French Foreign Ministry's First Class Act.
We [journalists] had all been offered ear pieces in case we needed translation, but Kouchner, the co-founder of French humanitarian medical relief group Medecins Sans Frontieres, addressed the audience in good if heavily accented English. (Mother Jones)
Of course, Chirac’s ear is long gine by and that’s just as good. In 2006, when Ernest-Antoine Seillière, the French head of the European business lobby Union began addressing the EU's 25 leaders in English, Chirac interrupted him and asked why he was not using his mother tongue. (IHT)
But there is better yet. Kouchner had his speech interrupted by “several antiwar protesters who jumped up and unfurled pink banners that read: "Bush + Kouchner = Warmongers!" One woman tried to climb onto the stage. Guards escorted the protesters away as they shouted, "No war with Iran! No war with Iran!". (IHT)
Make a pause now and imagine what happened? Did the protesters got tasered? Did Kouchner snub them à la Cheney?
Nope – here’s what happened:
Kouchner recovered his composure first, and he asked at first it seemed merely perhaps politely, and later fully insisted to his host Hamre, that they let the activists back in. "But they are right. These ladies are right. I don't want war with Iran. Please let them back in." And to my surprise at least, after a couple minutes, the side doors of the large ballroom opened, and the women were escorted back to their seats by suited Secret Service types with the earpieces, not looking fully convinced of the wisdom of the move.
Kouchner directed his remarks at several points to the Code Pink activists during his almost one hour of remarks
A few of the activists, perhaps a bit surprised themselves at the turn of events, offered sheepish thanks from their third row seats to Kouchner for asking that they be allowed back in.
I all-heartedly agree with Mother Jones, it is hard to "even imagine any of the current U.S. administration handling such an outburst with anything approaching the willingness to engage shrill critics that Kouchner demonstrated at the scene. This administration and its critics have long operated in entirely different universes, top U.S. leaders have confined themselves to the most staged press and public events purged of critics to the extent possible."
This was indeed a first-class act.