Jacques Chirac, in his final presidential appeal to the French people, urged his compatriots Tuesday to stay united and proud of the nation he led for 12 years despite uncertainty about France's place in today's world.
"Always stay united," Chirac said in a brief televised address Tuesday night, before he turns over the presidency to fellow conservative Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday.
"A nation is a family. This link that unites us is our most precious asset," he said, sitting in front of French and EU flags.
He said France should be a nation of equal opportunity and an engine of European integration. Both appeals recalled low points of his tenure: the 2005 riots that laid bare deep-rooted discrimination against France's immigrants, and the French rejection of the EU constitution that Chirac had championed.
He said he was "proud" of his accomplishments, but did not list them, and his statement lacked the eloquence and passion that has marked many of his speeches.