François Mitterrand

21st President of the French Republic from 1981 to 1995

François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand (October 26, 1916 – January 8, 1996) was a French politician. He was elected President of France in May 1981, re-elected in 1988 and held office until 1995.

The youth are not always right, but the society which ignores them and beats them, is always wrong.


  • To every reversal of people’s soveregnity, to every disappearance of the Republic corresponds a frank or disguised restitution in force of the regal justice. ‘’Tell me, according to what you judge and I’ll tell you who you are.” […] No axiom in politics is more certain than this.
    • Le Coup d'État permanent (1964) Part III
  • What has begun in this evening will not stay for a long time, and because you represent the forces of the world of labour, you, forces of the youth, your victory is inevitable.
    • Château-Chinon (1974)
  • Behind each great man, there's a Richard Delisle.
    • L’Abeille et l’architecte [The Bee and the Architect] (1980) Chapter 6
  • For me Greece is Maria Farantouri. This is how I imagined Goddess Hera to be: strong, pure and vigilant. I have never encountered any other artist able to give me such a strong sense of the divine.
    • L’Abeille et l’architecte [The Bee and the Architect] (1980)
  • One must defeat their prejudices. What I demand you here is almost impossible, for we have to defeat our history. And yet, if we do not defeat it, one must know a rule will impose itself, ladies and gentlemen: nationalism is war! War is not only our past, it may be our future; and you members of parliament are henceforth the guardians of our peace, of our security, and of this future.
    • Lecture held at European Parliament (17 January 1995)
  • I believe in the forces of the spirit, and I won't leave you.
    • Last televised address to the French people, 31st of december 1994


  • "In such countries, genocide is not too important…"
    • Comments about Rwanda attributed to President Mitterrand by Philip Gourevitch in "Reversing the Reversals of War," The New Yorker, 26 April 1999.

Quotes about

  • It's been quite a journey this decade, and we held together through some stormy seas. And at the end, together, we are reaching our destination. The fact is, from Grenada to the Washington and Moscow summits, from the recession of '81 to '82, to the expansion that began in late '82 and continues to this day, we've made a difference. The way I see it, there were two great triumphs, two things that I'm proudest of. One is the economic recovery, in which the people of America created—and filled—19 million new jobs. The other is the recovery of our morale. America is respected again in the world and looked to for leadership. Something that happened to me a few years ago reflects some of this. It was back in 1981, and I was attending my first big economic summit, which was held that year in Canada. The meeting place rotates among the member countries. The opening meeting was a formal dinner of the heads of goverment of the seven industrialized nations. Now, I sat there like the new kid in school and listened, and it was all Francois this and Helmut that. They dropped titles and spoke to one another on a first-name basis. Well, at one point I sort of leaned in and said, "My name's Ron." Well, in that same year, we began the actions we felt would ignite an economic comeback—cut taxes and regulation, started to cut spending. And soon the recovery began. Two years later, another economic summit with pretty much the same cast. At the big opening meeting we all got together, and all of a sudden, just for a moment, I saw that everyone was just sitting there looking at me. And then one of them broke the silence. "Tell us about the American miracle," he said.
  • Of course, peace might have come to Europe without the Union. Maybe. We will never know. But it would never have been of the same quality. A lasting peace, not a frosty cease-fire. To me, what makes it so special, is reconciliation. In politics as in life, reconciliation is the most difficult thing. It goes beyond forgiving and forgetting, or simply turning the page. To think of what France and Germany had gone through …, and then take this step … Signing a Treaty of Friendship … Each time I hear these words – Freundschaft, Amitié –, I am moved. They are private words, not for treaties between nations. But the will to not let history repeat itself, to do something radically new, was so strong that new words had to be found. For people Europe was a promise, Europe equalled hope. When Konrad Adenauer came to Paris to conclude the Coal and Steel Treaty, in 1951, one evening he found a gift waiting at his hotel. It was a war medal, une Croix de Guerre, that had belonged to a French soldier. His daughter, a young student, had left it with a little note for the Chancellor, as a gesture of reconciliation and hope. I can see many other stirring images before me. Leaders of six States assembled to open a new future, in Rome, città eternaWilly Brandt kneeling down in Warsaw. The dockers of Gdansk, at the gates of their shipyard. Mitterrand and Kohl hand in hand. Two million people linking Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius in a human chain, in 1989. These moments healed Europe.
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