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Officially In Office, French President Macron Gets Down To Work

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Emmanuel Macron is officially the new president of France. He took over from outgoing leader Francois Hollande on Sunday. Macron is the youngest French leader since Napoleon Bonaparte. As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, the new president says the world needs a strong France, and he plans to deliver on that promise.

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ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: President Emmanuel Macron reviewed the troops Sunday after taking the reins of power. Commander in chief is totally new terrain for this former investment banker turned economy minister who has taken the country by storm. Macron was elected to France's highest office with no political experience nor party apparatus behind him. Shopkeeper Pascale Sauge thinks Macron's win means her static old country may just be evolving.

PASCALE SAUGE: If the majority asked for him and vote for him, I suppose we are ready to change something maybe.

BEARDSLEY: Macron beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen with nearly 66 percent of the vote in the second round, but he knows that many of his electors were not so much supporting him as voting against her. Retired butcher Renee Chapeauvaloff says he initially did support Le Pen, but it was Macron's last debate performance that changed things.

RENEE CHAPEAUVALOFF: (Through interpreter) When they were face to face, he convinced me. And she had that crazy idea to leave the euro and return to the franc.

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PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: In his first speech as president, Macron said he would need all of France in the fight to kick-start the economy and rediscover the sense of what binds the nation together and makes it great. France can only be strong if it is prosperous, said Macron. The new president also wants a strong and credible European Union. He heads to Berlin today to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Enjoying a beer at an outdoor street market, 37-year-old Romain Jacoto says he didn't initially vote for Macron, but now he's happy with the young president and his new party.

ROMAIN JACOTO: (Through interpreter) He's going to try and govern differently by mixing ideas from the right and left and breaking all the old molds.

BEARDSLEY: Macron's next challenge is to get a parliamentary majority in legislative elections in June. Hundreds of candidates from his new party are running across France. Half of them are regular citizens with no political background. Jacoto calls that revolutionary. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE AMERICAN DOLLAR'S "SOMNAMBULANCE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.