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Joan Z. Shore

Joan Z. Shore

Posted: November 5, 2008 01:04 PM

The French Have a Word for It: "Formidable!"


Not since 9/11 have I felt so conspicuously American, here in Paris, as I feel today.

But back then there was shock and sympathy; today there is admiration, congratulations, joy.

Last night I attended a huge Election Night party held -- in all places -- at the newly-renovated aquarium at the Trocadero. Something fishy? Maybe, but it attracted as many French participants as American, and although it was supposed to be bi-partisan, most of those present were clearly rooting for Obama.

Three French TV stations set up mini-studios, and several big screens relayed CNN and Fox. Food, dismayingly, was scarce: Bagels with a slice of ham, or tiny hamburgers the size of a quarter. But beer and wine and Champagne flowed freely, and an improvised theater area featured numerous musicians.

A big party was also held in Lyons, France's "second city," where many American businesses have invested. Predictably, there are more Republicans there than in Paris.

The six-hour time difference kept everyone here up all night, but newspapers managed to get out their morning editions with ecstatic headlines. Even Le Monde, known for its staid and punctilious commentary, fairly screamed, "America Chooses Barack Obama", and promised a special edition tomorrow entitled "The Triumph".

The International Herald Tribune's headline didn't bother to mention his name; it merely gushed: "An Election That Changed Everything."

Line Renaud, a revered French actress and entertainer, recalled appearing in a show in America in 1964 when her friend, Sammy Davis, Jr., was barred from entering the theater.

"The American dream has returned", she said today.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy sent a congratulatory letter to Obama saying, "At a time when we have to confront immense challenges together, your election raises great hope in France, in Europe, and in the world." (Perhaps on his next visit to the States, he'll be treated to some soul food, instead of a Bush barbecue.)

In Sarkozy's government, there is one black woman, Rama Yada, who is junior minister for human rights, and a Muslim woman, Rachida Dati, who is Minister of Justice. In an interview today, Yada compared Obama's election to the fall of the Berlin Wall! Forgivable hyperbole; then she added, "This morning, we all want to be American so we can take a bite of this dream unfolding before our eyes."

France's "black" population is actually composed of two different groups: those from Africa and those from the French Territories in the Caribbean. They do not get along easily, but they are united right now in their enthusiasm for Obama.

So are all my French friends, who called me today and said, "Aren't you proud to be an American?"

And indeed, today I am.

Read more reaction from HuffPost bloggers to Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 presidential election