The new Secretary of State – the US equivalent of a Foreign Minister – has deep ties to France and is a fluent French-speaker.
He spent part of his childhood in France, moving to Paris with his mother when she remarried and attending the bilingual École Jeannine Manuel.
His half-sister Leah lives in France where she runs a non-profit organisation dedicated to multicultural understanding, while his stepfather Samuel Pisar, a lawyer and Holocaust survivor, was friends with former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.
Former French ambassador to the US Gerard Araud described Blinken as a “friend of France”.
A former classmate of Blinken, Robert Malley, told the Financial Times: “Tony was an American in Paris – both terms are important.
“He was very conscious of being American and he believed in American values. But he also understood how foreign policy could affect the rest of the world, because he lived abroad and saw how others looked at the United States. At the time [during the Vietnam War], the country was not particularly popular in Europe, especially in France. Tony sailed between these two worlds.”
As you would expect from someone who spent part of his childhood here, his French is fluent and he is happy to not only give speeches in French but take part in interviews and Q&A sessions in French.
For anybody curious, here is @ABlinken on French TV evening news back in 2016. He went high school in Paris @ecoleJManuel, and his French is really good https://t.co/Xg3bSBPYBv https://t.co/TjjXLnxuq7
— Sophie Pedder (@PedderSophie) November 23, 2020
And this skill is sufficiently unusual among American politicians to have earned Blinken plenty of positive headlines in the French press.
Here's Biden's very probable Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying on French TV how important a partner the EU is to ??
On top of it in native level French (he grew up and was a lawyer here)
Please tweet this at Brexiteers ! (if there are any left) ?? pic.twitter.com/4XABtufRvR
— Alex Taylor (@AlexTaylorNews) November 23, 2020
While several members of the French government speak English to a high standard – including Emmanuel Macron who is happy to make speeches in English – it's far more unusual for US politicians to speak French (and indeed the outgoing incumbent of the White House seems to struggle with English).
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) November 24, 2020
Secrétaire d’État de Joe Biden | Antony Blinken, diplomate guitariste et francophone https://t.co/JIvo5wJDga
— La Presse Monde (@LP_Monde) November 24, 2020
The recent exception to this has been John Kerry, who spoke good French that he learned as a child while at school in Switzerland, and during holidays at his grandparents' home in Brittany.