‘A friend of France’: Who is the fluent French-speaker representing the United States on the world stage?

'A friend of France': Who is the fluent French-speaker representing the United States on the world stage?
US Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken. Photo: AFP
As Joe Biden prepares to be inaugurated as US president, one member of his new team has stirred particular interest in France - Antony Blinken.

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.

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“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.”

Blinken has also spoken in the past on the importance of the EU as a partner to America.

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.

 

And this skill is sufficiently unusual among American politicians to have earned Blinken plenty of positive headlines in the French press.

 

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).

 

 

 

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.

 


Member comments

  1. ” (and indeed the outgoing incumbent of the White House seems to struggle with English).” Trump needed an interpreter for English speakers.

  2. I should add that while Mr. Trump knows the words, he is fortunate to have consecutive translation provided by his trusted legal advisor, Rudolf Giuliani, who both provides comic relief in deflecting attention from Trump’s “struggles” and serves as Trump’s canary in the coal mine. I suspect that after Mr. Trump’s ejection from office, Mr. Giuliani will be available to perform stand-up comedy. Engagements can be secured through Four Seasons Landscaping.

  3. In response to the comment “indeed the current incumbent of the White House seems to struggle with English”, our President fully know the words. He just doesn’t know what they mean. And if he knew what they meant, he wouldn’t use them. I hope this clarifies his purported struggle.

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