LEWISTON, Me– Excerpts from the speech given by Madame Doris Belisle Bonneau, upon receiving the Ordre National du Mérite, during a reception at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College, in Lewiston, on Thursday, August 31, 2017.
Mme. Bonneau is now a “Knight”.
She gave her speech to the 100 attendees, at a reception and opening of “American Women Rebuilding France: 1917-1924“, a Centennial World War I exhibition, sponsored by the Franco-American Museum Château de Blérancourt, from Picardy France. Curator of the exhibit was Elaine L’Heureux Leary, a native of Auburn, ME. To date, the traveling exhibition as been attended by over 200.000 people throughout the USA, where it was presented in 16 locations.
Presenting the award was Consul General of France in Boston, M. Valéry Freland, who spoke on behalf of the President of France.
Madame Bonneau said:
“Bienvenue et grand merci d’etre venue pour partager avec moi cette honneur.”
“It is my honor to accept the commendation of Chevalier, “Knight” of de L’Ordre National de Mérite. Growing up as a Franco-American, I sometimes felt like a second class citizen, because I was bilingual and struggled with a lack of self-esteem. This afternoon, I want to re-cast the notion of this, by accepting this commendation, and ask that each of you join me in becoming ‘Knights’, in the pursuit of worthiness, distinction and merit.”
“How many of us here speak another language? Please raise your hand. How many are Franco-Americans, or Irish Americans, or Greek-Americans, Italian-American, Polish-Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans? How many of us have a lineage, who immigrated to the community or to this country? Raise your hands if you have ever been criticized for being ‘from away’. How many of you think that diversity and tolerance can be enhanced in our community.”
“We know how nothing is achieved without the support of others. I want to recognize my husband, John, who supported me to be the best that I could be and a model for our daughter Nicole, who exceeds all of our expectations. Community members such as Rita Dube, Ray Lageux, Mitch Thomas and Connie Cote, who provided me with opportunities to serve and rekindle my Franco-American heritage. To community leaders from the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College and Dean Joyce Gibson, who keep the sustainability of the Franco-Collection on their radar screen. And, to the model statesmen and stateswomen such as Severin Beliveau, Lucien Gosselin, Hon. Margaret Craven and Elaine O’Leary. And. to the Franco-Collection Board members whose blood sweat and tears keep the archives open and visible. And to Diane Pelletier, Georgette Morin, Jacynthe Jacques who have flourished as they implemented bilingual opportunities for children in Lewiston and Auburn.”
“To all of you, thank you. Remembering the words of the poet T.S. Eliot, “Dare Disturb the Universe”, the lines in “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock“, we want to acknowledge the leadership and the dedicated work of the American Women Rebuilding France 1917-1924; and to challenge all of us to give ourselves permission to be leaders.”
Mme Bonneau received the commendation in recognition of her leadership in Franco-American education, her supportive roles in building cultural awareness and for her community engagement on behalf of helping others.