(Originally broadcast on November 17, 2022)
QUESTION: All right, yes. So it’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Great to be with you.
QUESTION: Yeah. So I do – as a content creator, one topic that you need to assume is language. And so I’m asking leaders today, do you speak any foreign languages?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: In my case, yes. French.
QUESTION: Yeah, French. Okay. (In French)
QUESTION: Why are you so fluent in French?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: That is kind, really. So I had the opportunity to be in France from age 9 to 18, going to school there, learning the language at a young enough age where there were still enough brain cells to absorb it.
QUESTION: So I guess I’ve kind of exhausted the extent of my French here, but what impact did living in France and knowing French have on your career in the State Department?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, I think it opens incredible new horizons. Anyone who has the opportunity to live in another country, especially at a young age, it first of all allows you to see your own country through different eyes, and that’s a very powerful thing; and of course it exposes you to new cultures, new languages, new histories. So living in France gave me that opportunity, and of course being in Europe I had a chance to travel around other countries at a young age and just learn a lot about different people, different cultures, and all of that I think made me interested in doing what I do now, which is diplomacy.
QUESTION: That’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, because, first of all, it’s just a powerful way to connect. We’re – honestly, we’re privileged in a way because English is the – right now, in this moment in history, is the international language. More people learn English than any other language. You see that around the world. But I think making the effort for English speakers to learn languages other than their own is hugely important too. It’s a way of connecting. It’s also respect for another culture. And it’s a way of better understanding, both literally but also even figuratively, where someone else is coming from.
QUESTION: Right. And so you also – changing the topic a little bit, you play excellent guitar. I’ve 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. “Play guitar” is an accurate sentence.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Impressive. Thank you.
QUESTION: Right, so it’s great.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I finally found out who the third streamer is of the song.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) So how does music affect your approach to international politics?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: This is one of the things that connects maybe more than anything else. And one of the things I’ve found that’s pretty remarkable is in conversations with people from all over the world, no matter our differences, this is often the common denominator. We talk about music. We talk about bands and groups that we like. And I have – for example, my Japanese counterpart, the foreign minister there is a terrific musician; we’re always bonding over music. And for me it’s just a constant thread in my life, something that I go back to every day.
QUESTION: Right. Now, what is your advice to young people who want to engage in politics or maybe study abroad and get involved?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think there’s a slogan that’s pretty well-known: just 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 that opportunity. Because again, it’s just going to open so many horizons. And look, I also feel strongly that if you have an opportunity to go into public service at some point in your career, it’s a wonderful thing to do. The feeling of being part of something larger than yourself is a great feeling, and even if you do it for a year or two in some fashion, it’s something that stays with you, and it’s certainly stayed with me.
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay. I think that’s our cue on time. Honor to meet you, again.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks.
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’re doing.
QUESTION: Thank you.