2021-10-03 22:11:55 Antony Blinken Has a Delicate Job in Paris After Submarine Row

Antony Blinken Has a Delicate Job in Paris After Submarine Row

Not long ago, one of Mr. Blinken’s predecessors as secretary of state, John Kerry, drew snickers from conservatives who implied that Mr. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, was somehow less than fully American (or, as former President George W. Bush’s commerce secretary, Donald L. Evans, once quipped, “looks French”).

Mr. Kerry, on the other hand, was a tourist gawking at the Eiffel Tower in comparison to Mr. Blinken, who learned French at a Swiss boarding school and spent summers at his grandparents’ home in coastal Brittany.

Mr. Blinken’s mother brought a 9-year-old Antony to live with them after marrying her second husband, Samuel Pisar, a prominent Polish-born diplomat, lawyer, and political eminence who had relocated to Paris years before.

Judith Blinken quickly established herself in the French capital. Formerly the director of music at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, she thrived as a kind of cultural ambassador in Paris, promoting institutions such as the now-defunct American Center in Paris. According to a Chicago Tribune profile from 1993, she is a flawless French speaker and “impeccable hostess” who “dresses with the aplomb and confidence that is innate to French women.” She frequently entertained at the family home in Paris’s 16th Arrondissement, “a very modern, all white bi-level apartment filled with major art pieces,” just off the upscale Avenue Foch.

Mr. Blinken went to the École Active Bilingue in central Paris, near the Arc de Triomphe. Among his classmates was Robert Malley, a long-time friend who is now the State Department’s special envoy to Iran. Mr. Blinken quickly learned French and assimilated into the local culture, all while remaining true to his American roots: He raced there with friends when the first McDonald’s opened in Paris and became a regular customer. He also developed an interest in American rock music while playing guitar in a band that performed at his high school graduation.

As a teenager in Paris, he became interested in international politics and deflected hostile views of the US from friends during a period when leftist critiques of the Cold War were common. Mr. Blinken described his time in Paris as a “life-changing experience” that allowed him to “see my own country from a different perspective, and that was a very powerful thing” in an interview with The New York Times in June, during his first visit to France as secretary of state.

Mr. Blinken left France in 1980 to attend Harvard University and Columbia Law School, then returned to work at a Paris law firm for two years.

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Antony Blinken Has a Delicate Job in Paris After Submarine Row