Exclusive Interview with Kader Arif, Minister for Veteran Affairs

Kader Arif.Photo: ©Jacques Robert

Kader Arif.
Photo: ©Jacques Robert

On Saturday November 17, La Jeune Politique sat down with Minister for Veteran Affairs, Kader Arif. In the first part of this exclusive interview, Arif talks about his political career. 

Minister, thank you for giving us this interview. Let’s begin by the origins of your career as a politician. How does one become a Minister?

I don’t know if there there is one road to become a politician. First, I don’t like the word “politician” very much, because it has negative connotations. I would prefer talking about a career in politics. One could consider, by misplaced pretention that my career is not typical, that it is unique. I suppose that it is a little: I came from a modest family, my parents were illiterate and they came from a disadvantaged background. So, my life as a young man did not presuppose me to hold the office I do now, as a member of the Government of Jean-Marc Ayrault, with the confidence of the President of the Republic François Hollande.

It comes from a teenage revolt, an engagement as a militant and the will that was mine to consider that you can make things move only through commitment. It is always easy to get angry and reproach things, sometimes legitimately. But angriness as such is not a way forward. I wanted to weigh, for myself, in my life, and in the same time, for a world that I want to be fair and egalitarian, peaceful and tolerant. That is why I wanted to get involved.

After that, life goes on. I was lucky to have met people that helped professionally, people like Lionel Jospin or François Hollande. They supported me and gave me a push in my career. There are friends that stay with you and also a strong family. It creates a mix, an alchemy in operation. It works, with a little bit of luck. But you always have to keep in mind that, above all, there is one value: nothing is given without work and everything needs commitment.

You have always been loyal to Lionel Jospin and François Hollande, even when Hollande underwent political difficulties in 2008. Is this loyalty important for you in politics? Have you always shared their values?

It is a way of life. I cannot imagine betraying people who made me who I am. I have the pretention today to consider Lionel Jospin a friend but he is also an intellectual and political reference, a master one could say. In the same way, I was made a national leader in the Socialist Party (PS) when François Hollande was First Secretary. He gave me this chance. I worked and learned to work with him. He made me lead the PS list in my region for the European election.

Over this, I also believe and I always have, about either Lionel Jospin then or François Hollande now, that they are the right men for the moment. They connect with the French, they show a true empathy, a true consideration for the people. I also believe François Hollande is one of the brightest minds in my political family. He has courage in the difficult times we are in,  the difficult situation of the country. He shows the will to respond to the urgency and build on his five-year term.

Revolt is never enough; you also need courage to change things. Revolt must be kept in mind but you also have to act. This is the reason for my fidelity to both these men, to the President of the Republic in particular.

On May 6, François Hollande was elected President of the Republic and very soon afterwards Jean-Marc Ayrault became Prime Minister. How did your nomination as a Minister happen? Did you expect it?

You always have hope. I was a member of his campaign team but I was not dealing with the things I am proud of dealing with today. You cannot expect anything, because you have no guarantee to become a member of the Government, despite your proximity with the man who has become President of the Republic, despite your work, despite everything. You should not expect anything because it can lead to disappointment.

It was an honor, a chance. I was called by the President himself. It was a day that will remain forever in my mind. Wednesday May 16, you wait for the phone to ring then you stop waiting. And right after 4 p.m., I took a call and I was told, “The President of the Republic.” There is this particular emotion. The first question that crossed my mind was: “What am I going to call him? “ I was embarrassed: should I call him by his first name because of our personal relationship or should I call him “Mr. President,” because of what he has become. But he talked first, he told me “It’s François.” It set our relation straight. Then he offered me to enter the Government as a Minister for Veteran Affairs.

The moment takes very little time, but it is a mark of trust that honors you. The fact that the President called himself was a way of saying “I thought about you, I trust you.” For me, it was important in an affective or emotional way. After, you don’t realize much. It was a great feeling, but the Government was not announced officially yet so I could not talk about it. I had to keep it for myself until the official announcement. That lasted for more than three hours and people keep questioning you: “Are you in?” I had a public meeting that night, launching my campaign for deputy. There were people there, supporters and activists asking me “Are you in?” and I could not answer.

Finally, when it was announced officially, I had this strong moment affectively and emotionally. I thought of my parents whom I lost and it was very hard. I was proud for them, but it was painful not being able to share this moment with them. Then I shared it with my wife, my three girls and my friends… It is a rare moment in life, and you have to take it as an honor from the Republic.

 

Trackbacks

  1. […] On Saturday November 17, La Jeune Politique sat down with Minister for Veteran Affairs, Kader Arif. In the second part of this exclusive interview, Arif talks about the importance of keeping the memory of veterans alive. In the first part, he talked about his political career.  […]

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