Jack Mathieu Émile Lang
(b. Mirecourt, 2 Sept. 1939)
French; Arts Minister 1981–4, 1988–91, Education Minister 1992–3, 2000–02 The son of an industrialist, Lang was educated at the Lycée Poincaré in Nancy and the Law Faculty in Nancy as well as at the élite IEP in Paris. He was a professor of law and a dean of the Nancy Law Faculty. He also founded the International Festival of Student Theatre and was made head of the National Theatre of Chaillot (a controversial tenure until he was fired in 1974). His political career started under Mendès France but he joined the new Socialist Party (PS) in 1972 and began a rapid rise. He ran the 1979 European elections for the party and was a long-serving Minister of Culture—a high-profile minister and a zealous defender of President Mitterrand. As minister he gave the arts a much needed strategy. He also started by attacking American cultural imperialism (he preferred Castro, he said) but ended by enticing Disneyland to Paris and by presenting the médaille de la chevalier to Sylvester Stallone in 1990: ‘one culture does not threaten another’, he said. He left office a popular figure, especially with the young, and was proposed for the presidency as Socialist candidate in 1995 (but withdrew). His subsequent place within Jospin's PS was marginal, but, as Jospin's popularity faded, he brought Lang back as Education Minister for the last two years of his government. Lang considered standing as a PS presidential candidate in 2007 but withdrew before the selection process began. He agreed to be co-chairman of a commission appointed by Sarkozy to review the constitution, a move opposed by the party, prompting Lang to resign from his official positions in the PS. He caused more controversy by being the only PS deputy to vote for the resulting constitutional changes, which were approved by a majority of one. In 2009 he acted as Sarkozy's special envoy to Cuba. Lang has not been the only Socialist to work with Sarkozy, causing further disunity within the PS.