Today, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) and U.S. Representatives Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Bill Keating (D-Mass.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), all Congressional French Caucus co-chairs, introduced legislation to install a commemorative bench in Washington D.C.'s Rock Creek Park dedicated to Jean Monnet, a French diplomat and entrepreneur known as a founding father of the European Union.
Monnet served as a key diplomat during World War II, going to Washington on France's behalf to meet with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to negotiate a massive aircraft purchase at the start of the war. Later, after France was invaded by Nazi Germany, Monnet was sent to Washington by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to negotiate with American authorities and deliver much-needed supplies for the British. English economist John Maynard Keynes stated that these efforts of Jean Monnet shortened the war by one year. During his diplomatic work in Washington, Monnet was an avid hiker in Rock Creek Park and often called it "my park."
"Jean Monnet was a visionary who helped save millions of lives by shortening the Second World War and led the way in uniting the European continent to face the challenges and opportunities of the post-war era," said Senator Coons. "Amid his consequential work in Washington, Jean Monnet found peace in the varied landscapes of Rock Creek Park. By placing a commemorative bench inside the park, we will honor and remember Jean Monnet's important legacy of peacebuilding."
"Jean Monnet spent a lifetime fostering stronger relationships between France, the United States and all of Europe," said Senator Boozman. "His contributions helped promote peace and prosperity for our citizens, and I'm pleased to join my colleagues in recognizing his legacy through this commemorative tribute."
"Jean Monnet was a distinguished French diplomat who was instrumental to the establishment of the European Union and was a prominent ally of the United States," said Representative Latta. "France and the United States share a rich history of collaboration bonded by shared values, including life, liberty, and equality. During Mr. Monnet's time in Washington, D.C., he enjoyed long walks near Rock Creek Park near his residence. He claimed that walks through Rock Creek Park helped him think and develop plans to achieve peace and unity in Europe. A commemorative bench in Rock Creek Park appropriately honors Mr. Monnet's legacy and serves as a reminder for all who experience it to work towards a more peaceful world. As the co-chair of the Congressional French Caucus, I am proud to be a small part of this dedication with my colleagues."
"As world events continue to show the importance of our transatlantic alliance, I am proud to be the co-chair of the House's French Caucus," said Representative Keating, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe. "France is America's oldest ally and this bench, honoring the visionary Jean Monnet, is a celebration of this long-standing partnership. It is also a celebration of our larger partnership with the European Union, of which Monnet was one of the founding fathers. Let us hope this bench will serve as a place for people to come together in discussion of ideals for a better world."
"As a founder of what is now the European Union, Jean Monnet's global legacy remains steadfast. Commemorating a bench in his beloved Rock Creek Park is just one small gesture in recognizing his contributions to peace in Europe and the world," said Representative Wilson. "The Embassy of France's role in leading this effort is very much appreciated, and as a co-chair of the Congressional French Caucus, I'm grateful to cosponsor this bill."
"Thanks to great visionaries like Jean Monnet, the United States and the European Union continue to share an enduring commitment to defending peace and liberty around the world and to standing together in the face of great challenges," said Representative Schiff. "I hope this small token of respect will inspire others to follow in his footsteps, and celebrate the democratic values that unite us all."