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Obama, Hollande tour Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Feb. 10, 2014 at 10:00 PM   |   Comments

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Feb. 10 (UPI) -- President Obama Monday took France's president on a tour of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia home Monticello, lauding the historic U.S.-French relationship.

Obama, appearing alongside President Francois Hollande in Charlottesville, said Monticello signifies "the incredible history between the United States and France.

"As one of our Founding Fathers, the person who drafted our Declaration of Independence, somebody who not only was an extraordinary political leader but also one of our great scientific and cultural leaders, Thomas Jefferson represents what's best in America," Obama said. "But as we see as we travel through his home, what he also represents is the incredible bond and the incredible gifts that France gave to the United States, because he was a Francophile through and through. ...

"This home represents the bonds that helped lead to the American Revolution, helped to influence the French Revolution, figures like Lafayette, who played such a central role in our own independence -- all this is signified here at Monticello."

Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, was a French nobleman who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

"Of course, this house also represents the complicated history of the United States. We just visited downstairs where we know the slaves helped to build this magnificent structure, and the complex relations that Jefferson, the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, had to slavery. And it's a reminder for both of us that we are going to continue to fight on behalf of the rights of all peoples -- something that I know France has always been committed to, and we are committed to as well," Obama said.

"There is something quite unique about Jefferson in the fact that he been ambassador of the United States to France before becoming U.S. president," Hollande said. "I do believe that is the only American president that had that experience. And he was U.S. ambassador to France at the time of the French Revolution, and he departed from France in August of 1789, which means after the 14th of July with the taking of the Bastille. He thought he had seen enough and that he could go back home. And then of course, he was involved in the governance of the United States before becoming president. And then Jefferson purchased Louisiana from Napoleon. And today we are not demanding anything," the French president said to laughter.

"I also wish to confirm that this bond that unites us with Jefferson, that these bonds are sustained over time, because he represents values and principles. Freedom, human dignity, rights -- these are the values to which we are continuing to fight around the world, the United States and France. We were allies in the time of Jefferson and Lafayette. We are still allies today. We were friends in the time of Jefferson and Lafayette, and we will remain friends forever," Hollande said.

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