Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Xiaomanyc’s Arieh Smith on YouTube

(Originally aired November 17, 2022)

QUESTION: Alright, yes. So it’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks. Great to be with you.

QUESTION: Yeah. So I do – as a content creator, one topic you have to take on is language. And so I ask the leaders today, do you speak foreign languages?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: In my case, yes. French.

QUESTION: Yeah, French. OK. (In French)

(By translation)

QUESTION: Why do you speak French so well?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s nice, really. So I had the opportunity to be in France from the age of 9 to 18, to go to school there, to learn the language at a fairly young age when there were still enough brain cells to absorb it.

(In English)

QUESTION: So I guess I sort of exhausted the breadth of my French here, but what impact did living in France and knowing French have on your career at the State Department?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Listen, I think it opens up incredible new horizons. Anyone who has the opportunity to live in another country, especially at a young age, first of all allows them to see their own country with different eyes, and this is a very powerful thing; and of course it exposes you to new cultures, new languages, new stories. So living in France gave me this opportunity, and of course being in Europe I had the chance to travel to other countries at a young age and learn a lot about different people, different cultures, and all of that, I think, got me interested in doing what I’m doing now, which is diplomacy.

QUESTION: It’s incredible. And how do you think – how do you think we can encourage more Americans to learn foreign languages, and do you even think that’s important?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I do it because, first of all, it’s just a powerful way to connect. We are – honestly, we are privileged in a way because English is the – currently, at this time in history, is the international language. More people learn English than any other language. You see this all over the world. But I think making the effort for English speakers to learn languages ​​other than their own is also extremely important. It’s a way to connect. It is also respect for another culture. And it’s a way to better understand, literally but also figuratively, where someone else is coming from.

QUESTION: Right. And so you too – changing the subject a bit, you play a great guitar. I listened to your songs on Spotify.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I’m glad you put the word “excellent” in there. I’m not sure everyone would. “Playing the guitar” is a precise phrase.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Impressive. Thanks.

QUESTION: Alright, so that’s great.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I finally found out who the third streamer of the song is.

QUESTION: (Laughs.) So how does music affect your approach to international politics?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s one of the things that perhaps connects more than anything else. And one of the things that I’ve found quite remarkable is in conversations with people around the world, no matter our differences, that’s often the common denominator. We’re talking about music. We talk about bands and bands we like. And I have – for example, my Japanese counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs there is a wonderful musician; we are always linked by music. And for me, it’s just a common thread in my life, something that I come back to every day.

QUESTION: Right. Now, what is your advice to young people who want to get involved in politics or maybe study abroad and get involved?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think there’s a fairly well-known slogan: do it. And look, if you have the opportunity to spend time abroad, to study abroad for three months, for six months, for a year, do it if you have this opportunity. Because again, it’s just going to open up so many horizons. And listen, I also believe that if you have the opportunity to enter public service at some point in your career, it’s a wonderful thing to do. The feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself is a great feeling, and even if you do it for a year or two somehow, it’s something that stays with you. , and it certainly stuck with me.

QUESTION: Yeah. OK. I think that’s our signal on time. Honor to meet you again.


QUESTION: Appreciate it.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I liked our conversation.

QUESTION: Absolutely. And good luck. Good luck with the rest of the summit.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks. Appreciate what you do.


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