The exterior trappings of her beauty radiate in every corner,
a luster that often stuns a first time visitor.
The physical allure of Paris, though, is not just skin-deep.
Glamour, taste, polish -- whatever you want to call it -- that's just half the story.
The city's imagination and intellect go hand in hand with its
outwardly stunning countenance -- a beautiful and brainy Paris
that doesn't simply rely on good looks and a mile-long resumé.
This old girl has ambition.
Mixing Old Paris -- acres and acres of historic art, architecture
and culture -- with New Paris -- working to solve environmental issues
and other sticky global dilemmas -- make for a metropolis that strives to
ensure its people live well, well ahead of the next big challenge.
After all, you're just a visitor, hoping to see a few good museums,
enjoy fabulous food & wine, maybe do a little shopping on
the side or do a night at the opera ---
and that's about all you care to see or hear about Paris.
Why should you take an interest in the Paris beyond the tourist trail?
The answer is simple.
We have much to admire and learn from this great city.
Often we hear about the so-called French Paradox -- the vague
but sexy "promise" that drinking wine and eating fatty food
somehow leads to a longer, healthier life.
I personally think the Paris Paradox is an even greater gift.
The "other side of the coin" is a workhorse ---
inventive, accomplished, ingenious.
It's a Paris that constantly re-invents itself --- not just
a high-brow concept but as an actual movement in the way
real Parisians live, work, and bring life to the city.
I'm enamored of the sheer passion of it all.
So many of us have long loved Paris for its passion -- the kissing,
making love in the afternoon kind of white hot heat --- but today I'm speaking
of the kind of fervor which has evolved into sustained urban projects,
courageous programs that help cultivate a sense of community
and leave a lasting mark -- often beyond city borders.
Huge commitments rally around big issues such as
the environment, the homeless, education and housing.
A game plan, a strategy, a better Paris.
The Paris Paradox is a process, challenging itself again and again,
re-defining the capitol and always striving to grow toward a greater good.
Mayor Anne Hidalgo has proclaimed La Journée Sans Voiture,
a day she and her council singled out
to generate some hoo-ha and make a difference.
Closing the Paris center to cars* -- projecting the image of a
Paris with less noise and reduced pollution --
is a real effort to call attention to a serious cause.
Paris has always been a walk-able city so the specter of
lower car congestion --- even if just for one day,
sets a tone for new strategies in a forward thinking city.
And in Paris, let's face it, appearances do count.
*except public transportation, taxis, and emergency vehicles.
Paris has historically set the tone for urban projects.
Pioneers in water, sanitation and transportation, it's a city
that has always cultivated innovation in many areas.
- Think of the first electric street lights set up for the Universal Exposition
in 1878 -- Place d'Etoile has never been the same.
- The Paris Metro proved to the world that moving people around
the city was not just do-able, but a necessity.
- Paris offers free access to well over a dozen museums,
securing its status as a culture capitol, a state sponsored gift that
benefits you, me and the rest of the world. Watch the scores
of french schoolchildren as they grow & learn in their civilized city.
- Even baking bread is sanctioned by Paris government in
an effort to keep their prized resource both healthy and affordable.
We take these innovations for granted now, but at one time
they were little more than abstract ideas that ultimately took shape
and transformed Paris into the city we love today.
Playing host to the U.N. World Climate Conference later this year,
Paris has made climate change more than just political rhetoric.
The city has wrapped this plum issue around many events,
hoping to educate and stimulate action and change.
"You can never cross the ocean until you have
the courage to lose sight of the shore."
Environmental challenges demand more than just talk and political maneuvering. Innovative efforts have been made into law.
The city of Paris now legislates that all new commercial buildings
must contain rooftop solar panels or gardens.
That's a clear vision for long term self-improvement --- and
an inspiration for the rest of the world, advocacy we sorely need.
satisfied to be just another pretty face....
Thankfully, this enlightened city is so much more.
Paris, France -- resourceful, always thinking, willing to take the next step.
As beautiful on the inside as the outside.