In a move rife with symbolism newly elected French president François Hollande has hired eight underprivileged youths from one of France’s poorest neighborhoods to help clean up the Elysee presidential palace recently vacated by his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.
The ad-hoc cleaning crew from the troubled Paris suburb of Clichy-Sous-Bois will spend two months powerwashing the palace’s walls, floors, and corridors with Karcher brand electric high-pressure water cleaners to remove unsightly levels of mold, rust, and calcified decay which had built up during the Sarkozy presidency.
“We thought it was important to send a positive signal to young unemployed minorities.”
Although such maintance work is usually performed by the palace’s permanent staff, Hollande personally decided to hire the new team to signal a break with Sarkozy’s populist anti-immigrant policies.
“We thought it was important to send a positive signal to young unemployed minorities,” says Hollande’s chief -of-staff Pierre-Rene Lemas, “We will not marginalize or exclude you. We are one nation.”
Alhtough Sarkozy’s government included record numbers of minority cabinet ministers, his campaign sometimes incorporated dog-whistle racist language in a bid to attract support from the far-right Le Pen political movement.
Sarkozy most famously promised to “clean France’s banlieues with a Karcher” – which many found to be a subliminal euphemism for washing away the nation’s immigrants.
After the team is finished with the palace, they will then be hired into permanent positions cleaning Paris’s most famous cultural monuments.
For 22 year old Tariq ibn Ziyad the Elysee gig will be his first paying job. His only comment:
“I can’t wait.”