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Andre Siegfried

de I'Academic Francaise

By Harvey J. Wachtal

"In the United States everyone is ready to give his opinion on any subject with the greatest assurance," says Andre Siegfried in his latest book, America at Mid-Century. Few people, however, are able to offer as many opinions on as many subjects as M. Siegfried, himself. Educated in his father's world of government and politics, Siegfried had visited five continents and spent a year in the U.S. before his twenty-fifth birthday. Before leaving Paris this fall for his fifteenth trip across the Atlantic, he explained his special interest in America. "I was attracted by the study of the U.S.A.," Siegfried said, "since my father visited America during the Civil War and, as a frequent guest at the White House had the privilege of knowing Lincoln."

This year's trip was for the purpose of teaching at Harvard under the Bacon professorship exchange program; in return, Professor Carl J. Friedrich is now at the College de France. Lecturing with a pince-nez poised in his right hand, the 80-year-old Frenchman beguiles his local students with his sharp intellect, his choice of words, and the movements of his long fingers which seem seem to point out his important ideas. Noticeably present at every lecture is the professor's wife. "Usually when I give a lecture," said Professor Siegfried, "my wife takes notes. If she can, that is good; if she can not, she tells me."

While his wife may judge his lectures, Siegfried has judged an interpreted the world to France and France to the world for over 60 years. In any evaluation contends Siegfried, "the greatest danger is to be limited within the boundaries of one's own state. I believe in travel. And travel to Siegfried means that if one is studying India, he must be in India. Applying this view to politics, Siegfried initated the school of electoral geography which demands that one must understand the cultural, economic, social, religious, and consequently psychological forces governing a group before one can honestly understand its political behaviour. The first book in this field, France, a Study in Nationality, may be Seigfried's greatest work. His predictions in 1913 on the future of Western France have held true through the duress of two world wars.

Rather than an expert on France, Professor Siegfried may better be considered a leading authority on the politics of the world. As vast as this statement is, it may be verified by a glance at his books, in which he studies New Zealand or India with as much care as he considers North or South America. Writing, however, does not monopolize all of his time. He is currently a professor at both the Institute of Political Science and the College de France, an unofficial director of the Suez Canal Company, a member of the French Academy, and a member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences.

In all his studies, nevertheless, this famous octogenarian has maintained a disinterested, if controversial, stand; he is a scientist first and foremost, a politician only in afterthought. To some members of the Government Department Siegfried represents the Third Republic incarnate. His own countrymen, however, often compare him with Justice Holmes--a liberal and a skeptic.

Yet, with more than a lifetime's travel and experience, which can harden the warmest humanist, Siegfried still maintains an optimistic outlook. Opposed to Toynbee, he does not believe in the inevitable clash of the Western and Communist camps. "Technology," asserts Siegfried, "will be the binding force of the future." Democracy and Communism are certainly at appearance incompatible; but technology, claims the professor, is universal, and the leaders of the world must learn to stand together, or they will fall together on this common ground.

When planning his half year visit to Harvard, Siegfried had hoped to lecture on this topic of the future of civilization, but his schedule would not permit it. The professor, nevertheless, when free, is approachable on any subject. Those who meet him remark on his conversation which may include any topic from the Roman Catholic Church to workingmen's compensation. "In fact," noted Albert A. Mavrinac, the professor's unofficial guide, "Siegfried is interested in everything."

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