Politics are a tricky subject. I confess, it’s not a topic I am comfortable speaking about because it is so expansive. And, politics very quickly get personal. I am disheartened by the lack of respect we show each other in the United States over political topics, but I also understand the passion and emotion that fuel the dialogue.
In France, politicians are formally groomed for roles in the government. It is an education and career you opt into by choice. France does not have the prominent family legacies we see in the United States: Kennedy, Bush, Clinton. There are some exceptions, but in general, in France, you go to school to become a politician.
A new book by Adam Plowright, The French Exception: Emmanuel Macron – the Extraordinary Rise and Risk captured my attention. Macron is young – 40 years old; he is the youngest head of state in France since Napoléan Bonaparte. His path to politics includes extensive academics with time spent as an assistant to a French philosopher, writer, editor and as an investment banker. He held senior civil servant roles and worked for François Hollande (the French President he would replace) as well as Manuel Valls, Prime Minister under Hollande. Macron resigned from his role Minister of Economy and Finance under Valls to run for President.
Elected in May of 2017, after forming his centrist political party “En Marche!” the year before, he is still new to the role of President. I jumped at the chance to attend a lecture at the American Library in Paris* featuring Adam Plowright. Macron has kept much of the press at bay during his term, but Plowright gained access to key individuals in all facets of Marcon’s life and I was curious to hear his impressions of the new President and the challenges ahead for France.
Some of the most interesting parts of the discussion were the focus on experimentation and the entrepreneurial spirit of Macron’s regime. In France, it is a time of neither right, nor left, nor communism or nor socialism. Macron has built a centrist platform with leaders in his Ministries from all parties. It’s a giant experiment.
Plowright describes Macron as intelligent, hardworking, charming and ambitious. He has a high degree of emotional intelligence. His strengths are acting with speed and taking decisive action. These qualities also happen to be his weakness. Macron has a business friendly, global view. He makes his European Union commitment clear – in fact, he opportunistically slid into Britain’s seat of “power” in the wake of Brexit.
At this time, Macron has a favorable view among the French. He is credited with the start of economic reform, much needed tax cuts, building global relationships and bringing about a feeling of confidence/stability. In the upcoming months, he begins discussions on transit reform which is not likely to go well.
For more on Adam Plowright and his Macron biography, listen to Season 3, episode 2 of Oliver Gee’s Earful Tower. Oliver’s talented fiancé, Lina Nordin, created the Macron on macarons sketch used in this post. She can be found on Instagram at @parisianpostcards. Oliver is on Facebook: theearfultower, Twitter: olivergee23 and Instagram: @theearfultower.
*The American Library in Paris sits in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. The collection started after the World War I with the donated books sent to the Allied soldiers. It is currently the largest lending collection of English books on the European continent. The library has informational programs and lectures almost every week. I have enjoyed my time (and education!) here.