WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted French President Francois Hollande for lunch at the State Department Tuesday during Hollande's official visit to Washington, D.C.
The luncheon was held in the Ben Franklin Room of the State Department and attended by numerous dignitaries, including Vice President Joe Biden and three former Secretaries of State: Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and Madeleine Albright.
In his opening remarks, Kerry recalled the 230 years of friendship between the U.S. and France and noted the appropriateness of dining in the Ben Franklin Room, named after America's first ambassador to France. He also spoke about his and Biden's familial ties to France.
Kerry toasted Hollande:
"Mr. President, when we had dreams of being a nation free from tyranny, when men like Franklin and Jefferson gathered in Philadelphia to map out a road to liberty and independence, they knew that they would hang at the end of a British rope if they failed. Instead, it was Franklin who famously said, 'We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately.' And after the war, Jefferson famously said, 'Every man has two countries, his own and France.' And today, we all say that our shared history and shared values had special meaning then, and they still do today, and that with our work together throughout the world, our friendship will stay strong for future generations... We are very lucky to have a Vice President who understands the vital importance of aligning our interests and our values at the same time, and that is why he believes so strongly in the vitality of our friendship with France."
Hollande, toasting Kerry, also recalled the historical ties between France and the U.S.
"... what is fascinating and has been fascinating over the past few years is the fact that France and the United States always act together. France is the United States’ ally or are the United States allies of France? It’s not always easy to have France as an ally, but it’s not always easy to have the United States as an ally for France. But what makes our friendship so special is precisely the fact that it is based on independence, sovereignty, and respect. We are guided by the same principles and the same values. We are two nations who are proud of holding messages for the whole world. We don’t do it for ourselves, for our glory, for power, for interests. We do it because we want to send the same messages as the one we received from our founding fathers -- human rights, emancipation of peoples."
Prior to the State Lunch, Hollande met with President Barack Obama at the White House with Kerry. Obama hosted a State Dinner for Hollande later Tuesday evening at the White House.