Independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a meeting with young people of Paris suburbs, in Saint Denis, outside Paris, France, Thursday, March 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
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From across France they came to meet the man who has promised, if elected president in May, to "emancipate" immigrant families and free them from the gritty high-rises that ring French cities.The excitement was palpable as a microphone was passed through a hall in the tough Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, where a hundred high achievers gathered this week to share their stories of against-the-odds success with centrist maverick Emmanuel Macron.Macron, who is running neck-and-neck with far-right leader Marine Le Pen in polls for the first round of the election on April 23, has promised to bring France's storied "banlieues", or suburbs, in from the cold with a two-pronged approach that stresses equality and entrepreneurship.The blue-eyed philosophy graduate, who studied at France's top finishing school before becoming a civil servant and then a Rothschild investment banker before he leaped into politics may seem an unlikely champion of the downtrodden.Trade unions have accused him of promoting a race to the bottom by declaring that an Uber driver working up to 70 hours a week -- one of the few jobs readily available to low-skilled suburban youths in France -- had more "dignity" than someone without work.The failure to break into France's traditional big parties was what brought Aziz Francois Ndiaye to Macron's door.
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