Tony Blinken

Spring 2017 Resident Fellow

Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and former Deputy National Security Advisor for President Obama

Seminar Information | "America in the World: The Great Debate." Learn more & RSVP

Office Hours | Tuesday 4/4 & Wednesdays 4/12 - 5/24, 9am - 12pm. Sign up here.


Mr. Blinken has held senior foreign policy positions in two administrations over three decades – including most recently Deputy Secretary of State (2015-2017), the nation’s number two diplomat. As Deputy Secretary, Mr. Blinken traveled to forty countries, helping to lead diplomacy in the fight against ISIL, the rebalance to Asia, and the global refugee crisis. Within the State Department, he built bridges to the innovation community, creating a full time State Department presence in Silicon Valley and initiating the State Department Innovation Forum, which enlists innovators and technologists in solving complex foreign policy problems.

Before his tenure at State, Mr. Blinken served in the White House as Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama.  He chaired the inter-agency Deputies Committee, the administration’s principal forum for formulating foreign policy.  During the first term of the Obama Administration, he was Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President.

Mr. Blinken served for six years on Capitol Hill (2002 – 2008) as Democratic Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

Mr. Blinken was a member of President Clinton’s National Security Council staff at the White House from 1994 to 2001. From 1999 to 2001, he was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs – President Clinton’s principal advisor for relations with the countries of Europe, the European Union and NATO. From 1994 through 1998, Mr. Blinken was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Speechwriting and then Strategic Planning, overseeing foreign policy planning, communications and speechwriting and serving as President Clinton's chief foreign policy speechwriter.  Mr. Blinken began his government service at the State Department in 1993, as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.  After leaving the Clinton Administration, he held the position of Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies between 2001 and 2002.

Prior to joining the Clinton Administration, Mr. Blinken practiced law in New York and Paris. He has been a reporter for The New Republic magazine and has written about foreign policy for numerous publications including the New York Times, The New York Times Magazine and Foreign Affairs.  He is the author of Ally Versus Ally:  America, Europe and the Siberian Pipeline Crisis (Praeger, 1987). He appeared frequently on cable and network television on behalf of the Obama administration and has spoken to audiences around the world about U.S. foreign policy.  Mr. Blinken attended grade school and high school in Paris, France where he received a French Baccalaureat degree with high honors.  He is a graduate of Harvard College Magna cum Laude and Columbia Law School.

Mr. Blinken is currently a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and a global affairs analyst for CNN. 

Blinken's Ambassadors

Tony's answers to our Proust Questionnaire

What is your favorite virtue? Tolerance. 

What is your chief characteristic? I hope that it is openness and interest and curiosity about other people.

What do you appreciate the most in your friends? Their tolerance of me. 

What is your main fault? Probably trying to please everyone. 

What is your favorite occupation? Generally, writing. Mostly non-fiction writing of different kinds. 

What is your idea of happiness? It’s everything from a great conversation to a great slice of pizza. It comes down to being able to live fully in the moment and not be constantly thinking backward or forward. 

If not yourself, who would you want to be? Probably Eric Clapton.

Where would you like to live? It’s a good question because we’re still relatively free actors. I guess if I wasn’t living where I am now, either New York or Santa Monica. 

What is your favorite color? Gray.

What is your favorite flower? I like tulips. 

Who are your favorite authors? There are too many. Off the top of my head, at different times of life, everyone from Philip Roth to Milan Kundera on the fiction side, more recently Michael Chabon. Also I love the really great biographers, so someone like David McCullough or Evan Morris.  

Who are your favorite heroes or heroines in fiction? My favorite combination of heroes would be Phil Dunphy from Married with Children and Jack Bauer.  

Who are your heroes or heroines in real life? In many ways members of my own family who I’ve looked up to through their life experiences. I have close family members who were all either immigrants or refugees, and knowing what they went through in different ways speaks to me a lot about courage, perseverance and determination and it also speaks to me a lot about my own country, because in multiple cases they were welcomed to the U.S., and that’s what I think of when I think of what we are as a country.

What is your favorite food & drink? A really good smoked salmon and a good cabernet. 

What do you hate the most? Hypocrisy. 

What is a natural talent you’d like to have? Really good musicianship and perfect pitch. 

What is your favorite motto? “There’s such a fine line between clever and stupid” from Spinal Tap. 

What is one thing that you think people would be surprised to learn about you? I played ice hockey in high school.