An ongoing series of reports, articles, and news items about the Arlington
Sister City Association's programs and activities, plus news from its Sister Cities

    May 2017

Editor's Note: Tannia Talento from the Arlington County School Board and Brinton Rowdybush, a member of the Arlington-Reims committee, were invited to Reims to participate in the events commemorating the centennial of the entry of the United States in World War I. This month "News from ASCA" is a summary of their trip with excerpts from Ms. Talento's written report.

The city of Reims invites Arlington representatives to commemorate the United States entry in World War I  

On April 6, 1917 Congress authorized the declaration of war against Germany as asked for by President Woodrow Wilson. The city of Reims and its surroundings were close to the main battlefields and the city was severely damaged by many months of bombardment.

The commemoration cycle of the Centennial of the First World War began in 2014. The events which were held in Reims on April 6, 2017 honoring the Centennial of the United States entrance into World War I were attended by Tannia Talento from the Arlington County School Board and Brinton Rowdybush from ASCA at the invitation of Mayor Arnaud Robinet.

University wearing original soldier uniforms  
Exchanging gifts then and now       

Tannia Talento brought a gift for Mayor Robinet and the City of Reims:

"We provided the American flag that was flown over Arlington Fire Station No. 5, the first fire station to respond to the Pentagon on 9/11, and the USS Arlington. The flag was in a flag display case and was engraved with a description. I had the opportunity to present this to the Mayor during the morning events of April 6. We also provided a book of historic pictures of Arlington which was given to him at the evening's event on April 6.

Brinton Rowdybush also gave a book on American Art and WWI on behalf of ASCA.

The American Memorial Hospital
Entrance to the American Memorial Hospital 

The first event took place at the American Memorial Hospital. Founded after the war to help the war wounded, it is today a children's hospital. A wreath was la id by the Mayor of Reims and Philip Freyne, Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at t he U.S. Embassy, and remarks were made by Gerry Shea, head of the Americ an C ommittee that help s to support the hospital from an endowment. They contribute $600, 000 to $1 million a year. There is also a French Committee that helps choose the projects to be supported that is headed by a third generation member of the Krug champagne house, Olivier Krug.        

"The tribute at the memorial started with the Star Spangled Banner, followed by the French National Anthem, and finally followed by the laying of the wreath on the memorial plaque outside of the hospital. We then proceeded indoors to the original hospital building. Mayor Robinet and other dignitaries, including Catherine Vautrin who is a member of the National Assembly of France, spoke to the attendees in the entrance hall that appeared to be one of the original waiting areas of the hospital."

 Laying a wreath on the memorial plaque at the American Memorial Hospital 
This plaque commemorates the presence of Jane D. Hartley, Ambassador of the United States, on May 7, 2015 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the inauguration of the American memorial Hospital built by Americans in memory of the soldiers of the war of 1914-1918 who are buried in France as a testimony to the friendship that unites France and the United States, for the children of Reims, their health and their future. 

"More speeches continued in the upstairs room where very old pictures and memorabilia were on display. After additional speeches by the dignitaries, hospital leadership and other important guests, we proceeded to another room for a toast. This was followed by a tour of a wing of the hospital maintained in its original condition, a photo exhibition, and a tour of the new hospital wing. We then went to one of the courtyards of the hospital where there was a podium set up for the presentation and we once again had speakers, including the Mayor who mentioned and welcomed all the dignitaries that were present, including the Arlington representatives, myself and Mr. Rowdybush."
Tannia Talento, Mayor Robinet and dignitaries tour the hospital exhibit 
Testimony to a long lasting friendship

In the afternoon the City arranged a tour for the Arlington visitors, and some members of the Reims-Arlington Committee, of a number of sites associated with the United States.

"We boarded a bus along with a tour guide and proceeded first to a site where a Sequoia tree donated by Americans was planted alongside a memorial plaque":
 a redwood tree memorial marking American friendship and assistance.
Sequoia sempervirens from: California 
Gift from the people of the United States to the people of France for the bicentennial of the Declaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen and the Bill of Rights of the United States - 1789-1989 - Testimony to two centuries of friendship - given by the American Committee of the French Revolution and the  F.A. Bartlett Tree Expert Company     
  U.S participation in the restoration of the city's monuments
"We then went to the Carnegie Library of Reims: a library in Reims built with money donated by Andrew Carnegie after WWI; Reims was one of three cities to be given a library after WWI.

The Carnegie Library Reading Room with Art Deco masterpieces 
The cathedral of Reims , a 13th century cathedral, was badly damaged in WWI and was repaired after the war with funds provided primarily by the Rockefeller family. Ms. Talento was especially moved to note that one can still see damage from the fires and mortars inside and outside the cathedral.

The Cathedral then and now 
The evening events were held at the Reims campus of Sciences-Po, the famous French political science institute. 
"The evening started with an exhibition of objects from French and American WWI soldiers, as well as the presentation of the book by Jacques Pernet, "1917 l'Amérique
en Guerre", published by the Reims - Arlington Committee with the endorsement of the U.S. WWI Centennial Commission. The university students had obtained original soldier uniforms and were wearing them during the exhibition."
The Seeger Library

The 17th century library at Sciences-Po was named in honor of American poet Alan Seeger, who died in WWI on July 4, 1916 fighting with the French Foreign Legion. His poem "I Have a Rendez-Vous with Death" is well-known. The Director of Sciences-Po, Nathalie Jacquet gave a speech, as did the Mayor, Arnaud Robinet, and Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, who was instrumental in this initiative. 
"The presentation began with the school's a-cappella group singing the Star Spangled Banner followed by the French National Anthem. Again there were speeches, by the President of the School and the Mayor, and we then proceeded to the school's library for the "Inauguration of the Bibliothèque des Pères Jésuites in the name of Alan Seeger."     
"Mr. Taittinger of Taittinger Champagne, whose father, a former mayor of Reims, purchased the abandoned building which was formerly a Jesuit college and provided the opportunity for it be the great institution it is today. The presentation ended with a student reading a letter written in French by Alan Seeger to his parents during WWI."
There was also a small display of Seeger memorabilia from an American collector. This was followed by a champagne reception and then music and dancing with the Jazz Cotton Band in the courtyard of Sciences-Po.

Alan Seeger Library - 1888 -1916
American poet who sacrificed his life for France during the battle of the Somme the 4th of July, 1916. Author of the poems "Champagne" and "I have a Rendez-vous with Death" 


Reims-Arlington University connections

On Friday, Brinton Rowdybush, a former U.S. diplomat and member of the Arlington-Reims Committee, went back to Sciences-Po at the invitation of the Transatlantic Student Group. He spoke about President Trump's "First Months and U.S. Foreign Policy Priorities'', and then answered questions.
Afterwards, he had lunch with Laurent Lucas, Professor and Vice Chair of Research at the University of Reims. They spoke about possible collaborative projects with counterparts in Arlington. 

Gathering before meeting for a farewell dinner

Finally Tannia Talento and Brinton Rowdybush had dinner with Stephane Damien and Catherine Desplanques, the outgoing and incoming Presidents of the Reims-Arlington Committee.  


Arlington Sister City Association (ASCA), is a nonprofit organization established 1993. ASCA promotes the region's international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture, and the arts.