In one of the most inspiring campus events to date, 1,000 lucky GW students, including an unprecedented number from the Elliott School, enthusiastically participated in an April 25 town hall with the President of the Republic of France, Emmanuel Macron. In the many preparatory site inspections with the French Embassy leading up to the event, the French Ambassador emphasized how important it was to Macron during his official state visit to engage with students in a free-wheeling Q&A focused town hall event.
As President Macron entered the university’s Smith Center, a hush came over the crowd. GW President Thomas LeBlanc and Elliott School Dean Reuben Brigety welcomed Macron, then turned the event over to the younger set.
Positioned center stage with students gathered all around, Macron — dapper and with shirt sleeves rolled up — took questions directly from students speaking into hand-held mics. Queries ranged from Macron’s perspective on the war in Syria to his view of global climate change. In a dramatic moment, the youthful French leader offered an impassioned plea, urging students to address this critical issue now and in the future.
In another memorable moment, the president encouraged students to speak truth to power. “You don’t always have to follow the rules,” he said, punctuating his point with strong language in the student vernacular. Friendly laughter followed.
While the event was slated to span 90 minutes, Macron remained center stage for a full two hours. Diplomatic, engaging, and energetic throughout, the president capped off his remarks by stepping over protective barricades to wade into a throng eager to snap selfies and shake his hand. As the president gracefully exited, he left 1,000 students immersed in the meaning of the commonly heard phrase “Only at GW.”