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Incoming top US diplomat Blinken highlights Jewish heritage in debut

Longtime diplomat Antony Blinken highlights his heritage as the descendent of Jewish refugees in his first speech as President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as secretary of state.

“For my family, as for so many generations of Americans, America has literally been the last best hope on earth,” Blinken says after being introduced by Biden along with a series of national security and foreign policy appointments.

“My grandfather Maurice Blinken fled pogroms in Russia and made a new life in America. His son, my father Donald Blinken, served in the United States Air Force during WWII and then as a US ambassador. He is my role model and my hero,” Blinken says.

Nominated Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks as US President-elect Joe Biden looks on during a cabinet announcement event in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 24, 2020. (CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)

“His wife Vera Blinken fled communist Hungary as a young girl and helped future generations of refugees come to America.”

“My mother Judith Pisar builds bridges between America and the world through arts and culture. She is my greatest champion.”

“And my late-stepfather, Samuel Pisar, he was one of 900 children is his school in Białystok, Poland, but the only one to survive the Holocaust after four years in Concentration camps,” Blinken says before going on to share a frequently told story about how his step-father learned that WWII was over.

“At the end of the war, he made a break from a death march into the woods of Bavaria from his hiding place, he heard a deep rumbling sound. It was a tank. But instead of the Iron Cross. He saw painted on its side a five pointed white star. He ran to the tank, the hatch opened, an African American GI looked down at him. He got down on his knees and said the only three words that he knew in English that his mother taught him before the war. ‘God bless America.’ ”

“That’s who we are. That’s what America represents to the world, however imperfectly,” Blinken says.

— Jacob Magid

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