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French Ambassador visits Mercer Island school

Head of School Andrée McGiffin welcomed French Ambassador Pierre Vimont to the French American School of Puget Sound (FASPS) during his visit to the area May 27. - Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter
Head of School Andrée McGiffin welcomed French Ambassador Pierre Vimont to the French American School of Puget Sound (FASPS) during his visit to the area May 27.
— image credit: Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter

The visit of an important dignitary at the French American School of Puget Sound (FASPS) May 27 seemed to give Mercer Island's francophone bastion of learning a bit more of an accent as teachers and schoolchildren entertained their esteemed guest.

French Ambassador to the United States Pierre Vimont visited the school during an official two-day visit to the Seattle area, stopping at a number of cultural and business institutions along the way. Even Mayor Jim Pearman cited his own family connections to France, saying a distant relative was Revolutionary War General Marquis de Lafayette's doctor. Pearman also offered the ambassador an engraved crystal paperweight as a gift, made by the locally-owned Kusak Cut Glass Works.

"We're very proud of having you here," he said. "Thank you for coming and celebrating the school."

Wearing a dark blue suit and tie, Vimont spoke of Seattle as a "great city" and spoke admiringly of the area's art museums, libraries and schools. He encouraged Mercer Island to maintain their ties to sister-city Thonon-les-Bains, a picturesque town in the French Alps where Vimont said he sometimes vacationed with his family.

"I notice you're wearing your pin," he said, motioning to the Mayor's lapel pin which commemorates the sister cities.

Vimont's stop in Mercer Island was one of two stops outside of Seattle - the other was at the Boeing plant in Everett. His visit at the school was intended to signify the commitment of the French government to supporting their language and curriculum standards.

School administrators said they learned of the visit several weeks ago. Over the past few years, French American School of Puget Sound (FASPS) Headmistress Andrée McGiffin has been hard at work expanding her school and its curriculum for over 300 students.

"In addition to his meetings with leaders of industry, the French Ambassador will include the French American School among his visits. This truly demonstrates the French priority on education,” she said.

Fourth graders from Beatrice Peder and Stephane Paccaud's were ready with a choral performance of "Petite Feuille" from the musical La Forêt and joined by other children from the French Immersion School in Bellevue. When the French Ambassador comes calling, McGiffin was ready to show it all off. She personally guided Vimont through the hallways.

"I would love to spend more time here, but it's a very tight schedule," he said.

Some of the other stops on Ambassador Vimont's itinerary included an interview with KUOW radio host Steve Scher, honoring a French citizen at Amazon.com's offices in Seattle and visiting with a local chapter of the American Jewish Committee. His entourage included French Consul General Pierre-François Mourier, cultural attaché Christophe Musitelli and honorary consul Jack Cowan.

Vimont was appointed Ambassador of France to the United States by President Nicolas Sarkozy on Aug. 1, 2007. Prior to his present appointment, Vimont was chief of staff to the minister of foreign affairs, a position he had held since 2002.

Located on Mercer Island, the French American School of Puget Sound (FASPS) offers a strong program in French and English for 300 students from preschool to sixth grade. In 2010, the school will opens a new International Middle School Program offering the highly respected International Baccalaureate Program. This bilingual section is open to students from French Schools in France, North America, and worldwide.

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