U.S. Embassy France hosts “Lafayette, we are here!” 4th of July fest
By Nathalie Nguyen
On June 29, the U.S Embassy in France hosted an early Fourth of July celebration at the Residence of the U.S Ambassador to France. The day was marked by these famous words: “Lafayette, we are here!”
In celebration of the Franco-American friendship, the event commemorated America’s 241st birthday and its centennial entry into World War I. The celebration events started with a World War I-themed garden party, and also included a period vehicle display at Rue du Eaubourg Saint Honoré, and a ceremony in front of General Marquis de Lafayette’s tomb in Picpus Cemetery, the following day.
As French visitors took pictures in front of the famous Uncle Sam poster at the U.S Official Residence, it was clear that the two nations shared something further: common gratitude and friendship.
A century ago, in June, American troops under General John Pershing arrived in St. Nazaire, to help France. Some saw it as a way to repay Lafayette for French support during the American Revolution. That support directly led to American victory, and the creation of the independent, democratic, United States.
Paying tribute to the French men who sacrificed for America’s liberty, General Pershing, and his aide, Colonel C.E Stanton went to the tomb of General Lafayette, and declared, “Layfayette, we are here!” Uttered on the Fourth of July almost a hundred years ago, it was a moment that boosted the morals of the French and laid the groundwork to turn the U.S-France cooperation into a powerful offensive.
At this week's event, Uzra Zeya, the Chargé D'Affaires at the U.S Embassy in Paris, delivered remarks to honor the American war effort in France.
“As in 1917, we reiterate our cooperation with France for a free and stable world,” said Zeya, representing the U.S. “Lafayette, we are still here!”
Zeya was also present in the Franco-American ceremony of General Lafayette in Picpus cemetery the next day, where the American flag was raised and bouquet of flowers were laid at the tomb to honor the General.
In celebration of the official centennial entry, the French-American Museum of Blérancourt also held a special World War I exhibit for visitors. Other events and activities included Living History reenactors representing the 79th infantry, and various band performances of the Harlem Hellfighters Jazz Band's music by the United States Air Forces in Europe Band, at the U.S Official Residence.
A jazz re-interpretation “La Marseillaise” – the French National Anthem – was performed by the band, to honor the 367,000 African-Americans mobilized during World War I.
As Americans prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July with red, white, and blue, the French have already helped Americans celebrate it with pride, gratitude, and commemoration.
Nathalie Nguyen is a 2017 Summer Intern at the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission