30 years of the Consulate: Interview with Ms. Anaïde Govaert [fr]
Dear Anaïde, good morning. At the time of the celebration of the “Francophonie” or -French speaking world- , this consulate is delighted with the opportunity of this interview. For many years, you have been a very active figure in the French community and now, far from dropping your post, you are the President of the ’Friends of French Culture’, President of the Lycée franco-américain and the Honorary Consul Emeritus of Belgium. What gave you this passion for the French language and culture?
Anaïde Govaert : This is actually a passion I developed very early, in primary school.
I loved the spelling and the difficult spelling tests, in which I excelled. I was very careful since one mistake cost 4 points out of a grade of 20! This passion has lasted all my life because, although I know many languages, the French language is the one I prefer and the one I master the most since it is my mother tongue. I appreciate all the subtleties of its vocabulary, its anachronisms, its conjugations and its complex spelling. Moreover, I say that the French language is my «indulgence». Afterwards, I read a lot of Classics, of course, and also award-winning books amongst them, those written by female writers.
As for the culture -other than the literary - I studied music and I had a gift for dancing. I got married to an artist/interior designer. We gathered our talents and created a club which was the place to be for the Belgian francophone Elite; writers, painters, musicians, from Jacques Brel to Adamo and all French artists who performed at the casino in Knokke-le-Zoute. For the record, Jacques Brion was also coming there because he was from Northern France, thus , he spent his weekends on the Belgian coast. A few years later, we were reunited on the same podium at the Consular Residence in Miami to receive, from the hands of the Ambassador François Delattre, our titles of Knight and Officer of the National Order of Merit. That was a very special moment…
e-Toile: That is why you became strongly involved within charitable organizations as well as cultural organizations upon your arrival to the United States. Could you describe to us this time and what have you accomplished back then?
Anaïde Govaert : After the accidental death of my husband, I decided to leave Belgium to go to the US where I met the man who became my second husband Gui Govaert ,who was Honorary Consul of Belgium. He was a francophone and we used the French privately, keeping English for business and for the contacts with the local community in Miami. He lived in Florida since age 23 and was the Secretary of Foreign Trade of the State of Florida (International Division of the State of Florida) ,which was replaced afterwards by the Beacon Council and Enterprise Florida, but he was also the Director Head of the board of the Consular Corps with Jacques Turner, the Honorary Consul of France, who was replaced by the first Consul General, Mr. Thierry Renard. My husband, who was also "Trustee Emeritus" of the Florida International University (FIU) and member of the Miami Dade College Foundation, opened all the doors, including those of the Consulate of France. This is how I came to know all the Consuls general who succeeded since 1986 and started working at the Honorary Consulate of Belgium, which was very important at the time since we delivered all kinds of documents, including passports.
Thus, I helped retirees to get a pension from Belgium, including many people of Jewish faith who had fled Nazi Germany and found refuge and work in Belgium. Later when my husband became Honorary Consul General, I was appointed Honorary Consul.
Meanwhile, I also created "Francophiles without Borders" with a Canadian friend, an association which brought together Francophones and Francophiles from all countries with lots of Canadians and Haitians .Later, at the request of Nicole Hirsh, I accepted the presidency of UFE Fort Lauderdale / Boca Raton before creating "French Speaking Friends of Florida"
During these 30 years, I obviously developed friendships within all the communities and that is how I decided one day to meet all these Francophile friends; from different backgrounds and nationalities, united by love their love for France and its culture. So I created "Les Amis de la Culture Française", an association registered in Tallahassee by its English name "Friends of French Culture". We meet regularly practicing another facet of French culture: the fellowship , good food and the joie de vivre. I am also very involved with "Red Chemistry" which promotes the teaching of artistic cinema in schools; the program Cinemagique that this organization develops allows students to not only write and direct films, but also to criticize them, as it is case this month at Sunset elementary school .
e-Toile: Could you describe to us, amongst the many initiatives you lead, which are those that matter the most to you?
Anaïde Govaert : I know Dr. Hoy, director of the French-American School, for 25 years. I have seen the humble beginnings of the school and it is very logical that I accepted the presidency of its Executive Committee since education is the keystone to a child’s future.
Today I am pleased to see that ,with the French-American School and ISB (International School of Broward) combined we have 400 students.
It is very satisfying to acknowledge that, despite their different backgrounds, these teenagers live in harmony and thanks to this bilingual education, they will see unexpected horizons open up to them. These young boys and girls as well as the members of my association, show us that harmony and understanding can prevail amongst "good-willed people."
That is also why, we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Consulate in the premises of the Lycée franco-américain on April 22nd, 2016 and I want to thank all the associations that have joined my initiative. I thought that we -the associations- should seize the opportunity of this 30th anniversary to invite the Consul General Philippe Létrilliart and his team, and through them express our gratitude for all the support that was given to us during these 30 years by each Consul and their respective consulate’s staff members.
You asked me what I cherish the most.
Everything that showcases and perpetuates the image of the beautiful and «sweet» France that I have known, its culture, its traditions, its arts, its fine food, its joy of living shared with friends, and…May I close this interview with one of my favorite sayings?
"To know that even one life has breathed easier because you lived… This is what it means to have succeeded".
Anaïde Alice Govaert is Knight of the National Order of Merit, President of the Friends of French Culture, President of the Lycée Franco-Américain and Honorary Consul Emeritus of Belgium.