Tony Blinken, Joe Biden‘s nomination to be secretary of state, praised his prominent diplomatic family and paid tribute to his stepfather’s surviving the Holocaust in his speech thanking the president-elect for the nomination.
Biden introduced his national security team in Wilmington on Tuesday as he prepares to transition to the White House in January.
He noted Blinken, one of his longtime advisers, comes from a family of ‘immigrants and refugees’ that include ‘a Holocaust survivor who taught him to never take for granted the very idea of America as a place of possibilities.’
Tony Blinken is Biden’s nominee to be secretary of state and comes from a prominent diplomatic family
Blinken acknowledged the prominent diplomatic family that raised him. His paternal grandfather migrated from Kiev when it was under the control of Russia and his stepfather, prominent international attorney Sam Pisar, was a Holocaust survivor. His father and uncle served as U.S. ambassadors.
‘For my family, as for so many generations of Americans, America has literally been the last best hope in the world,’ Blinken said in his remarks.
He thanked his father Donald, the former U.S. ambassador to Hungry, and his mother Judith Pisar, who was a major figure on the New York arts and social scene.
And then he told the story of his stepfather, Samuel Pisar, who advised American and French presidents in the 1960s and 1970s and was one of the youngest survivors of a Polish concentration camp.
‘My late step-father, Samuel Pisar, was one of 900 children in his school in Bialystok, Poland, but the only one to survive the Holocaust after four years in concentration camps,’ Blinken said.
‘At the end of the war, he made a break from a death march into the Bavarian woods. From his hiding place, he heard the rumbling sound of a tank. Instead of an Iron Cross, he saw a 5- pointed White Star.’
‘He ran to the tank. The hatch opened. An African American GI looked down at him. He fell to his knees and said the only three words he knew in English that his mother had taught him: God Bless America. The GI lifted him into the tank, into America, into freedom.’
Blinken’s half-sister Leah Pisar has said that soldier’s name was Sgt. Bill Ellington, who served in the 761st Tank Battalion, which was made up of mostly black soldiers and known as the Black Panthers. Jackie Robinson belonged to that battalion
Tony Blinken paid tribute to his stepfather Samuel Pisar – above with Blinken’s half sister Leah, his mother Judith and his wife Evan Ryan
Sgt. Bill Ellington served in the 761st Tank Battalion, which was made up of mostly black soldiers and known as the Black Panthers. Above is a photo of some of the soldiers in that unit published by Cpl. Albert Fulwood (on the turret) who died in 2010
Joe Biden with Evan Ryan, Tony Blinken, Vera Blinken and former U.S. Ambassador to Hungry Donald Blinken
Samuel Pisar died in 2015. His father was killed by the Gestapo during World War II and his mother and sister died at Auschwitz. He wrote a memoir, “Of Blood and Hope,” about how he survived the Nazis.
Blinken concluded his family’s story with the words: ‘That’s what America represents to the world, however imperfectly.’
Biden’s nominee to lead the State Department grew up in New York and in Paris, graduating from Harvard and Columbia Law School. He moved to Paris after his parents divorced and his mother married Pisar.
He speaks fluent French and plays in a Parisian jazz band. He has two singles, Lip Service and Patience, that are currently on Spotify. He also has a producer credit on the movie ‘The Addiction’ starring Lili Taylor and Christopher Walken.
Blinken met his future wife, Evan Ryan, in 1995 when he was working in the Clinton White House as a speechwriter on the National Security Council, and she was a scheduler for then-first lady Hillary Clinton.
He has long ties go Biden going back to the president-elect’s days in the Senate where Blinken served as the Democratic staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Biden chaired.
Blinken was deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration.
In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken was then-Vice President Biden´s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to then-Secretary of State John Kerry.