Coralie Bonnet

Coralie Bonnet has partnered with the U.S. Embassy in Belgium to honor and teach the history of her native city, Bastogne. She was actively involved in creating the Bastogne War Museum, and as a government leader, continues to find ways to help Bastogne flourish and share its rich history with visitors across the globe. As an IVLP participant, Coralie gained valuable insights on leadership to apply to her continuing work in Belgium.

About Coralie “I think it’s really important to… keep the memory of what happened here during WWII alive.”

Coralie is proud to call Belgium home. While traveling abroad, she discovered how deeply it shapes her identity. “I really feel Belgian when I’m in Spain or in Ireland,” she says. Coralie is especially proud to call Bastogne home: “I felt proud of my Belgian roots when I was in the United States because everybody knows about the Battle of the Bulge.”

Teaching others about the impact of WWII on Bastogne – and on Belgium and the world – has become Coralie’s mission. She takes great pride in helping to create the Bastogne War museum, a place “dedicated to telling the story of the war to the young generation.” The project was challenging, but seeing visitors – from school children to WWII veterans from the United States – learning about this history makes her feel “it was worth all the effort, and it’s what keeps us motivated.”

Looking Forward

The museum teaches visitors about the past in order to prepare them for the future. Coralie explains that “working a lot with the stories of how life was during the war, makes me hope that nobody around me will ever know what war was like in Belgium, or in my town, or anywhere else in Europe.”

Without a museum and its visitors, Coralie believes Bastogne’s history and lessons would be lost. “Sooner or later none of the people that lived through these experiences will be around to tell us. So the memory needs to live on,” Coralie says. “It’s important for the younger generation to understand what happened here all those years ago.”

We need to continue telling the stories and explain their relevance.

The history of WWII includes a hopeful lesson about cooperation between nations, Coralie explains. “We have since built the European Union to keep the peace,” she says. “I would like the young generation to understand how important it is to prevent these horrible events to ever happen again.” Bastogne’s history teaches a universal lesson, Coraline explains: “I would hope people regard their differences, whether it be language or origin, as something to learn from instead of something to be afraid of.”

A Dedicated Leader

Coralie’s deep loyalty to her city has led her to seek leadership roles, as a city council member for nearly six years and then as Deputy Mayor. Whether supporting efforts to honor Bastogne’s rich history or opening up new economic opportunities for its future, she “tries to put a lot of passion in my everyday work.”

The U.S. Embassy in Belgium shares Coralie’s mission to promote peace and remembrance across the Ardennes region and beyond. In 2017, Coralie toured several U.S. cities with other young leaders from Europe with the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP). As a leader of organizations and large-scale projects, she appreciated learning about how different organizations function, from federal and state governments to non-profit organizations. “It was interesting to observe this and compare it to my own country or the countries of the people in my group,” she says. “It was interesting to learn about how others are trying to improve.”

Learning from experience and approaching the future with optimism describes Coralie’s own vision too.

“I think it’s really important to foster mutual understanding.”

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