In our May 12 issue the candid camera caught Los Angeles' French consul general in action at UCLA's track. He is understandably modest about his hurdling prowess, but his other talents speak for themselves. A wartime hero of France's air force, a veteran of her diplomatic service, the author of the prizewinning novel, The Roots of Heaven, Romain Gary is also a sportsman—of humor, verve and conviction.
Last month in Los Angeles more than 500 people attended a dinner for Sportsman of the Year Rafer Johnson. Following Johnson's acceptance of the award from Managing Editor Sidney L. James, Gary spoke.
"The best I could say," he said, "about what sport can achieve in the field of international relationships Mr. Johnson has already done. We in France have watched him with the greatest of admiration and respect. It is the performance of what we call in French rapprochement. The best equivalent in English, I suppose, is brotherhood, which is perhaps what our time needs more than anything. I took great pride in Mr. Johnson's achievement, though I am a Frenchman. What I admire so much is the way it was done and the way the Russians applauded and acclaimed him."
Mr. Gary then pointed out that this brought a most welcome light into our world at a time when there is a different kind of competition among people trying to "get there first."
February 9, 1959
"You know where," he continued good-humoredly. "It is the moon or the sun. I don't know which any longer. But it's up there somewhere. Such competition can lead us all up there very quickly. I must say I prefer the competition in which Mr. Johnson has shown himself such a master. And today as Sportsman of the Year he shares an honor with the President of the French Republic, who has been named by TIME Magazine as the Man of the Year—in a field which also is not lacking in hurdles."