Raymond D. Giraud -- Stanford professor, activist

Post Reply
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 2152
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:03 pm

Raymond D. Giraud -- Stanford professor, activist

Post by admin » Tue Jun 27, 2006 6:29 pm

SF Gate

Raymond D. Giraud -- Stanford professor, activist
- Jason B. Johnson, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Raymond D. Giraud, a professor emeritus at Stanford University whose political activism ranged from monitoring elections in Haiti to fighting for animal rights and opposing the war in Vietnam, died June 17 after a lengthy bout with cancer. He was 85.

Professor Giraud and his wife Lise, who was formerly a principal librarian for Stanford, were active members of the nation's animal rights movement for over 25 years. Their Palo Alto home was often a meeting place for various human rights activities.

Professor Giraud, who taught French literature, didn't hesitate to criticize the university over animal experiments, including stress tests on young monkeys in which the primates' cages were placed next to a caged boa constrictor.

He challenged the experiments as not being relevant to human beings and causing needless pain and suffering to the monkeys. He was a lead party in a lawsuit filed to protest the treatment of a dog -- Snowball -- in a Stanford laboratory. The case was resolved with the Department of Agriculture agreeing to more strictly enforce its oversight of the research labs.

He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Palo Alto Humane Society, and co-director of education for the In Defense of Animals organization from 1990 until his death. In 1999 he and his wife were named Humanitarians of the Year by the Marin Humane Society.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Professor Giraud was also a vocal critic of the Vietnam War, supporting various student anti-war protests. He also supported the school's fledgling union movement.

Martin Eichner said he first met the professor and his wife during the 1960s when he was a student anti-war activist at Stanford.

"There are a very small number of professors at Stanford who were willing to speak publicly on those types of issues," Eichner recalled. "(He) had extremely strong views. It was not important to Ray to compromise those views to have people like him. Being consistent with his political and human rights views was much more important to him."

In 2000, Professor Giraud was a representative of the International Coalition of International Observers (ICIO), whose 25 members observed 152 polling stations in four of Haiti's most populous provinces. He visited 36 polling stations in Jeremie, a town 186 miles west of the capital.

Professor Giraud was born in New York City in 1920, the eldest of five children. He earned a bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1941 and served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

In 1948, he married Lise, an Austrian refugee from the Nazis. He resumed his education after the war, receiving a master's degree from the University of Chicago in 1949 and a doctorate from Yale in 1954. He was an expert in 19th century French literature, publishing his book "The Unheroic Hero in the Novels of Stendhal, Balzac and Flaubert'' in 1957.

Professor Giraud became a Guggenheim Fellow in 1961, and was decorated by the French Academy as a Chevalier, Ordre des Palmes Academique in 1967.

After teaching several years at Yale, he joined the Stanford faculty in 1958 as part of the department of French and Italian. He retired in 1986.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his brother Lewis of Missouri, and sisters Dolores Chambliss of Arkansas and Domini Tinsley of Missouri.

A memorial celebration will be held in July.

User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 2152
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:03 pm

Post by admin » Tue Jun 27, 2006 8:35 pm

I just received this news in the mail. The article does not even begin to describe the profound humanity of Raymond Giraud. This is not because of any deficiency on the part of the writer but because you simply had to spend one day with the man to fully appreciate his immense value as a human being. I was lucky enough to have spent a week with him in Jérémie. I led a delegation of observers and my team was made up of Professor Giraud and his wife Lise, a Haitian school teacher from Canada (Pierre), a High School French teacher from Denmark (Ingegerd), and a Pax Christi Haiti activist (Bob). We made the best of our shared experience. This was nearly six years ago, so Raymond might have been 79. He looked frail at times and so did his wife. Before our departure from Port-au-Prince, someone from the organization asked me whether I minded being saddled with two old people in my delegation. For a second I thought that this might prove to be a challenge because the work involved spending election day on foot, the entire day from sunrise to sunset, going from one poll station to another, taking notes of the electoral process in required detail, and not in the best environmental conditions. This would be exhausting work and I quickly wondered whether these old teammates would be up to the task. I was asked, and if I said no, they would then have asked them to stay in Port-au-Prince instead. But they had volunteered to go to Jérémie. It truly took me just one second to make up my mind: someone had to answer to the challenge and it might as well be me. One of the best decisions I made in my life, because the company of Raymond and Lise that week has marked me forever.

Raymond's eloquence was simply beyond description. I hung to his every word. His French was of the best quality, stylistically, regally even, without ever being pedantic. The loving support he and Lise had for each other was so evident, every second of the day. Beyond their love for each other, there was also their love for Haiti, their love for Justice, their love for humanity... which certainly did not extend to all human beings (I will explain). There was such an air of dignity about that couple that I called them "the imperial couple" (devoid of any negative meaning). I told them that and they laughed it off, but instantly they knew that I meant that as a compliment, not a critique. I mean these were two very simple individuals and yet they carried their dignity with them with their every gesture. You don't often get to meet people like that.

Until I read this obituary, I was not even aware of Raymond's activism on behalf of animal rights. But it immediately brings to mind something that I will never forget. We were staying in a "foyer" (hotel) in Jérémie. Our rooms were adjacent. Across the street was a home and a yard, along the perimeter of which was a high wall. There were fruit trees inside, and the dense foliage made the area quite private. From our elevated balconies, we could peer in and yet see practically nothing. It was clear though that there were plenty of animals in that yard: dogs, cats, hens and roosters, and pigs (well, at least one). On our second night at the hotel, the still of darkness was violently shattered however by the most horrific experience I could have conceived up to that point in what concerns animal life. Something that went on for over an hour and that conveyed in excruciating detail the slow agony of death, and the unmistakable cry of indignation that accompanied it, more loudly than I ever heard any sort of protest before, in a relentlessly personal, forceful, grotesque way that conveyed to all who would hear, in a universal inter-species strangely understood way that one's living consciousness was inexorably reduced to weakening shades of a pig's life, measured by every outflow of blood from the rude cut fashioned by an inefficient executioner. I learned that night that every life mattered and that we humans had no monopoly on its sanctity.

I checked with my guests the next morning and sure enough, Lise was visibly shaken by the experience: "The most horrific experience of my life," she said. Yet, there was the Transatlantic slave trade where 20 million Africans lost their lives at sea. Yet, there was the Jewish Holocaust. Yet there were the killing fields Cambodia, the Fort Dimanches of Haiti and every place that witnessed the inhumanity of man. I knew it and she knew it too. Yet, I perfectly understood what she expressed: Even though it was only one creole pig, it really was so much more than that. It was a life prematurely terminated, that was not to be effaced without screaming to all the unfairness of its fate. It reached a height of expression, unattainable by humans, bound by inhibitions of every sort.

The lesson of that night was "Go gentle, life is precious".

Raymond himself did not say a word about it, other than acknowledging that he too was kept awake. I could read all of his feelings in his eyes, though.

The rest of our shared experience was not so dramatic but even more meaningful. We got to see with our own eyes how precious the act of voting was to the ordinary Haitian. I related those observations in an essay written several years back. Needless to say, this lovely couple of near-octogenarians performed their duty as diligently as anyone would have a right to expect.

Before they went back to the States, Lise said to me: "Young man, if I ever hear that you have come near where we live in Palo Alto and did not stop by to visit, I will pursue you to the end of the earth."

You will not remember me now, Lise, but rest assured that I never had that opportunity. Raymond remembered me though to the very end, and who knows, perhaps you too, but I certainly doubt it. In my correspondence with Raymond, he kept me informed about you and about the ravages of time. Perhaps it is best that you may not even realize the loss of such a regal and admirable human being, my friend Raymond Giraud.


P.S. Somewhere above, I mentioned that Raymond was not always kind, at least not to every human being. One morning, we approached the breakfast table to the news that Dick Cheney had suffered a heart attack and had been hospitalized. "Wonderful news," exclaimed cheerfully our humanist (to my consternation).

He was not a mean person, but he confidently expressed himself like no other.

Blessed the memories you have left, Raymond. Over the course of a few days, you left an indelible imprint...

User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 2152
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:03 pm

Post by admin » Wed Jun 28, 2006 2:52 am

Our last correspondence.

From: Raymond/Lise Giraud
Apr 4, 2006 7:49 PM
Re: Hello Raymond
To: Guy S. Antoine

Dear Guy,

How wonderful to get your warm and positive message! And how good to be reminded of the relatively hopeful situation in Haiti when we were there together. Since then the coup d'etat, the abduction of Aristide, the grotesque imposition of La Tortue,the imprisonment, torture, murder of so many good and courageous people in Haiti! And now we can be sure that everything possible will be done to insure that the Preval government--if there ever is one--will be a puppet of the US and a faithful servant of free trade and globalization.

It's heartening to learn that you have involved yourself in the movement to oppose the ugly leglislation criminalizing undocumented immigration. We are truly confronted with fascism here in this country, and it threatens the freedom and well-being of almost everyone elsewhere on the globe, excluding the corporate profiteers, who are doing very well, even though they are a little uneasy about Hugo Chavez and Morales in Bolivia.

I fear that you and your wife would be ill-advised to follow too closely in Lise's and my footsteps! Alas, poor girl, she has fallen victim to Alzheimer's disease and I am in the midst of chemotherapy. But we are still hanging on, and may yet see an end to the Bush gang's destructive reign over our country and the world. (Although I am not very sanguine about the changes the Democratic Party leadership might bring about--nor am I an admirer of Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac).

Dear Guy, please forgive me this incoherent rant! With our admiration for all that you are doing, we send you our warmest and most affectionate greetings!


-----Original Message-----
From: Guy S. Antoine
Sent: Monday, April 03, 2006 2:01 PM
To: 'Raymond/Lise Giraud'

Raymond, so happy to hear from you! It's been nearly six years since our electoral observation in Haiti, and I can never forget how privileged I felt to work with you and Lise... I can never forget your eloquence and your passion for justice. I always thought that one day I would swing by the West Coast and pay you a visit, but that has never materialized. How are you? How is Lise?

On my side, I still manage Windows on Haiti and I work as the Haitian Outreach Coordinator for the New Jersey Immigration Policy Network (an NGO which keeps me very busy, as you must be aware of the current immigration debate and the extreme reactionary bills floating through Congress).

As I said before, I think of you often and pray that you and Lise keep in good health, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I often told my wife about you and she agrees that we should one day become more like you and Lise.

Best of everything,

Post Reply