Celebrating the unique Franco-American relationship

Friendships are a treasured thing in Washington. And the bittersweet nature of those friendships is that we must often say goodbye as people move away for new opportunities. It was an honor for me and my husband, Jehan-Christophe, to host a going away party for two of our dear friends, French Ambassador François Delattre and his wife Sophie, who will be moving to New York to represent their country at the United Nations.

François and Sophie will be dearly missed in Washington. Relationships are what keep this city running and they were an important part of this community for more than 15 years. Their absence will be felt by many as evidenced by the many sweet goodbyes I’ve witnessed.

The Franco-American relationship is unique and July is a special month in which we both celebrate independence and friendship between our countries. Even though they will no longer be in Washington, I know the many friendships that the Ambassador and his wife have built in this city over the years will endure. I wish them all the best and look forward to reconnecting with them in New York.

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Thrive

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hosting a book launch party for my friend, Arianna Huffington. Her book, Thrive, makes a compelling case for living a more balanced life.

Interpersonal relationships have always been the foundation of my success and happiness. When I’m in a meeting, I give the people I’m with my full attention (and expect the same in return). While technology has allowed our society to become more productive and connected in many positive ways, I still intentionally carry a flip phone and work on a desktop computer. When it’s time to work, I go back to my computer to focus. And when I’m meeting with people, I’m fully present and free of distractions from anything else that is going on at the moment.

I also strongly believe in spending quality time with family and friends, regardless of my work obligations. We get so fixated on doing whatever it takes to get ahead that it’s easy to lose perspective. But professional opportunities will always come and go, and you can never get back the time you miss with the people who matter most in your life.

I applaud Arianna for launching such a meaningful dialogue around the true meaning of success. I realize that technology has allowed her, more than almost anyone else, to have this important conversation on a large scale. But her perspective on the kind of ‘connection’ that truly matters is what makes her successful.

Independence Day

The 4th of July is a time to celebrate our freedom as ensured by the Declaration of Independence. The principle author of that document, Thomas Jefferson, is someone I have come to know much more about over the past several years of renovating and re-launching a hotel, The Jefferson, in Washington, DC.

A curious man, President Jefferson was an enthusiastic inventor of many practical items. We have taken great pride in designing a hotel we think Jefferson would have appreciated in terms of design and service. The property also hosts original Jefferson-signed documents and books on his favorite subjects. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to restore this beautiful property and tribute to our third president, located just steps from the White House.

It seems appropriate that President Jefferson passed away on July 4, the day he made famous, in 1826. On this Independence Day, let us take time to honor our founding fathers and all those who have served our country over the past 238 years to guarantee our freedom, particularly those who have served and continue to serve in our military.

Remembering those who gave all on D-Day 70th Anniversary

For the past decade, my husband and I have had the privilege of keeping a residence in the small town of Saint-James, France. The countryside is so beautiful and peaceful, and many of the local residents have become dear friends of ours. And this is a region where the World War II campaigns of 1944 are still very much on the minds and in the hearts of the people who live here. It seems that every day I hear a new story or learn something new about the nearly 5,000 soldiers who were laid to rest at the Brittany American Cemetery.

Over the years, I’ve become increasingly passionate about supporting military families and veterans and I am dedicated to doing everything I can to ensure we give appropriate support to those who make a personal sacrifice for our freedom. As I learn more about the historical events that took place in this region I now call home, this cause becomes more and more personal for me. That is why I strongly believe in commemorating this year’s 70th anniversary of D-Day on June 6, and highlighting it as an important moment of honoring those who gave all while raising awareness about ongoing issues surrounding the care we provide our veterans.

I am always honored to be in France to participate in memorial events that pay tribute to the Greatest Generation, which included my own father who also served in World War II. I never miss an opportunity to remember and thank those who have served. It is so moving to watch all the events taking place involving people from our allied countries and countries around the world. As all eyes are on the landing beaches and sites of the Battle of Normandy, we will mourn the loss of life and celebrate the freedom those soldiers gave us.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to visit France for the anniversary events. But it’s important for millions more Americans to constantly be aware of the important sacrifice our military personnel made for us then and continue to make for us now. Thousands of service men and women continue to fight for our freedom. And they deserve the same respect and commitment from us as those who served from previous generations.

The number of individuals who serve today is much smaller by comparison but that is why it’s even more important to thank them every day for their service. And we have to help them get the treatments and rehabilitation and support they need to return to civilian life. That includes providing sufficient medical care, job training, and ongoing support to military families to help them create the best lives they can possibly have after serving. Those in military service make up only one percent of the total population of the United States, and most Americans don’t have first-hand knowledge of military experience. This is such a different reality than that which veterans faced half a century ago. But that’s why it’s even more important to raise public awareness of veterans issues, and that’s why it is a cause I am committed to for the rest of my life.

On this D-Day anniversary, and every other day of the year, we can honor those who gave all by taking care of those who continue to serve.