In accepting the World Statesman Award from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation last month, French President Francois Hollande said he was responding to “a call to conscience.”
“Conscience implies both demanding the clear-mindedness we expect of public officials, and the principle of action required of the men and women who run the world’s nations.”
He was mindful that “conscience is nurtured by remembrance.” That was highlighted when
he visited Auschwitz last summer for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camps, where he met with survivors. An attack had just targeted Jews in France and he saw in their eyes the fear of “a horrific repetition.”
He said that Elie Wiesel had called “antisemitism a leprosy that returns insidiously when civilizations believe they have ridden themselves of it forever. Antisemitism has returned today, fueled by the old prejudices of the extreme right, but also by radical Islam.”
He said that France’s determination to combat antisemitism, Nazism, totalitarianism, and dictatorships is total.
“It is always democracies who win wars,” Hollande said. “That law of history will endure in the 21st century.”
Hollande was guest of honor at the annual awards dinner on Sept. 19 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, also presented awards to Andrew N. Liveris, chairman/CEO of the Dow Chemical Co., and Carlos Slim Helu, president of the Carlos Slim Foundation with programs in education, health, social justice and conservation, plus a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve the health of women and children in Central America.
Schneier founded the organization in 1965 as an interfaith coalition of business, religious and foreign policy leaders to promote peace and understanding on a global scale.
Tim Boxer was a columnist at the New York Post for two decades. At the same time he has been a columnist for The New York Jewish Week for 36 years, and editor of 15MinutesMagazine.com for 17 years. He is the author of Jewish Celebrity Hall of Fame, interviews of Hollywood stars about their Jewish roots.