United States: one month after the submarine affair, bringing transatlantic friendship to life despite everything

Since its creation in 1939, the French-American Aid For Children (FAAFC) has seen tensions between France and the United States: the chin blows of General de Gaulle in the 1960s, the episode of “Freedom fries” in 2003, against the backdrop of a standoff over the war in Iraq, or, on September 15, 2021, the Australian submarine crisis …

→ ANALYSIS. France – United States: reconciliation will be difficult

All this does not distract this Franco-American association from its mission: to help underprivileged children in both countries. “It’s not our problem! “, loose the American francophile artist Diane Ackerman, member of the board of directors, about these “Couple quarrels that come and go”.

Helping servicemen and children in WWII

The FAAFC, based in New York, is one of the myriad of private organizations, associations, clubs, friendship groups, societies, which bring Franco-American friendship to life on a daily basis. Transatlantic ties are written in its DNA. Founded by six French women married to Americans, it was originally called the Committee of Franco-American Wives and had the ambition to help soldiers and child prisoners in the hell of World War II in France.

“These six foundresses prepared parcels for France, sewed clothes, raised money for military families. They wanted to help their country when the United States had not yet entered the war ”, explains the current president, Marguerite Mangin, a Frenchwoman. “They were housewives, but very ambitious, and motivated to help the children”adds Diane Ackerman.

To finance their projects, they created a “Bal des Berceaux” to raise funds. Maurice Chevalier and Charles Aznavour were among the guests of honor at the popular social event. “At the time, everything French was considered chic and exotic in New York”, slips Diane Ackerman.

Despite the passage of time, the FAAFC has not lost any of its Franco-American identity. Each year, the association grants scholarships to children’s aid associations on both sides of the Atlantic. Access to education, fight against drugs, nutrition, Covid: the challenges faced by young people in the two countries are similar.

Links impervious to political turpitude

Beyond these actions, the association helps to create links that are impermeable to political turpitude. “The American associations that we support have become more Francophiles. Our interlocutors go to France, learn the vocabulary, sing the Marseillaise during our fundraising galas ”, says Diane Ackerman. “Schools in both countries ask us to put them in touch to organize exchanges”, continues Marguerite Mangin.

→ READ. France – United States: how to reconcile autonomy and alliance

To date, the board of directors is made up of Americans, French and binationals. And American and French companies are among its donors. “When there are tensions between France and the United States, it is mentioned between us. But we do not worry about international news for our fundraising or the granting of our scholarships ”, resumes the president. Even the hostility towards France in 2003 did not shake his faith in this long-standing relationship with the “Very deep roots”.

“Many Americans do not have passports, but all know La Fayette and the Statue of Liberty, she adds.For their part, the French are influenced by American culture. If I ever have to return to France, which is unlikely, I will remain deeply in love with the United States. “

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