It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you that one of the founding fathers of the International Association of Political Consultants, Michel Bongrand, passed away in his beloved Paris on 19 August 2014.
Michel, along with Joe Napolitan, founded the IAPC, and hosted our very first conference in Paris in 1968.
Michel Bongrand had an impressive career. He fought with the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation during World War II. He went on to become a renowned journalist in the 1950s and early 1960s. In 1960, he traveled to the United States where he covered the historic 1960 presidential election. It was there that he learned cutting edge techniques in political communication and persuasion.
In 1965, Bongrand approached General Charles DeGaulle and offered to run his campaign. DeGaulle scoffed and said he had no use for a so-called political consultant. Rebuffed by DeGaulle, Bongrand went to work for a little known challenger polling in the low single digits – Jean Lecanuet. Under Bongrand’s careful guidance, Lecanuet’s candidacy caught fire. He surged in the polls, ending at just under 16% on election day and forcing an embarrassed DeGaulle into a runoff against Francois Mitterand.
After Lecanuet’s unlikely surge, Bongrand was a hot commodity in European politics. He advised a number of major French politicians and heads of state from around the world. Even the Gaullists who had mocked Bongrand’s work went on to hire him for subsequent electoral efforts.
Beyond electoral politics, Bongrand also lent his genius to a number of major public affairs campaigns including developing slogans and marketing campaigns for road safety and against tobacco consumption.
Today, I travel to Paris to represent the IAPC at this legend’s funeral. I have also offered our condolences to Michel’s son, Philippe. He noted that he was “touched and honored” by our gesture “because IAPC was so important to my father.” I had, previously, invited Michel to be the IAPC’s guest of honor at this year’s Rome conference.
Michel Bongrand will be missed. We will remember him as a dear friend, an outstanding professional, a shining personality and a gentleman in the truest sense of the word.
Although Michel is gone, he will always remain in our hearts and minds.