Please join us in congratulating our 2021-2023 National Officers and Voting Representatives for Democrats Abroad France! Thank you to all the amazing candidates who stepped up to #RunForSomething!
National Chair – Jonathon Holler. Jonathon supports the Equal Rights Amendment, Medicare for All, and strengthened labor unions, and a DPCA charter providing for more equitable voting and more inclusive gender parity rules.
First Vice-Chair – Danielle Follett. Dani is committed to continuing the work DAF accomplished to broaden the organization by welcoming new voices, expanding membership and raising voter turnout.
Second Vice-Chair (Chapter Liaison) - Drew Lombardi. Based on his past organizing experience in New York and Boston, Drew plans to launch a “50 state strategy” across all 12 local chapters to boost active engagement, recruit new members and deliver decisive electoral victories to Democrats.
Secretary – Alejandra Roman. New to France, Alejandra was DA Mexico City chapter Membership Chair and aided GOTV efforts leading up to the 2020 elections.
Treasurer – Marjorie Bernstein. A past Treasurer and Secretary of DA France, Marj will apply her qualities of thoroughness, dedication, and enthusiasm (as well as her degree in Mathematics!) to her reprised role as Treasurer.
Counsel – Julia Grégoire. Julia is licensed to practice law in both France and the US and begins her second term as Counsel. She has assisted with two thorough revisions of the DA France Bylaws and ensured compliance with French law governing non-profit organizations.
Database/IT Manager – Max Dunitz. Max begins his second term as Database/IT Manager. He added many new tools to our digital organizing toolkit, from peer-to-peer texting to state voter file data to inform voters about ballot deadlines, rejected ballots, and voter assistance options.
GOTV Officer - Dori Schwartz-Laboune. During the 2020 election cycle Dori recruited and engaged volunteers, doing outreach and phone/text banking. She is committed to increasing our efforts to turn out voters for the midterm primaries and 2022 elections.
Communications Officer – Amy Porter. Amy’s objectives are to build out the Comms team; coordinate the use of our multiple channels—social media, website, email—for recruiting new members, increasing current member engagement levels and helping members to vote, and to work closely with the chapters and caucuses in support of their communications efforts.
Issues, Program and Events Coordinator – Gretchen Pascalis. A founding member of the DA France Rhone-Alps chapter (now Grenoble) and organizer of many memorable events in her region, Gretchen believes that events make organizations come alive, energize and inform members, and help recruit new members.
Membership Outreach / Volunteer Coordinator – Florent Marchais. Flo has a record of dynamic, energetic youth organizing in Texas and France. In his new role, he plans to engage alongside the GOTV and Events officers to mobilize volunteers to participate in phone-banking, social-media activism, and in-person volunteering and rallying in solidarity for international causes like climate action and Black Lives Matter.
DPCA Voting Representatives
Alex Rehbinder (Alternate)
Susan Fitoussi (Alternate)
Ricky J. Marc (Alternate)
Gretchen Pascalis (Alternate)
The French media has always had a fascination with the American presidential election system. Every four years, they trot out “US experts” who explain the arcane Electoral College to their baffled French viewers, and point out what the red and blue areas on the map mean. And, being French, they engage in one of their favorite exercises: moderating debates.
We had a hunch that French media interest in the 2020 US Presidential election would be particularly intense, and we wanted to ensure that we were ready to meet the triple challenge of explaining the role of Democrats Abroad in helping overseas Americans vote, educating the French public about the American election system, and promoting the Biden-Harris ticket as well as the down-ballot Democratic candidates. To do so, the DAFrance national leadership prioritized expanding the experienced spokespersons pool so that it better represented the diversity of our leadership and our regional geography.
If you’ve never been a press spokesperson, you probably can’t imagine what a perilous exercise it can be to go on live TV and radio to answer questions from journalists who excel in getting their guests to say something controversial. You must be careful about every word that comes out of your mouth, because you are there not to give your personal opinion, but rather to “carry the word” of the organization you represent. [The French word for spokesperson– “porte-parole”– expresses this perfectly.]
To be an effective spokesperson for an organization such as Democrats Abroad, there are many elements to master: knowing what to say, knowing how to say it, answering difficult questions, and, of course, skillfully wielding the spokesperson’s specialty: NOT answering certain questions, but rather pivoting to a slightly different topic. (If you’ve ever watched a politician being interviewed and thought “well, what he just said was interesting, but he didn’t really answer the question”, you know what a pivot is.)
So, the DA France leadership and Comms team recruited leaders who had relevant experience, or were willing to learn, and would have the time to devote to the team’s effort once the requests started pouring in. We set up a training program, led by former professional spokesperson, Amy Porter. It quickly became clear to all that you don’t magically become a media spokesperson: it involves training, homework and practice.
From top left (clockwise): Joe Smallhoover, Philip Breeden, Amy Below, Didier Moutou, Gretchen Pascalis, Kate Barrett, Julia Grégoire, Fred Hoffman, Amy Porter.
Our team of 18 trained spokespeople, reaching every corner of l'Hexagone, was comprised of diverse profiles: from teachers and fitness coaches to former State Department staffers, lawyers, and constitutional law experts. They each attended practice sessions where we tried our darndest to get them flustered! Armed with frequently updated Talking Points, the team handled more than 130 media hits by election day, of which 100 were done between November 3rd and 8th. In this whirlwind of activity, some spokespeople did as many as 5 interviews per day, including:
- Panel discussions, interviews, and debates with Republicans.
- National media outlets, such as LCI, BFM, M6, FranceInfo, RTL, FranceInter, France24, Libération and Le Parisien as well as numerous local television, radio stations and newspapers.
The appetite for debates in the French media was seemingly endless, as was the stream of Republican spokespeople. But we outmatched them: the people invited to TV studios had not benefited from the professional training that our spokespeople had undergone, and were armed only with “alternative facts” and conspiracy theories. In that respect, they accurately represented their candidate… Some of those debates got a “bit” heated. But our team rose to the occasion time and again, showing calmly and patiently that truth prevails over lies.
We continued to comment on the election results through mid-November, and expected a quiet few weeks until Inauguration Day. That calm came to an abrupt halt with the Capitol Insurrection on Jan. 6th, which we were compelled to comment on in real time as the events of the day unfolded! No amount of training or talking points could have prepared us for that… But we persisted, and were again asked to comment on TV, radio and print through the Biden-Harris Inauguration Day, doing an additional 49 hits in January, after which we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Here are a few examples of DA France spokespeople in action (and a trip down memory lane):
November 1: Le Progrès (Lyon) with Diane Sklar
November 4: France 24 with Amy Below
November 5: France 3 (Paris/IdF) with Didier Moutou
November 6: FranceInfo with Fred Hoffman
November 7: France 24 with Gretchen Pascalis
November 7: Libération with Ada Shen and Amy Porter
November 8: BFM with Philip Breeden
January 19: 20 Minutes (Toulouse) with Scott Stroud
January 20: LCI with Julia Grégoire
February 9: LCI with Amy Porter
DA France is proud of the work done by the Media team, which has led to a higher profile in France for Democrats Abroad, supporting our mission around the world. Now, we stand ready for whatever the news cycle throws our way.
Thanks to our spokespeople! (in alphabetic order)
- Kate Barrett (Paris)
- Reed Kennedy (Paris)
- Amy Below (Paris)
- Didier Moutou (Paris)
- Philip Breeden (Marseille)
- Gretchen Pascalis (Grenoble)
- Victoria Gonzales (Paris)
- Amy Porter (Deputy National Communications Coordinator)
- Julia Grégoire (National Counsel)
- Ada Shen (National Chair)
- Rebecca Grossberg (Lille/Normandy)
- Diane Sklar (Lyon)
- Fred Hoffman (Paris)
- Joe Smallhoover (International Legal Counsel)
- Jonathon Holler (National Vice Chair)
- Scott Stroud (Toulouse)
- Aimee Johanssen (Brittany)
- Erik Teetsov (Bordeaux)
- Barbara Wells (Strasbourg)
Upcoming EventsWe're holding another official, in-person Action Hour Monday, September 27, at 6:30 p.m., and we'd love to see some new faces!!! We'll be meeting at l'Epicerie Comptoire, 4 Place Schuman, near the Gare de Grenoble. The plan is to write more postcards to voters in Virginia, learn how to do phone banking from France, and discuss our plans for the upcoming family Halloween party.
It's been a loooong time and we'd love to see you at our Rentrée Happy Hour at the only bar in Paris owned by a Black American, the Brklyn! Come reconnect and see new works from artist Ealy Mays (who will provide some insights on his work). We look forward to seeing you.
Pass Sanitaire or recent COVID test required.
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