24th November 2008

Many of you familiar with my blogs lately will know that I'm not a great advocate of celebrity for its own sake. Fame should come from extraordinary feats of skill or bravery, especially for life-time achievements. When I look at Britain's new year's honours lists, for example, I gnash my teeth in frustration at the number of so-called celebrities who have achieved fame simply by their looks or being in the right place at the right time.
It was all the more remarkable, therefore, that I heard of two well-deserved honours for a woman called Simone Veil. It's not often we hear of someone being awarded not only a British damehood but also be elected to the Académie Française, the centuries-old body that acts as guardian of the French language.
Her story is remarkable. She was born in Nice in 1927. Her family was sent to Auschwitz during WW2, where most of them perished. At the age of 18, Veil began studying law and preparing for a life in politics. When she became Minister of Health in the goverment of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in 1974, Veil helped to legalise abortion. She was then elected first female president of the European parliament in Strasbourg and, in 1998, she was instrumental in pushing for a treaty to establish a constitution for Europe.
What a story! Not many of us who were belittled by Germany during the war, would then set about rising the ranks and personally achieving miraculous results during a lifetime's work. At the age of 81, here is one lady who truly deserves her honours.
Now we have a black President, who represents thousands of downtrodden slaves in America's past, I will look for a future Jewish or Gypsy leader of Germany. Having seen what Veil has done, anything is possible.

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