Intervention of Florence BERTHOUT, mayor of the 5th at the Council of Paris on Tuesday, October 12, 2021
In a few moments, the Council of Paris will decide to attribute the name of Samuel Paty to the pretty square of Place Paul-Painlevé in the 5th district a few meters from the Sorbonne, next to the rue des Écoles and the Cluny Museum, in the heart of the Latin Quarter which saw the birth of the first free university, the first book written in French, historical and intellectual cradle of the great ideological battles that forged our democracy. These fights fed the apparent paradox which shaped our French singularity: absolute respect for the dignity of each person, but also – also absolute – defense of the freedom of thought and expression.
I deeply believe that the school of the Republic, such as Samuel Paty practiced it and carried it high, is entirely contained in this singularity which he embodied until the supreme sacrifice.
If we decide to give the name of Samuel Paty to the small square of the place Paul-Painlevé, it is not only because the passionate teacher that he was was atrociously murdered, on October 16, 2020, by a terrorist Islamist.
It is not only because this act of incredible, bestial violence, recalling the darkest hours of our history, touches a teacher.
If we attribute the name of Samuel Paty to a symbolic place among all, it is because Samuel Paty is the mutilated face of our secular Republic, one and indivisible. And this Republic must be reborn every second, every minute, every hour, every day, in the classrooms of all our schools!
There is no Republic without the peaceful army of hundreds of thousands of teachers who tirelessly train the citizens of today and tomorrow, and who fight against ignorance. Because ignorance is a bottomless pit that feeds fear of otherness and hatred of others.
I am proud and very moved that it is now the Samuel Paty square that welcomes in the 5th, the monument-fountain to the rector dedicated Octave Gréard, one of the founding fathers of public education, “the first teacher in France” as Jules Ferry called him, Octave Gréard who contributed to feminize access to secondary and to higher education and which opened teacher training colleges.
I am proud and moved that it is now in the Square Samuel Paty that the statue of Montaigne rests, this “wise man for ordinary people” as certain philosophers designate him, Montaigne who invites us to apprehend the complexity and to always keep a safe distance Those who believe they have the absolute and indisputable truth.
Montaigne’s presence also reminds us how much educational freedom, especially that freedom, cannot be compromised. Yes, as Souad Ayada, President of the Higher Council for National Education Programs, said, the choice of the means to teach belongs to the teachers!
I hope that in sober unanimity, everyone in this hemicycle will approve the choice made by the City and the family of Samuel Paty, with my full support, to give it from this sacrificed professor to an emblematic place of the 5thth
With this symbolic gesture, we are supporting teachers in France. We tell them that we are with them and that we want everything to protect and defend them. We also extend to them our immense gratitude and our unwavering gratitude.