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AMERICAS > 'Monsieur' John Kerry and the French connection

France 24

Soon-to-be US Secretary of State John Kerry has strong ties to France, a fact that hindered his 2004 presidential bid. FRANCE 24 takes a closer look at how this “French connection” has been perceived on both sides of the Atlantic.

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U.S. Navy veteran and former Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Senator Kerry waving at the end of his speech during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. REUTERS photo

U.S. Navy veteran and former Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Senator Kerry waving at the end of his speech during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. REUTERS photo

Reacting to President Barack Obama’s recent nomination of John Kerry as the next US secretary of state, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius praised his future counterpart’s “personal commitment to Franco-American friendship”.

The comment was a reference to a poorly-kept “secret” that dogged the former Democratic presidential candidate during his bid to unseat then-incumbent George W. Bush in 2004: Kerry has a French connection.

The Massachusetts senator attended a Swiss boarding school as a child, learning to speak fluent French –which  reportedly worked wonders in courting his wife, Teresa Heinz, whose parents were Portuguese.

He spent summers at his maternal grandparents’ luxurious home in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, a village in the north-western coastal region of Brittany. And he counts Brice Lalonde, a former French green party leader and an environment minister in the early 1990s, as one of his first cousins (Lalonde did not respond to an interview request for this article).

Kerry’s ties to France are indeed part of the reason that “reactions to his nomination have been extremely positive on both the right and left in France,” according to Nicole Bacharan, a specialist in French-American relations and national fellow at Stanford’s public policy think tank, the Hoover Institution.

“He’s obviously very competent and very knowledgeable about foreign policy,” Bacharan said. “But of course the French like him especially because he knows France well and speaks good French.”

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December/27/2012

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