- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Merci beaucoup, Frederic.

The Statue of Liberty hosted a party yesterday honoring its creator, sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, for the 100th anniversary of his death.

The ceremony commemorating France’s most famous gift to the United States also was a celebration of Franco-American friendship, which degenerated into name-calling after France declined to support the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Richard Riehm, the deputy mayor of Colmar, the city in France’s Alsace region where Bartholdi was born, said the Statue of Liberty reminds people of the United States’ contribution to liberty worldwide.

“In the shadow of Miss Liberty,” Mr. Riehm said, “we cannot forget what we owe to the American soldiers who gave us back our freedom on two occasions, 1917 and 1944, 60 years ago.”

The ceremony took place on Liberty Island, where the statue was reopened to visitors two months ago, after the September 11 terror attacks forced its closure.

The mayor of Princeton, N.J., Colmar’s sister city, said some of the Founding Fathers who enshrined liberty in the Constitution owned slaves.

“When the people of France made their magnificent gift to the United States, it was, in part, a recognition that we had finally abolished slavery,” Mayor Joseph O’Neill said. “But even as the Statue of Liberty was being erected, Jim Crow laws were being enacted to humiliate and disenfranchise the newly freed African slaves.

“Liberty then was at most a hope, at best a work in progress. This statue before us became an icon of what we would wish ourselves to be. And it shamed us when our deeds fell so far short of our words.”

Bartholdi was born on April 2, 1834, and died of tuberculosis in Paris on Oct. 4, 1904. Other Bartholdi works erected in the United States include the Bartholdi Fountain in the District, the angelic trumpeters on the corners of the tower of the First Baptist Church of Boston and the Lafayette Statue and the Lafayette and Washington Monument in New York.

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