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David Reithoffer, La Médaille d’Or de Solidarité et Valeur

David Reithoffer started studying French in 8th grade hoping that it would open doors to wonderful things in the future. It did! The day after high school graduation he boarded a plane for France and spent 5 weeks discovering all things French, including French hospitality in the homes of old and young people and everything in between.

This kindled a desire to return, so upon entering Hiram College that September, plans to spend junior year abroad were already in the making. 

Caen 1974-75 became his junior year abroad. L’Université de Caen offers a comprehensive foreign student program. In addition to taking classes, he joined the University Choir (La Chorale Universitaire de Caen) which opened many doors into French homes and institutions. Being in Normandy, he began to understand one of the many aspects of French-American friendship – the gratitude of the French for USA’s involvement in WWII. This opened his eyes to historic Franco- American relations and his desire to further enhance those relations in any way he possibly could. 

After moving to Chicago in 1985 and seeing that there were plenty of French speakers around, he co-founded the Groupe Professionnel Francophone in 1990 to provide a friendly and pleasant place for French–speaking people to have a drink and chat, in French! The group’s motto is “C’est la langue française qui nous unit.” Whatever one’s nationality or native tongue doesn’t matter – if you’re comfortable on your feet in French, you’re encouraged to participate at these monthly cocktail gatherings. 

David has also been very active with the Paris Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International. 

He was decorated Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite in 2012. 

Citizen diplomacy is his guiding light. When President Eisenhower created Sister Cities in the 1950’s, it was done to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation—one individual, one community at a time. This is Mr. Reithoffer’s quest.


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