On a visit to Paris Wednesday, new US Secretary of State John Kerry wowed reporters by speaking in French, the language of his childhood summers in Brittany.
“We just finished one of those wonderful French lunches that have been drawing Americans to Paris for centuries,” Kerry said en francais at a joint press conference with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
“Of course, it?s a privilege to share any meal with Laurent…France, as you know, is the oldest ally of the United States.”
“And now I will speak in English, because otherwise I would not be allowed to return back home,” Kerry concluded, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Kerry, who spent part of his childhood at a Swiss boarding school, is known to speak the language well — but his ability has not fared well for him in US politics.
During his 2004 presidential campaign, Kerry came under attack from opponents because of his knowledge of French at a time when US-French ties had soured over the war in Iraq.
Since then, he has kept a low profile over his French connections, which included summers as a boy spent on the estate belonging to his mother’s side of the family in Brittany.
At his first press conference as top US diplomat earlier this month, Kerry turned down a request to reply with “a little bit of French, please”.
“Not today. I’ve got to refresh myself on that,” he told the Canadian reporter.