Première Dame

Hillary Clinton Paris 1994When we were still new in France, the American president and first lady made a state visit.

What’s interesting about this French television news report from 1994 is that journalist Anne Sinclair leads the story with Hillary Clinton, as if somehow anticipating the greater role to come for the woman who was then Première Dame.

This week for the first time in France we have begun to hear journalists talk about Hillary Clinton not just as a former first lady or would-be candidate, but quite possibly the first woman president of the United States.

The Clintons returned to France in 1996 for the G7 summit that was held in Lyon. Oh, the excitement that bubbled in France’s second city! I remember it being a very big deal as world leaders converged upon our city, and a lot of ink was spilled as local politicians gushed about Lyon finally having its hour of glory. I also remember the epic traffic jams as major routes around the city were closed.

One of the most memorable moments, at least for this viewer, came during Bill Clinton’s speech. The interpreter was Nelson Montfort, an oft-spoofed TV personality here in France. With his marked American accent (surely put on, after all these years?), he is known for live commenting of sports events and televised interviews with famous athletes in English and French. I’m not sure how great his English really is though.

On this day, he was doing live interpreting of Clinton’s speech on French TV. As Americans are wont, Clinton made a reference to God. “And I want to thank the Lord Jesus,” he said, with his southern drawl.

There was an awkward pause. Then Nelson spoke up and said, in French: “Je crois qu’il veut remercier Luigi?”

I think he wants to thank Luigi.

If Hillary actually does become the first woman president of the US, I hope we can find a better interpreter.

And if it’s Trump? Better start praying to the Lord Jesus.


  1. francetaste · June 9, 2016

    My fingers are crossed. Otherwise I might have to seek political asylum.
    Check out this excellent analysis of Trump in the New York Times magazine by Adam Davidson, who also does a great economics podcast called Planet Money (one of my favorites!)

  2. Was it really 22 years ago, that first visit? I’m sure that I’ve had my own ‘Luigi’ moments. Thank God, they were not so public!

    • MELewis · June 9, 2016

      Time flies, n’est-ce pas? I often feel grateful that are no digital records of my early blunders! And after one failed attempt at interpreting, I’ll leave that to the experts! 😉

  3. Margo Lestz · June 9, 2016

    Thanks for starting my day with a hearty laugh! “Thanking Luigi” is so funny!

    • MELewis · June 9, 2016

      I may have been one of the only viewers who picked it up, but how I laughed! Glad you smiled too.

  4. Carina · June 9, 2016

    This is almost as good as the famous translation of “meeting on May 4th” instead of George Lucas’ “may the force be with you”. In this particular case we need both, I guess: Luigi and The Force!
    Thanks for a great laugh and the link. I had not seen it yet. Carina.

    • MELewis · June 9, 2016

      Oops…so famous I don’t know it! 😉 Do tell, please! Glad you enjoyed the giggle and the link.

  5. poshbirdy · June 9, 2016

    Brilliant. Shades here of the Nelson Mandela sign-language interpreter? Priceless

    • MELewis · June 9, 2016

      I am clearly in the dark about a lot of lost-in-translation moments. Please share, Posh!

  6. weird weekends · June 9, 2016

    It is nice that he thought of Luigi… he never gets thanked enough… (still laughing… ) thanks for sharing this. If it is Trump… hmmm maybe we should avoid translators all together (not to get political)…

    • MELewis · June 9, 2016

      Ha, ha….even a terrible translation would be better than listening to what Trump has to say. I am unafraid of offending anybody with them politics! Glad you thought Luigi deserved the mention. 🙂

  7. Suzanne et Pierre · June 9, 2016

    Great piece. I do remember Montfort commentary on sport and his interviews in English with his live translation. He is quite a character…

    As for US politics, it is right now very difficult to predict who will win the presidency. Both are hated by a lot of people for different reasons. It is interesting that such a populous country couldn’t get any better candidates to run for the top job. Clinton is OK but she comes with huge baggage of allegations of corruption, favouring the weatlhy, etc…Though personally, if I were an American it would be anything but Trump! (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · June 9, 2016

      I’m with you 100% Suzanne. Although I actually know one or two Americans who hate Clinton so much they would vote for Trump even though they don’t agree with many of his stances, and naïvely assuming he will bring his so-called ‘business sense’ to running the country (I highly doubt this…) As for Montfort, he is definitely one-of-a-kind. Thanks for your comment!

      • Suzanne et Pierre · June 9, 2016

        I also doubt Trump’s business sense. His casino went bankrupt and I still don’t understand how he could manage that as we all know that casino are fixed in favour of the owners and are machine to print money. He also has bankrupted a bunch of other businesses and he is now sued for fraud with his Real Estate University. I also think that he doesn’t pay his fair share of income tax as he doesn’t want to divulge his income tax returns and I also think he isn’t as wealthy as he says he is…So when people think that he has business sense I very much doubt it…

  8. Osyth · June 9, 2016

    I shall forever call ALL those Jesus’s (Jesi?) Luigi when I pass them hanging forlornly on their crosses all over rural France. This pleases me and will make me smile rather than instinctively step away. As for Trumpton …. I watched an interesting Anderson Cooper piece a day or so ago when he pointed out that it is not Trump himself but those that quite rationally think that voting for him would be a good idea that we really need to be scared of ….

    • MELewis · June 9, 2016

      A fitting way to honour the memory, Osyth. Trump’s voters are indeed terrifying…Munich, 1932? Hope you will be home safe in France soon!

    • zipfslaw1 · June 15, 2016

      Couldn’t find a “like” button for this, but: Like!

      • Osyth · June 15, 2016

        Hey zipfslaw1 – THANK YOU!!!

  9. Lisa @ cheergerm · June 10, 2016

    Good ole Luigi…it seems many find Clinton ‘insincere’, my hubby is quite a fan of hers and has read much about her. Either way, she is certainly the sane choice but then, what’s sanity got to do with politics?

  10. M. L. Kappa · June 15, 2016

    I had to laugh at this, although the end result might not be quite so funny

  11. jackiemallon · June 15, 2016

    A better interpreter. 🙂 I too wish for a better interpreter. ;-P

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s