When she entered the Tishman Auditorium at New York University, Christian Taubira—the recently resigned French Minister of Justice—received a standing ovation.
The lecture was planned before Taubira’s sensational resignation, part of an official diplomatic trip that included Washington, D.C. and New York, and although her official duties as a minister ended with her resignation, NYU kept the date.
The name of the speaking engagement, “Freedom And Equality For All,” was vague enough to allow Taubira broad subject matter, although she was careful to stay away from the topic of French policy as she spoke to an audience that included two dozen French journalists.
Those in attendance were mostly French New Yorkers, as well as students and teachers from the university. Won over before the event even began, the audience was enthralled by the speech of the former minister, puntuated as usual with quotes from writers and poets. Baptiste, a 20-year-old economics student at Columbia, came to the event because “Christian Taubira is a strong personality, she’s had an atypical career. It’s always interesting to see that, especially in New York.”
Thibault, a 22-year-old law student, decided to attend after Taubira’s resignation was announced. “We had to be here. She’s an icon in government, who has made history with her reforms. I think she has a very humane and inspiring message.”
At the heart of her speech was the eternal struggle for the brotherhood of mankind. “You can have a quiet life by ignoring the oppression of others,” she quipped. She didn’t broach the subject of her resignation but hinted around the edges at the core of the turmoil: international borders, the European refugee crisis, and the challenges faces the Schengen zone.
Taubira then fielded questions from the audience, including French attendees who pressed her on her political future—and the 2017 presidential election. “I will continue to create space for public expression and to fight,” she responded. A few minutes later, during a press conference with twenty journalists huddled around, the questions became more insistent, the answers less agreeable.
“I will not answer that question because it’s null and void,” she replied to a direct question about a potential run in the primaries for the 2017 elections.
Another question about her loyalty to François Hollande had her equally annoyed. “I will support the president of the Republic, because when our country is in trouble as it is, as the world is, we need strong institutions, and because the president is a person who deserves esteem and for whom I have esteem,” she insisted.
Taubira received an honorary doctorate the next day from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for her work advancing human rights.