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Point of View

May, 2010 - Issue No. 33

Visiting Nantes, our sister city in France

I am in France with a twelve member delegation to our sister city Nantes. We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the beginning of this relationship. Former City Councilmember Randy Revelle who began the establishment of the sister-city program is with the delegation.

Ceremony commemorating V.E. Day

I was able to participate
in ceremony
to commemorate V.E. Day

While very different in history, architecture and culture I am amazed at how both cities have similar values and are seeking many of the same goals.

Friday I toured several parks with Jacques Soignon the Parks superintendent. Nantes has an extraordinary number of parks. It is developing community gardens similar to our pea patches. The purpose of the community gardens is to productively use surplus city land and strengthen the sense of community among neighbors.

Saturday, May 8th was the sixty-fifth anniversary of Victory in Europe Day when the Germans surrendered ending WWII.

I joined the Mayor of Nantes and others in a solemn ceremony commemorating this event. The people of Nantes suffered greatly under the Nazi’s.

After the ceremony the Seattle delegation was welcomed to City Hall by Mayor Jean Marc Ayrault.

I was deeply impressed by his heartfelt welcome. He spoke at length about how our countries have worked together for over two centuries to protect each other from the armies of totalitarian governments and from today’s threats. He stressed the importance of advancing human rights everywhere.

Nantes Mayor and French army general

Mayor Jean Marc Ayrault (left) and
just-retiring French army general

Mayor Ayrault was first elected to public office at age 27. He has been Mayor for over two decades and remains very popular and is a national political leader.

The Mayor and other government officials are very familiar with Seattle. He met Mayor Nickels in Copenhagen and would like to strengthen relations and to find opportunities to work together on environmental issues and economic development.

Nantes had a major role in slave trading. Ships were outfitted in Nantes to sail to Africa where people were purchased and shipped by the millions to the Americas to work as slaves. The ships completed the round-trip by returning to Nantes with coffee, cocoa, sugar and other valuable cargo.

Nantes became extremely prosperous and when slave trading was abolished in France in 1817 Nantes began to decline until it became a center of ship building and manufacturing in the late 1800’s.

Nantes is telling the story now of its role in slavery despite the efforts of some who wish to forget that history. Last night our delegation had dinner with leading African- French educators and politicians.

May 10, is a national day in France celebrating the abolition of slavery. We will join members of the French-African community and the Mayor to break ground on a new memorial dedicated to the abolition of slavery.

Nantes is a beautiful and very old city that is lively and thriving today with many young people attending the universities here. It has an enlightened and progressive government. I am honored to represent Seattle on this 30th anniversary of our sister city relationship and on V.E. Day.

Nantes cafe

Lively cafe scene in Nantes

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