Former United States Ambassador to France Jane Hartley spoke at Georgetown University about the relations between the U.S., France, and the EU as part of Georgetown’s annual Oscar Iden Lecture on American Foreign Policy on September 28. Hartley, who served during the Obama presidency and personally knows French President Emmanuel Macron, gave valuable insight into the unique and cherished relationship that France and the United States share.
A diplomat with a wide breadth of policy experience, Hartley worked as the chief executive officer for the G7 Group and was a founding member of Observatory Group. Both companies provided key analysis and assessments of global capital markets to major financial institutions and various central banks around the world. She also worked closely with various central banks in Europe, such as the European Central Bank and the Banque de France.
During her lecture, Hartley reiterated the shared history of France and the United States, which goes back to the French government’s support for the colonies during the American Revolution. Despite seeing some initial tensions between Macron and President Donald Trump, she firmly believes that the “fundamentals of the Franco-American alliance remain strong.” Although her time in France was marked by tragic attacks on both Paris and Nice, she poignantly recounted her experience, saying that Paris refused to be cowed, and “the City of Light refused to go dark.” In the wake of these attacks, she said it was important for the communities affected to know that America stood with them, just as France stood with America after 9/11.
In her role as America’s face to the French people, Hartley also engaged in cross-cultural exchanges, which she argued were just as important as a partnership in diplomacy or intelligence. As part of the effort to exchange cultures, she invited several groups to the embassy, including the New York Philharmonic. Hartley described these events as one of her most joyful experiences in France, saying that “culture is a place where you can unite and there’s no nationality.”
Hartley also actively tried to make society more inclusive and provide more opportunities to disadvantaged communities during her tenure in France. The U.S. embassy, in partnership with major French and U.S. firms, set up career fairs for people in low-income communities to help individuals network. She was tireless in her efforts to improve poor neighborhoods in Paris, arranging for the construction of basketball courts in low-income areas and organizing skills workshops for the unemployed. These efforts, she said, were why she looks back on her time in France with pride.
When asked what advice she would give to Georgetown students interested in a life of policy, Hartley called public service the highest calling. She firmly believes that the coordination between the many brave men and women of the American embassy and the French government helped to save lives.
Finally, she encouraged the students in the audience to take up a life of public service, saying that “you really can make a difference.”