Solène, MiM student interviews Emmanuel Macron
Published on 24 January 2022 by NEOMA
- Student life
On Tuesday 4 January, Solène Jalet, MiM student, had an appointment to interview the French President at the Elysée Palace as part of Le Parisien’s ‘Face au lecteur’ (Facing the Reader) series. She tells us about this incredible experience.
How does a student end up interviewing the President of the Republic?
One of my friends had the opportunity to attend a ‘Face au lecteur’ interview, which is a special meeting between a public figure and a panel of Le Parisien readers, organised by the newspaper. When she saw an advert for the ‘Face au lecteur’ with Emmanuel Macron, she contacted me straight away, knowing that I’m interested in institutional activities and social issues and that I know the French and European political scene quite well.
Even though the idea of meeting the President of the Republic is a bit daunting, I thought that such an opportunity would probably not come around again and I just had to take it! So I sent an application to the Editor-in-Chief of the Le Parisien with the six questions I wanted to ask Emmanuel Macron. Just before Christmas on December 23, the newspaper announced that I was one of the seven readers selected for the interview that would mark the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which began on 1 January 2022.
The 6 questions you sent meant that you were selected. What themes did you want to cover and why?
I represented the younger generation amongst the 7 readers selected for the interview. My questions therefore focused on the issues that are important to me as a young person, such as the environment, student insecurity and political engagement.
I have always been interested in social and political issues. I had the chance to do my first year internship as a parliamentary assistant and then to join a firm involved in public affairs in my second year. I asked questions on themes I know something about and ones I expected real answers to. I really worked on getting my questions right and even asked people I know to look over them to have an objective opinion.
The topics I covered are really important to me, so I was delighted when I found out that 4 of the 6 questions I submitted had been selected for the interview!
Tuesday 4 January, the big day! What happened exactly?
We had a 7.45am appointment at the Élysée Palace for a 90-minute work session with Le Parisien‘s political journalists, where we decided on the overall structure of the interview: organising the questions into main themes, assigning their order and deciding who asked which question.
We then went to the reception room where the President’s communication advisors and press officers were waiting for us. The meeting over breakfast was very friendly and everything was designed to make us feel comfortable.
It was a very special moment when Emmanuel Macron arrived. It was probably the most striking moment of the whole interview. We thought we were prepared for this, but seeing him in person is really impressive! He greeted us all, wished us a happy new year, asked how we were, where we were from, thanked us for coming… He looked happy to be with us and to be thoroughly enjoying the occasion.
After the informal small talk, we took our seats and the interview began. We took turns asking the questions and I got to ask 3 on the following themes: nuclear energy, the political engagement of young people and their high abstention rate and the place of women in politics.
Of course, we followed the structure agreed upon beforehand, but we had room to react to the President’s answers, who was obviously very interested in our thoughts and opinions. Our very open discussions lasted two and half hours instead of the planned one and a half hours. We concluded the interview with the feeling that our questions had been answered and that we had been listened to. There was also a sense that the readers were in harmony with one another and we all had a lot of fun!
When the interview was over, official photos were taken on the steps of the Elysée.
How did you prepare for the interview?
I didn’t really do anything in particular because I wanted to be myself. Although the event itself, the venue and the sense of occasion made a huge impression on me, I didn’t feel out of place. I told myself that nobody expected me to be an expert on all the themes and that I was a legitimate representative of the younger generation and the questions we are asking.
And then I realised that since arriving at NEOMA I have learned a lot of things I could draw on during the interview. The different group projects that we work on at School have taught me to listen to others and to find my place in a group. Being a part of the Admissibles entrance exam welcome team has helped me to readily adopt Michel-Edouard Leclerc’s saying: “Be pushy!” My role as Mulan in the Musical Comedy helped me to be fully aware of the situation I was in and to be focused on what I was going to say and hear. My internships and the ethics, geopolitics and geo-economics courses I took whilst on exchange at the FGV in Brazil meant that I felt comfortable discussing the various topics and reacting to the President’s answers.
There aren’t many barriers at the School, we see a wide range of disciplines and a lot of opportunities. Everything encourages us to be bold!
What did you make of the positive reaction from the entire NEOMA community?
I wasn’t expecting such a wave of positivity and so much kindness at all! I received a lot of messages from my classmates, but also from the administration staff and a lot of graduates also contacted me to offer their congratulations and to ask questions… It makes the experience all the more real.
I was really surprised at all the congratulations and support I received. It really makes you aware of the strength of the NEOMA community and it is quite touching to see the extent to which they share our achievements.
What is the one thing you think you will remember most?
It was an incredible and rewarding experience that confirmed the professional project I have chosen to follow in public affairs and international relations.
But the memory I think I’ll keep is the kindness shown by the teams at Le Parisien and at the Élysée Palace, but also from the readers. Everybody shared the desire to make the event as enjoyable as possible.