Former French President François Hollande warned about the dangers of political extremism and shared his view of global affairs at a Buffett Institute for Global Affairs lecture Thursday afternoon.
Hollande, who held office from 2012 to 2017, addressed an audience of more than 850 NU community members both in-person at the Arthur Rubloff Building at the University’s Chicago campus and over Zoom.
“There have been so many crises and fears,” Hollande said in French. “But we need to know what is the most resilient: democracy.”
Throughout his hour-long lecture, Hollande touched on global challenges like economic relations between the U.S. and China, along with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“When the world is increasingly polarized, there are risks of authoritarianism,” Hollande said. “That would mean that strength would be more important than what’s right.”
Throughout the lecture, Hollande alluded to themes of political extremism tackled in his recent book “Bouleversements” — a French term that translates to “upheaval.”
The former head of state discussed economic difficulties facing several European countries and condemned the global community’s slow action to combat climate change.
“Europeans have been forced to review their trade policies, especially considering fossil fuels,” Hollande said. “The climate crisis is here.”
During his time in office, Hollande pushed for the legalization of same-sex marriage and signed onto the Paris Climate Agreement on behalf of France. However, following the 2015 terrorist attacks on Paris, Hollande’s approval rating plummeted into the single digits — one of the lowest approval ratings in modern French history.
According to Buffett Institute Executive Director Annelise Riles, the institute invited Hollande to speak in part because he championed the adoption of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals during his time as president. She said his extensive political experience made him “particularly well-suited” to deliver the lecture.
“Since the Buffett Institute is dedicated to bringing together students and scholars to address global challenges, we couldn’t imagine anyone better,” Riles said.
Prior to his Thursday lecture, Hollande discussed current political events with a group of NU undergraduate students on the Evanston campus.
Hania Daher, an exchange student from France, said speaking to Hollande in a small-group setting was engaging and thought-provoking.
“It was this amazing opportunity to sit so close to someone (and) to have a real interaction with someone who I see on TV,” Daher said. “It’s really amazing to have this really intimate interaction with him.”
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