teacher, a “prof”, was murdered in a barbaric act of radical Islamism while he was doing his job, because he was doing his job.
The worthy task of teachers isn’t just to teach us things but to make us think, to make us all - as President Macron said at the scene that very evening -, to make us all free citizens. Citizens, free citizens.
I want to express to you here the full support of the President of the Republic and the French Government, whom I have the honour of representing in the United Kingdom; support for the whole teaching profession, for all our pupils and the whole of the United Kingdom’s French community.
Monsieur le Proviseur, as you said, the role of teachers is wonderful, noble, even compelling. They teach us about the world and how to discuss, debate, disagree, respect one another, how to invigorate our democracy, our Republic.
As I said on 14 July, the Republic is part of us all, in what we do, in how we behave, in how we love our country and its values. Every French man and woman here represents the Republic; each of us has a responsibility towards it, which is to foster what it best embodies.
Our freedoms have been dearly won; for centuries – even millennia – they have allowed man to rise above his condition. We value these fundamental freedoms and shall defend them.
And I would like to end simply by saying to you that the primary means of defending freedoms is to exercise them. This isn’t paradoxical, it is exactly what some people want to prevent. So let’s put them into practice. Exercise them. Talk, discuss, love, debate, take part in demonstrations, read, walk, laugh, cry, play, dance, draw: live as the free men and women we are lucky enough to be.
Long live France,
Long live the Republic.
Click the image below to see photos of this homage.