Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor to participate in this program to honor Ben Weider. I want to thank Director Nathalie Bondil and Cultural Programming Director Danielle Roberge for inviting me to be here.
One year ago we marked the opening of the Weider Napoleon exhibition, but our hearts were heavy as we were deeply saddened by Ben’s recent passing. This year, we do not focus so much on mourning the loss of a friend but instead we focus on celebrating his life and legacy. I was Ben’s friend and associate in his Napoleonic endeavors, so naturally I remember and celebrate in that context.
INS President J. David Markham
Like his hero, Napoleon, Ben Weider not only achieved great victories but also created a legacy and legend that will last far into the future. For us here today, the most obvious example of victory, legacy and legend is this magnificent Napoleonic exhibition. Encouraged by his friend Senator Serge Joyal, Ben created an outstanding exhibition made largely from his personal collection, and nicely augmented by Senator Joyal and others. But the collection is not just a static exhibit. Nathalie Bondil and her staff have prepared its presentation brilliantly and we should thank them with a round of applause.
Also, Ben provided for an outstanding explanatory brochure to be made available free of charge to all who will come to visit including school groups. There have been about 450,000 people who have visited the museum this past year, and one hopes that most of them saw this exhibition. Eventually, visitors will eventually be numbered in the millions.
Speaking of school groups, Ben’s created two academic chairs at Florida State University’s Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution. And as long as that program lasts, students will be given the opportunity to do important research in Europe and elsewhere, thanks to academic scholarships that Ben established.
Ben made very significant and direct contributions to our better understanding of Napoleonic history. His research, books and articles on Napoleon’s assassination while in exile on St Helena has changed the way we view the end of Napoleon’s life. And with General Michel Franceschi, Ben wrote a briskly selling book, The Wars Against Napoleon, that effectively debunks the myth that Napoleon was the cause of the so-called Napoleonic Wars.
Of course, my greatest involvement with Ben was with the International Napoleonic Society. In 1996 Ben established the International Napoleonic Society to promote greater academic study of Napoleon and to promote a more accurate, and thus more positive, understanding of Napoleon and his importance to the modern world. As his Executive Vice-President and Editor-in-Chief, I worked with him to organize international academic congresses in Italy, France, Poland, Israel and Georgia and to produce the academic journal, Napoleonic Scholarship. He and his able staff put together an outstanding website. Today, the INS has attracted almost 600 Fellows from 42 countries.
Ben was determined to have the INS continue as part of his legacy, and left provisions for me to serve as his successor as President, which is one of the great honors of my life. A year after becoming INS President, I can tell you that there is no question in my mind that Ben would be very pleased with what we have done. In the past year we have added over 40 new Fellows from seven countries. We held a very successful congress in Montreal last year, and have one scheduled for this July in Malta. We are working on plans for more congresses in the future.
Since most of our Fellows have access to email, we are instituting an electronic newsletter to help us keep in better contact with our Fellows. The newsletter will provide INS news, news of other Napoleonic activities, and some educational material.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we are reinstating the academic journal. This will be an annual publication that will have articles from some of the top scholars in the field, as well as outstanding student papers.
Every congress, every newsletter and every issue of the journal will be proof that Ben Weider’s victories were great and that his legacy continues.
Thank you very much for your attention.