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Arts & Culture

Biden's Secretary Of State Pick Has Both Diplomatic And Musical Chops

Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken speaks after being introduced by President-elect Joe Biden at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.
Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken speaks after being introduced by President-elect Joe Biden at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.

President-elect Joe Biden's pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has worked with Biden for years and has a wealth of diplomatic experience under his belt.

He also has a self-described "wonk rock" band called ABlinken, with two original songs streaming on Spotify.

In between tweets about foreign policy, Blinken's Twitter feed is sprinkled with musical references, including this 2018 plug for his band.

Wonk rock is a fitting genre for someone with decades of foreign policy experience. Blinken began his career during the Clinton administration, and most recently served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser under then-President Barack Obama before moving into the private sector.

Jim Steinberg, who also served as a deputy secretary of state under Obama and has worked with Blinken for decades, described him as having "the experience and the knowledge" needed for the job.

"He has the temperament. He's a great colleague and works well with others. And most important of all, he has the confidence of the president of the United States," Steinberg told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly.

In remarks delivered onstage next to President-elect Biden and other Cabinet nominees on Tuesday, Blinken expressed gratitude for the coworkers, relatives and friends that he said brought him to this day — including his bandmates.

He also offered his praise to State Department employees, who he said "add luster to a word that deserves our respect: diplomacy."

And he spoke of his own family members' journeys and contributions to America, including relatives who fled communism and pogroms in Eastern Europe and his father's U.S. Air Force service during World War II.

Blinken told the story of his late stepfather, Samuel Pisar, a Holocaust survivor who escaped from a death march in the Bavarian woods and was rescued by a Black G.I. He said that when Pisar realized the tank in front of him was American, he got down on his knees and said the only three English words he knew: "God bless America."

"That's who we are," Blinken said onstage. "That's what America represents to the world, however imperfectly."

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