Félicitations Madame le Chevalier !

What do Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Lise Veronneau have in common?  No, it’s not their tenacious ability to take charge and get things done. It’s that all three are foreign nationals who were granted admission to France’s Ordre national de la Légion du Mérite.

Veronneau rang in the New Year by celebrating her admission to the Légion in the rank of chevalier, the English equivalent of knight.  “I was totally surprised,” she said. “I had no idea that this was in the works nor how it came about.”  

She was nominated by Valéry Freland, French consul-general in Boston, who submitted her name along with a description of the work she has been doing to create close ties between Vermont and France to the office of French president Emanuel Macron.  

The most significant thing about being knighted, she said, is that the French government knows about and values the work that she has been doing. France and the United States “share interests and goals that we can all help each other achieve.”

Certificate for the Chevalier ranking

A chevalier,  according to the Légion’s criteria, must have performed at least twenty years in public service while exemplifying French values.  Chevalier is just the first in a series of five classes of increasing distinction within the Légion, a merit-based order system established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.  At the time, he wanted to abolish the nobility-based ranking system of the overthrown monarchy in France, replacing it with the current system that is based on civil and military merit.

There is no shortage of excellence in the civil sector for Veronneau, particularly where it involves spreading French language and culture, and promoting relationships between France and the United States.  “Getting things done is a pleasure, and applying this to my volunteer work and French Initiatives is a natural outcome,” she said. “I am happy to share my success with my local and international community.”

As chair of the Honfleur Sister City Committee, Veronneau has worked to foster relations between Burlington and Honfleur, France, for several years now. Honfleur is the port city from which Samuel de Champlain set off to the Americas over 400 years ago. Citizens from both cities have come together to exchange language and culture thanks to her work.  Some of her more notable collaborative efforts with Honfleur have produced exchanges between Scout troops, artists, and high school students from both cities. In 2017 a delegation of Honfleur citizens came to Burlington to explore their sister city and see what life is like in Nouvelle France.  Upon their return to Honfleur, they established a new residential housing project and plaza bearing the name Square Burlington.

Without Veronneau’s dedication to promoting French language and culture, Burlington would not enjoy this fruitful partnership with Honfleur. Nor would it have experienced the several Francophone flag raisings, projects, exchanges, and other events she has spearheaded.  “It is important to remember that whether we speak French or not, we can celebrate French culture and create opportunities for collaboration while developing life-changing relationships,” she said.

Some of the initiatives Veronneau is currently working on include the upcoming French for Business Class in January and February, a Francophone flag-raising event in April, and a trip to Honfleur in September celebrating the Honfleur-Burlington Sister City partnership.

Going forward, Veronneau said that she hopes people will be inspired by her story to go out and serve their communities.  “I encourage all to  get involved in their community and help where they can to brainstorm and come up with creative solutions to challenges,” she said.

Veronneau noted that she would like to see more growth within the northern Vermont’s Francophone community on all levels, by broadening economic ties with French communities across the Atlantic, promote Vermont as an attractive Francophone destination, celebrate cultural diversity in the area, and above all make speakers of French feel welcome.  “Maybe my Chevalier status will give Vermont another platform for launching future projects,” she said.

You can read more about Veronneau’s life and accomplishments here.

I would like to thank all the people who have helped see initiatives and projects to fruition, all the French organizations like Alliance Francaise I’ve worked with, especially the dedicated members of the Honfleur Sister City Committee and Honorary Consul to France for Vermont, Mr. Ernie Pomerleau.

– Madame Chevalier, Lise Veronneau

Veronneau in Boston for the Consul General’s farewell luncheon

Written by Emily Engott