Diplomats Visit USF

Ambassadors from Britain and France spend time at USF and attend the GOP Debate at Theatre I.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 24, 2012) – The University of South Florida played host Monday to two ambassadors to the United States – Sir Peter Westmacott, British ambassador to the U.S. and Francois Dellatre of France.


Both attended Monday night’s GOP Presidential Primary Debate, but not before participating in several separate events on campus.


The knighted-British diplomat took the opportunity to meet with USF officials and students to hear their thoughts on the future of higher education, the ever-increasing role universities are playing in economic development and the expansion of the long traditions the U.S. and Great Britain share in global education.


Dellatre was at the Patel Center to make distinguished award presentation to several people, including two World War II U.S. veterans.


Meeting for tea with USF President Judy Genshaft, Provost Ralph Wilcox and Karen Holbrook, senior vice president for Research, Innovation &  Global Affairs, Westmacott was briefed on USF's globally-leading programs in neurosciences, autoimmune diseases, sustainability and veteran's reintegration.

The ambassador also commented that he'd had heard USF's first European Exposition, a three-day event in October which provided an opportunity for the university to meet with research counterparts from across Europe and meet with potential students from the United Kingdom, was a success. Research and development stemming from universities will be important to righting the global economy, he said. 

Westmacott seemed particularly interested in USF's work with returning veterans and research into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the challenges of resuming their lives. He said with the U.S. and Britain being willing to commit its military men and women to armed conflicts for the sake of global security, it stands the two nations might want to explore reintegration strategies together.

"There are more and more soldiers coming home alive, but damaged," Westmacott said. "That's complicated."

Westmacott also met with a group of students at the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building. He told them he’s only been ambassador to the U.S. for about a week, but a friend has told him not to get stuck in Washington, D.C. and “become a prison of the Beltway.”

“Go out and see what’s happening in the real America,” he said his friend suggested.

Genshaft also greeted Dellatre before the Patel Center event, attended by about 100 people, got underway.

Holbrook opened the program, explaining that the venue was perfect for their visit since it is “the central point for everything global at USF.” She presented the ambassador with a gift of a crystal bowl with the USF insignia.


This is Dellatre’s first time in central Florida as ambassador and he remarked, “I am delighted to discover this remarkable city,” following attendance at a round table meeting at the University Club of Tampa with Mayor Bob Buckhorn earlier in the day.


After pointing out ties that go back to the American Revolution and through World Wars I and II, Delattre spoke about how France and the United States share economic interests through investment in each other’s countries. The U.S. is France’s largest foreign investor, the U.S. is the leading destination for French foreign investment and France holds the position of being the seventh largest foreign investor in the U.S.


“French investment in the United States generates over 500,000 jobs for Americans, while U.S. investment in France provides nearly 600,000 jobs,” he said.


He mentioned a two-year-old project that has created 71 “innovation clusters” financed by the French government and explained that connecting the private sector with higher education, research and innovation, “the USF way,” he said, is growing in importance.


“Let us not forget that entrepreneur is a French word,” he reminded the audience.


Delattre also pointed to the two nations’ shared political interests.


“France is an important U.S. partner in promoting such common foreign policy objectives as greater democracy, stability, economic growth and prosperity throughout the world. We also cooperate with France on counter-terrorism and non-proliferation efforts and in promoting respect for human rights.”


During the reception four people were honored with France’s most prestigious awards.


Rear Admiral Patrick Martin, Chief of the French detachment at USCENTCOM in Tampa, received the Award of Commander in the French Order of Merit, Jean-Charles Faust, Honorary Consul of France, the Award of Knight in the French Order of Merit, and World War II veterans William F. Bowers and Thomas S. Hengstebeck, the Award of Knight in the French Order of Legion of Honor.


Delattre praised each of the medal recipients: Faust for his service in Tampa since 2002 and as a successful businessman and contributions to Florida’s cultural life through helping to rebuild the Tampa art museum and the new Dali Museum; and Martin for his service in the French Navy since 1974 in various naval squadrons including the French aircraft carriers Clemenceau and Foch and a year with the UN mission in Kosovo before joining the French Military Mission to SACEUR as its Deputy Chief in 2000. 


He was particularly moved while making his remarks concerning the World War II veterans Bowers and Hengstebeck.


“More than 65 years have passed since the end of World War II but in France, the example of your courage inspires eternal recognition.  It is our duty to cultivate the memory of what you and all American veterans did to help save France. You liberated our people. The Republic is forever grateful to you. Thank you, merci beaucoup.”


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.