QUESTION: My name is Yerdana. I’m a TV host and special correspondent for Oyan! morning show (inaudible) Khabar TV.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s so nice to meet you.
QUESTION: I cover news and culture, international relations, and local current affairs, so it’s a huge opportunity and a pure joy for me –
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
QUESTION: — to be the first journalist on your first trip to Kazakhstan.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
QUESTION: And right now we are standing next to the Zhambyl’s bust. And I’m today not only a journalist, but also your companion and guide in this university.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. It’s really wonderful to be with you today. Thanks for doing this.
QUESTION: Okay. So the first is – he is Zhambyl. The bust is Zhambyl Zhabaev, which is 20th-century Homer, and also his poem had this kind of impact on people – unite them during and after the Second World War. And let’s go to this way.
This wing of the university is dedicated to the masterpieces, to arts and to diplomas, certificates of the artists and professors and also the students and alumni of the university. For example, these sculptures, these paintings are all from this university, and they are really in good shape.
And also I would love to show you Dimash. I’m sure you know Dimash, the most popular Kazakh artist and singer.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes.
QUESTION: These handmade portraits are made by his fans and donated by his mom and to this university to inspire the young generation.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: These are wonderful. These are wonderful.
And is it – it’s interesting, because there’s – these are done by different people.
QUESTION: Different people, different countries.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: But the style is very distinct.
QUESTION: The style is – yeah, similar. So —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Oh, these are wonderful.
QUESTION: And let’s go to this way. Before introducing these musical instruments, I would love to ask this question. I’m a TV host of the morning show, so I must ask this question.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes.
QUESTION: I know this morning is very special for you, but I would love to know: How does the perfect morning look like for you?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, for me it’s actually pretty simple. I have two very small children. I have a four-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. So for me, when I’m back in Washington, making sure that I have a few minutes at least to have breakfast with them before they go off to school and I go off to work – that’s perfect. Nothing is better than that.
QUESTION: I hope you have more mornings like this. (Laughter.)
And let’s turn to the musical instruments. These centuries-old musical instruments are very – has their own magical sounds. For example, kobyz here was used to be a healing instrument that heals spiritual and physical wounds of people. Right now it can heal as well when it gets the right player. And when we – when I searched about these instruments, I also met the quotation by Paul McCartney from the Beatles. He said music is like your psychiatrist – you can tell your guitar something that you can’t tell people, and also it will answer something that other people can’t tell you.
So when we mention guitar and these musical instruments, I would love to know about your passion to music. So could you tell us more about your passion to guitar, maybe about Ablinken band, to the viewers?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, it’s been a lifelong passion for me, and it’s something that I started as a young boy and continues through to this day. I still have, I don’t know, eight or nine guitars at home. They look at me and say, “Please pick me up and play me.” I don’t do that often enough.
QUESTION: Do they have names?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I haven’t given them names, but I think, as Paul McCartney said – yeah, I think it’s true the – a musical instrument can be your psychiatrist, your confidant. But beyond that, what I’ve found, especially in this job, is there are few things more powerful at connecting people than music. It transcends everything. It transcends culture; it transcends geography. It transcends different backgrounds. And we find ways to connect as human beings through music that I think we don’t find as powerfully with any other medium. So that’s a wonderful thing to see, and I’ve gone to different parts of the world, and one of the things I love to do is to get a chance to know the local music as well as more broadly the local culture.
But it’s also just a source of great joy and pleasure. I like listening to music and playing it.
QUESTION: And you can be sure that you have a fan here in Kazakhstan, because last week I discovered your music, and Lip Service is my favorite.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, thank you. Now I know who the third streamer is. It was you.
QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) Oh, yeah.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
QUESTION: So let’s turn to the – my favorite musical instruments there, and they are dombras.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes, of course.
QUESTION: I play it as well. So these different shapes of dombra and different types of dombra belong to different artists. They are not only about just decoration or artifact here; they also motivate young artists to be like their owners. For example, this dombra is kind of – its sound has this kind of galloping sound of horses’ hooves, and also each song on it – with dombra will kind of resemble the greatness of steppe, of Kazakh steppe.
And also, I’m sure this will be just small part of the Kazakh culture you will be witnessing today, and I would love to know about this day particularly, about your visit. So I’m sure it will be very intense, and could you please tell us more about your visit, why you’re visiting Kazakhstan and what’s the major goals of this day?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, this is a wonderful way to start the day. And I’m grateful for it, because one of the things that is so important to me is, even as the heart of any visit is working with my colleagues in the government in question, it’s also very important to try to connect with different parts of society. And so thank you for this, because it’s a good way for me to start the day doing that.
But for me it’s simple: Kazakhstan is a partner to the United States, is of tremendous importance. Kazakhstan has shown leadership on so many different issues over the year, whether it’s making sure that – getting rid of the nuclear weapons that it inherited from the Soviet Union, a pioneer in the space program, the work that we’re doing every single day not just in Kazakhstan but also to try to build a stronger region where the countries are more interconnected and working together in Central Asia.
One of the things that I’ve found is that most of the challenges that people actually face in their lives, no single country can effectively deal with them alone. And whether it’s the impact that climate may be having on us; whether it’s the impact of something like COVID, a pandemic; whether it’s the way all of the technology that so many of us have in our pockets, in our phones, is shaping our lives – we have to find ways to cooperate, to coordinate, to work together if we’re going to make the most of these things but also deal with any of the problems that they pose or the challenges that they pose.
And that’s why having these partnerships, relationships is so important. We’re here today with our partners in Kazakhstan. We also have, though, four other countries represented here today —
QUESTION: Central Asia, yeah.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — from Central Asia. And as I said, trying to build greater connections among the countries of Central Asia, that can be a very powerful thing. There’s more that they may be able to do together than any one of them can do alone.
And as for the United States, for us it’s not about saying to a country, “We want you to choose.” For us, it’s about providing a choice, making sure that hopefully we have something positive to offer, maybe helping countries create greater opportunity for their own people with good jobs, maybe working together to deal with something like climate change, to deal with having a good supply of energy, including renewable energy, so that we’re dealing with climate change. Maybe it’s dealing with some of the security challenges that exist in the region.
QUESTION: So yeah, we’ll be seeing, like, a continuation of the fruitful cooperation that lasted for 32 years now and will be, like, developing further.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: That’s right.
QUESTION: So when you mentioned Central Asia, these clothes are also – look similar to Central Asian countries, but also as I mentioned before, these clothes also belong to and donated by those popular artists that lived before this generation. So when we mention this kind of clothes and put them here, it has kind of impact on motivating young students, also empowering them and to be like their owners, and one of the empowering, beautiful days of Kazakhstan are coming tomorrow, like these clothes. It’s like – do you see the connection? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes.
QUESTION: So this is the greatest day for Kazakhstan, the first of March. And in this day, we traditionally thank each other, from – starting from the close circle, and then with the whole citizens of Kazakhstan. And this opportunity I would love to express our warmest gratitude to the United States for your support, for your help, and for solidarity during the – when we face challenges. And I’m curious, what would be – what would – what can U.S. be thankful to Kazakhstan for? And what might be something, like, special?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, I think gratitude day is just a wonderful tradition. It’s something we should import. We all need to take time to remember and to express what we’re thankful for. But I’ll give you one example when it comes to Kazakhstan. I am thankful for, grateful for the extraordinary generosity of the Kazakh people, for example, toward their friends from Ukraine, who have been – many of them, millions of them forced out of the country by the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and here in Kazakhstan welcomed and also supported, especially with the humanitarian assistance – food, clothing, and other things – as well Russians who have felt forced to flee their own country because of the aggression against Ukraine. Well over a million at one point came to or through Kazakhstan. I think the warmth, the welcome of the Kazakh people has been something everyone can be grateful for.
QUESTION: And I would love to know, for whom would you address your personal thanks? Not just as Secretary Blinken, but just – only just Tony, yeah. And why?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Oh, to me, it’s – I think like for so many of us, it would be first and foremost to my parents, who gave me everything a child and then an adult could want, in terms of support and love and nurture. And then right now, my own family – my wife, my children. I am grateful for them every single day.
QUESTION: And now it’s time for a surprise. Here the students of Kazakh National University of Arts are coming here.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Hello. Thank you.
QUESTION: Bauyrzhan, Bekzada, and Ayala will be performing Kurmangazy’s kui Balbyrauyn, which is —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Wonderful.
QUESTION: — yeah – enchanting melody that leads to different emotions and feelings.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Thank you.
QUESTION: So yeah, guys. You’re welcome.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Please.
(Music was performed.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. (Applause.) I can already tell they’re much better musicians than I’ll ever be.
QUESTION: Oh. (Laughter.) Maybe. They are, like, very aspiring and hopefuls of Kazakhstan right now.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful song.
QUESTION: Yeah, thank you guys. Thank you so much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much. Thank you.
QUESTION: And at the end of interview, I would love to – you are more than welcome to express your morning wishes to our viewers who are watching you now, to the camera. Which one? This one, yeah.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good morning to everyone here in Kazakhstan who’s watching. And I am so grateful for the incredible warmth and hospitality of friends from Kazakhstan. It’s wonderful to be here. It’s wonderful to be here to try to build even stronger connections between my country, the United States, and yours.
And as I said before, I think so many of the things that we all want for ourselves, for our families, for the future, we can most effectively achieve by finding ways to work together. And that’s what this visit is all about – how can the United States and Kazakhstan work even more closely together and creating opportunity for people, jobs, dealing with some of the challenges that are out there, a changing climate, the need for energy, the need for food security, and mostly how can we build an even stronger relationship that starts with connections between our people.
So I hope I make a few more connections here today for the United States, but I know in the days ahead that there’ll be opportunities for Americans and Kazakhs to do things together, whether it’s study, whether it’s business and work, whether it’s just visiting. And in doing that, we’ll bring our countries ever closer together. Have a great morning.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. So that’s the end of our interview.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Have a nice day of fruitful – full of fruitful cooperation.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Wonderful. Thank you so much. Thank you for taking me around. And thanks again. It’s a wonderful way to start the day.