Tuesday, May 24, 2011

e-G8: Opening Speeches by Levy and Sarkozy

Well. You've read the rest, now read the...Cyber Scene! :)

I can't compete with instant twitterers and bloggers, but I do have the scoop that others don't present. I find my position, of living here in France after having run a successful enterprise in the States, offers a unique perspective. For instance, while many reviews of the e-G8 were negative, I found it extremely useful. I suppose in large part this is because for me this was an over-the-top reunion where I got to see old friends from New York and San Francisco and meet new ones from Paris.

It was an the impressive setup (massive fully-furnished, wired and outfitted tents) in the Tuileries Garden. The an entire section of the sidewalk on rue de Rivoli was blocked off just for e-G8 participants. (Imagine blocking the West side of 5th Avenue's sidewalk from 34th Street to 42nd Street.) Then there was the fact that, according to Philippe Le Corre, Publicis Consultants Partner, who lead the organization of the conference, just 3 days before there was nothing--well, nothing save a gorgeous, historic garden created by a famed landscape architect (Le Notre).

The first morning, Tuesday, May 24th, there was a steady flow of reporters, press agents, CEO handlers and catering staff running to and fro. Eventually, everyone settled into the grand hall for Publicis Groupe Chairman & CEO and e-G8 Chairman Maurice Levy's welcoming remarks. Both Levy and Sarkozy spoke in French, which would seem to exclude a large number of attendees. However, French law dictates that for all official public speeches, French representatives must speak in French. Such is the love and respect for their language.

Comments about Sarkozy's speech ranged from "passionnante" (the French woman sitting next to me) to "pure rhetoric" (most everyone else). Some commented it seemed like they were hosting this conference so they can understand the Internet, so they can dominate and control it. I thought Sarko's speech was great. What kind of a statesman would a statesman be if he didn't lead off a conference that he created as his own personal marketing vehicle to demonstrate his interest and knowledge on a subject, days before another massive power mash-up, if he didn't have a speech full of passionate ideals?

I thought it was fascinating to watch Sarkozy speak. But perhaps that's because I can sit and listen to the French language, mesmerized, even if I'm not fully understanding it. Among the tidbits I gleaned, before getting the printed version to follow, were:

* This is a new form of civilization
* You've changed how the world looks at itself
* You've changed the relationship to space (not only by abolishing distance that separates man but it works a virtual world which is, by definition, without limits)
* You've changed the notion of time
* You've changed the the perception of History
* In several years you have shaken up the foundation of the economic world of which you are becoming the major actors
* You've changed the world.
* Something unique in History--this total revolution is immediate and irreparably global.
(Of course a French politician has to talk about REVOLUTION! :))
* Something unique in History--this revolution isn't attached to a person; there is not a flag or slogan; it is for the common good.
* Something unique in History--this revolution was made without violence.
* The discovery of the New World had lead to the annihilation of the American Indians.
* The world revolution that you have embodied, it is peaceful. It was not born on the fields of battle but on the university campuses.

He went on to talk about how this revolution has played a determinate role in other revolutions--from Tunisia to Egypt. Sarkozy continued with passion. Perhaps it was a speech related to a world in his own mind, or one that he's afraid of and wants to ultimately learn how to control, but either way--it was great entertainment.

Questions ranged from the Jasmine Revolution, Arab Spring, "internauts" (someone who knows how to use the internet) in Iran and privacy issues. My favorite was the (now famous) final comment from Jeff Jarvis of the City University of New York: "some say the Internet is the 8th continent; this discussion is wonderful; but I would like to ask the Government to take a Hippocratic Oath: 'Do No Harm!'" to which there was resounding applause by those who understood him.