Bestowal of the Insignia of Chevalier
of the Legion of Honor
upon Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr.
French Ambassador’s Residence
Thursday, March 24, 2011 at5:00pm
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Dr. Arden Bement,
As French Ambassador to the United States, I am pleased and proud to host this ceremony in your honor,
my first of this nature since taking my post here a few weeks ago.
With our Scientific Counsellor Annick Suzor-Weiner and her team, we are delighted to welcome so many distinguished guests.
You all have come tonight to show your support and admiration to Dr. Bement, and I would like to say a special word of welcome to his relatives who are with us : his wife, Mrs. Louise Bement - and I know we owe you a lot too -, his two sons David Bement – and his wife – and Rob Smiley.
In deciding that you be awarded the Legion of Honor, President Sarkozy wished to highlight you exceptional merits, both in their own right, and with regards to France. It would take too long for me to list them here, obviously, so I will encompass them into two broad categories: scientific achievement and international cooperation.
In terms of scientific achievements, your distinguished career speaks
for itself. You have served Science – starting with engineering and materials science - and have done so
from many different angles.
Your first positions were in the private sector, at General Electric then Battelle, after which you went on to share your knowledge with others in academia, both at MIT and Purdue University,
- and I would like to recognize the President of Purdue University,
Mrs. France Cordova, who is with us tonight.
You also applied your knowledge and skills in your positions within the federal government, first at DARPA and the Department of Defense, later as Director at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST)
and most recently as Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for 6 years.
I’d like to thank the distinguished representatives of the NSF and the NIST who are with us tonight.
In these many capacities, you sought to improve the ability of scientists to conduct their work, by providing them with new means and new avenues for research, to improve the way in which science is taught and to enhance the partnership between the scientific, academic and business communities.
You have also strived to establish and consolidate cooperation beyond national borders, from contributing to Mexico’s assessment of engineering programs to your role as coordinator of the Committee on Natural Sciences
and Engineering at UNESCO.
From the French perspective, your help has been invaluable in establishing links between our two countries, and in particular with the French National Research Center – “CNRS” – and with the National Agency for Research funding – “ANR”.
These bilateral efforts culminated in October 2008 with the Bilateral agreement on Scientific and Research Cooperation which you signed on behalf of the United States, while Minister of Higher Education and Research, Valérie Pécresse, signed on behalf of France.
On a more personal note, I am aware that you had close ties with our former Science and Technology Counselor, Michel Israël, whose sudden passing came as a shock to all, and with whom you actively consolidated the Franco-American relationship over time.
I’m sure Michel would have been thrilled to be among us tonight and I would simply like to express our gratitude toward him on this occasion. The two of you represented a remarkable pair of civil servants in pursuit of an international cooperation ideal.
I also understand that your ties to France run deep from a historical perspective, in fact going back to the 16th century, when your ancestors lived in the area near Amiens.
I trust they would be proud of their descendant, as we are, and would no doubt be tickled by your appreciation of French wines. Your former staff told us you very much enjoyed the famous Pétrus wine from the Bordeaux
area when you attended a series of events on the sense of taste.
Tonight, France expresses its esteem and its admiration by honoring an outstanding scientist and a great manager of scientific endeavors;
a person with great
professional and human qualities,
who has sought to build bridges between our two countries. France wishes to recognize a true francophile and, very simply put, to thank a close and long-time friend.
It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I bestow upon you today the insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
Dr. Arden Bement, au nom du Président de la République, je vous remets les insignes de Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.