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Jean-Christophe Parisot, a champion of France’s downtrodden - New York Times - 2012.01.13
Jean-Christophe Parisot, a champion of France’s downtrodden - New York Times - 2012.01.13
Jean-Christophe Parisot, a champion of France’s downtrodden - New York Times - 2012.01.13
Jean-Christophe Parisot, a champion of France’s downtrodden - New York Times - 2012.01.13
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Jean-Christophe Parisot, a champion of France’s downtrodden - New York Times - 2012.01.13

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  • 1. 2/13/12 Jean-Christophe Parisot, a Champion of France s Downtrodden - NYTimes.com HOME PAGE TODAYS PAPER VIDEO MOST POPULAR TIMES TOPICS patrickatnyt Search All NYTimes.com Europe W ORLD U.S. N.Y . / REGION BUSINESS T ECHNOLOGY SCIENCE HEA LT H SPORT S OPINION A RT S ST Y LE T RA V EL JOBS REAL ESTATE AFRICA AMERICAS ASIA PACIFIC EUROPE MIDDLE EAST Advertise on NYTimes.com THE SATURDAY PROFILE Log in to see w hat your friends A Champion of France s Downtrodden, With Limits of are sharing on nytimes.com. Log In Wi h Faceboo His Own Privacy Policy | What’s This? What s Popular Now Whitney Ev en Critics of Houston, Singer Safety Net and Actress, Increasingly Dies at 4 8 Depend on It Nanda Gonzague f or The New Y ork Times "I have a very special relationship w ith people. They know Ive endured so much that they immediately respect me," said Jean-Christophe Parisot. By MA A DE LA BAUME Published: January 13, 2012 Advertise on NYTimes.c MONTPELLIER, France FIVE seat belts strapped Jean-Christophe RECOMMEND Parisot to his seat in a van on his way to a desolate Roma TWITTER neighborhood in this city in southern France. A home care aide LINKEDIN carefully stabilized his head and held a telephone to his ear. E-MAIL PRINT He might have looked like a patient Connect With Us on being transferred to a hospital, but for REPRINTS T itter Follow Mr. Parisot, 44, one of the highest- SHARE MOST E-MAILED RECOMMENDED FOR YO @ny tim esworld ranking civil servants in the region of for international breaking news and headlines. Languedoc-Roussillon, it was just another day on the job. At the age of 91 articles in the past month All Recommendations Twitter List: Reporters and 10, Mr. Parisot received a diagnosis of 1. IHT RENDEZVOUS Editors limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, a rare genetic The Delicately Poised Chemistry of Enlarge This Image Diplomacy degenerative disease that has, so far, paralyzed his torso and most of his limbs. 2. SOCIAL Q’S Take Her at Face V alue On average, people with his condition die when they are 30 3. EDITORIAL to 40 years old. So Mr. Parisot, whose two sisters have the Attacks on Disclosurenytimes.com/2012/01/14/world/…/jean-christophe-parisot-a-champion-of-frances-downtrodden.html?… 1/4
  • 2. 2/13/12 Jean-Christophe Parisot, a Champion of France s Downtrodden - NYTimes.com same disease, has learned to live with the knowledge that 4. OFF THE CHARTS A Recov ery With Business Stepping O he probably does not have many years left. “I often tell my in Front children that the quality is more important than the 5. IN TRANSIT quantity of years,” he said. Sun Salutation Indeed: Y oga on a Paddleboard In a country where only 35 percent of physically disabled 6. SHORTCUTS people are employed, Mr. Parisot has been a trailblazer all Nanda Gonzague f or The New Y ork Times Prev enting Identity Theft Without Mr. Parisot, 44, a deputy prefect in Pay ing Monthly Fees France, w here he tends to the needs his life, and he recently became the first disabled person to of immigrants, the poor and the elderly. be named a deputy prefect. In that capacity, he is in charge 7 . Canadian Company Swept Up in of what France calls “social cohesion,” tending to the needs Suspected Plot to Smuggle a Qaddafi of the elderly, immigrants and the poor. 8. Energy Loan Ov ersight Is Needed, A Finds His nomination as deputy prefect was surprising in a country where success stories like his are rare. It was “a signal,” he said, to show disabled people that they can attain the highest 9. CHICAGO NEWS COOPERATIVE goals. President Nicolas Sarkozy said as much at the time of Mr. Parisot s appointment. Another City s Lesson About Crime Reduction “I m going to appoint a quadriplegic man as a prefect, not for his handicap,” Mr. Sarkozy said, “but for his competence.” 1 0. EDITORIAL Some Saner V oices on Super PACs Mr. Parisot cannot write by hand or type; he endures four hours of medical treatment PRESENT ED BY Go to Your Recommendations » every day and can breathe only with mechanical assistance. His office is constantly kept at What’s This? | Don’t Show 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit to help him make use of the last remaining working muscles in his hands. But he can talk, and he speaks slowly and eloquently. He has an exceptional memory, and he works 60 hours a week. His ability to talk about his disability without reserve, his limitless ambition in a steadily weakening body and his political connections developed at the elite Institut d Études Politiques de Paris, better known as Sciences Po, have made him an unofficial spokesman and role model for many disabled people. “He is so handicapped that what he did is exceptional,” said Philippe Van Den Herreweghe, Ma the Best Actor get the a disabled friend in charge of disability employment policies at the French Education most attention Ministry. “Mr. Parisot has helped change the glances of others, to change attitudes and ALSO IN MOVIES » reduce prejudice.” Cast your Oscar votes George Clooney & Alexander Payne interviewed by Da Mr. Parisot s life, in a country where he says physical and mental disabilities are still seen Carr as “human tragedy,” has been one of firsts. In 1989, he became the first handicapped student to graduate from Sciences Po, where his ADVERTISEMENTS wheelchair would not fit into the building s ancient elevators. (A friend managed to narrow the width of the wheelchair by removing some screws, forcing Mr. Parisot to sit In trodu ci n g: Th e In teracti v e A rts & for eight hours every school day in a cramped seat.) En tertai n m en t Gu i de Moving up through the hierarchy of France s public administration at an exceptional pace, he was appointed at 41 as the prefect s collaborator in the department of Lot, in the southwest of France, becoming the nation s first disabled local administrator. “I m not the typical civil servant locked in my ivory tower,” Mr. Parisot said in an interview. “I have a very special relationship with people. They know I ve endured so much that they immediately respect me.” Ads by Google With four permanent assistants, Mr. Parisot works to reduce the isolation of the elderly and improve living conditions for one of France s largest communities of Roma, or Disabilit The Canadian Government Is Offering Gypsies. He often travels to nursing homes, prisons and troubled neighborhoods. $35,000 in Disability Credits. HE has learned to conduct his life with the same speed and determination with which he .TheNBA.ca steers his motorized wheelchair along the narrow corridors of the prefecture. He hasnytimes.com/2012/01/14/world/…/jean-christophe-parisot-a-champion-of-frances-downtrodden.html?… 2/4
  • 3. 2/13/12 Jean-Christophe Parisot, a Champion of France s Downtrodden - NYTimes.com written six books, including a novel, an essay on theology — he is the youngest deacon in France — and a biography of a distant cousin, Frédéric Chopin, while raising four healthy children with his wife, Katia. “My wife and I wondered many times if we had the right to have children,” Mr. Parisot said, adding that doctors told them there was a 3.5 percent chance that their children would inherit his disease. Born in 1967 in what is now Burkina Faso, in West Africa, where his father worked as an engineer for the French Navy, Mr. Parisot spent most of his teenage years coping with fatigue, solitude and the pity that his condition inspired. “I experienced people looking the other way, the embarrassment of relatives, the disguised hypocrisy,” Mr. Parisot wrote in his book. “My body was strangeness, my lifestyle eccentricity.” While his schoolmates were taking swimming or soccer lessons, Mr. Parisot was writing to all the descendants of Napoleon s generals to ask about their ancestors battles. His parents learned that they were carriers of the disease when their first child was 7, and then watched as their other two children developed symptoms. Back in the 1970s, Mr. Parisot said, limb-girdle muscular dystrophy had not even been identified as a discrete disorder. Nevertheless, all three siblings have made constructive lives for themselves; one of Mr. Parisot s sisters is an engineer, the other a parliamentary aide. “I told my children that even if they didn t have legs, they would always have their brains,” said Martine Parisot, Mr. Parisot s mother. After years in the Civil Service, some at the Education Ministry, Mr. Parisot co-founded in 2000 the Collective of Disabled Democrats, a party aimed at defending the interests of the six million disabled people in France. He tried to qualify for the presidential race in 2002 and 2007 but could not gather the required signatures of 500 local officials from across the country. “I wanted to show that the handicapped weren t spectators, but actors in political life,” Mr. Parisot said. His party s program included increasing France s budget for disabled people, establishing legal protections against discrimination toward them and promoting a debate on sexual assistance for the mentally and physically disabled. Mr. Parisot s physical condition and his exceptional determination occasionally intimidate some of his colleagues. Bernard Andrieu, who worked with him in Lot, said that each of his visits outside the office required considerable logistics, and that “his work pace sometimes overwhelmed the people who worked with him.” But Mr. Parisot has learned not to be shy. In 2007, he met with Claude Guéant, then chief of staff to Mr. Sarkozy and now minister of the interior, and told him that he wanted to be a prefect. “Mr. Guéant asked me if I would be able to hold a meeting with 50 people,” he said. “I said yes.” While constantly fighting fatigue and declining health, he denounces a world made only for “bipeds,” and is particularly critical of French companies, which rarely follow government quotas to hire more disabled people. But he takes heart that two years ago a second disabled civil servant was named a deputy prefect, this time in the tiny Gers district, in southwest France. And he says that he has no qualms about the future, whatever it holds.nytimes.com/2012/01/14/world/…/jean-christophe-parisot-a-champion-of-frances-downtrodden.html?… 3/4
  • 4. 2/13/12 Jean-Christophe Parisot, a Champion of France s Downtrodden - NYTimes.com “I don t fear living, and I don t fear death either,” he says. “I believe in God, and he knows what is good for me.” A version of this article appeared in print on January 14, 2012, on page A4 of the New York edition w ith the headline: A Champion of France’s Dow ntrodden, With Limits of His Ow n. E-MAIL PRINT REPRINTS Get Free E-mail Alerts on These Topics Disabilities Politics and Gov ernm ent Muscular Dy strophy France Ads by Google whats this? Premier Walk-In Showers Walk-In Bathtubs from Premier Care. Get Your Free Brochure Today! .PremierBathrooms.ca INSIDE NY TIMES.COM MOVIES » TRAVEL » SUNDAY REVIEW » MUSIC » N.Y. / REGION » SUNDAY REVIEW » Loose Ends: Who s King of Pop Now? Leonard Cohen is not the only musician with a fan base that spans decades. 7 0s Sex Star Fascinates a In London, Flav ors of Engaging Her Public, Not Betting a Dim e, He Black Characters in New Era India Without the Fuss Seeking Her Peace Cleans Up at the Slots Search of Reality Home World U.S. N.Y. / Region Business Technology Science Health Sports Opinion Arts Style Travel Jobs Real Estate Autos © 2012 The New York Times Company Privacy Your Ad Choices Terms of Service Terms of Sale Corrections RSS Help Contact Us Work for Usnytimes.com/2012/01/14/world/…/jean-christophe-parisot-a-champion-of-frances-downtrodden.html?… 4/4

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