French President's Visit to Monticello Presents 'Significant' Opportunity

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

February 5, 2014

As President Barack Obama prepares to travel to Albemarle County next week with French President Francois Hollande, details about the itinerary and traffic impacts are still being worked out.

Albemarle County Police are working with state and federal officials to work out security and traffic plans.

"We do expect some traffic delays associated with the visit," Albemarle County Police spokeswoman Carter Johnson said. "We'll have some road closures and significant delays that we want people to be aware of and expecting."

Monticello will be closed to the general public on Monday, as the two presidents plan to discuss security and economic partnerships. But one professor at the University of Virginia says the trip will be worth much more for both countries.

"Thomas Jefferson was a real francophile," said Deborah McGrady, chair of the French department at UVa. "He absolutely loved France, and that is completely expressed at Monticello."

McGrady said the trip is an opportunity for the United States to strengthen the bonds with France.

"It's hugely significant to show to the French president just how important the French are to one of our Founding Fathers and how important to the development of this country," she said.

McGrady, who travels to France often, said it's also an opportunity for the French people to learn more about American history.

"When I'm over there, I'm always surprised by how little is known about Thomas Jefferson," she said. "I find that extraordinary because France was so important to him."

Walking through Monticello, it's hard to miss the French influences, from the architecture to the furniture and the library selection.

"I think it's really quite exciting, that kind of legacy, and to be able to make sure the French remember how important that is," McGrady said.

Given the trip, she said it could translate to a positive experience for everyone.

"I think it makes a real statement, an insistence, on the long history we have of collaboration between the two countries," she said. "Hopefully some good, long-lasting, powerful conversations can take place."

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