Danielle Mitterrand

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Danielle Mitterand - photo credit: Manuelle Toussaint

 

When I first met Danielle Mitterrand, it was clear that I was in front of a one of a kind woman.

Indeed, our TV interview was uncommon, I have to confess, and I have always said it loudly.

Uncommon in every sense of the word; so was her life path, a quest for justice

Her life at the Elysees did not affect Danielle Gouze who, as a young woman, was awarded the War Cross for her work in the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Confrontational advocate for the poor, she broke the mold as first lady refusing to play the role of decorative accessory to her husband during his 14 years in power, the longest of any French president.

“There is no traditional role for a first lady”, she said. “Each woman has her own personality and acts according to her conscience and her sensibilities”

Mrs. Mitterrand spoke up for ethnic Kurds, criticized President Ronald Reagan’s Central American policies and started a foundation to promote human rights.

She was admired, and occasionally criticized, for apparently tolerating her husband’s infidelity.

As a matter of fact, she made a large international impression at his funeral in 1996. At the grave site, she stood near his longtime mistress, Anne Pingeot, a museum curator, and his long-secret daughter, Mazarine Pingeot. She was photographed consoling the daughter. “It was instinct,” she said.

After his presidency she continued to press her concerns, including drinking-water shortages in developing countries.

I remember when she came to one of my book signing functions in Paris ahead of time, to avoid the crowd so we have a qualitative discussion away from the cameras.

Today, we are saying goodbye to that lady. At the age of 87, Danielle Mitterrand walks away on an Autumn night.

I recall how I introduced her in my show:  “Autumn goes forward in anxiety, summer memories keep coming back, winter lands its cold grey days but the jovial clear spring, that of the rebellious, is predominant in the cycle of life”.

With all she’s been through, I asked Danielle Mitterrand, the atheist, at the end of our interview if her relation with God has changed over the years. “God”, she replied, “I have never met him”.

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