Young Leader

Christine Ockrent: Transatlantic Journalist

Christine Ockrent is a leading French journalist and was the first woman to anchor the evening news on Antenne 2 (now France 2) in 1981. However, she started her career in the United States. During the 1960s, she worked for NBC News, before moving to CBS where she spent eight years on the news show 60 Minutes. She has kept close ties with the U.S. and is still a regular visitor. She has also written a biography of Hillary Clinton and an essay published just before the 2016 presidential election, Clinton/Trump : l’Amérique en colère.
© Jean-Christophe Marmara/Le Figaro

France-Amérique: While working as a journalist, you took part in the Young Leaders program with the French-American Foundation. What was your experience like?

Christine Ockrent: I was lucky enough to be a Young Leader in the early 1980s. At the time, I was already anchoring the evening news on Antenne 2, so I was unfortunately unable to take part in the full program, which included an exchange trip to the United States. The program is very interesting, with outstanding French and American participants brought together.

Which encounter do you remember the most?

I attended a conference in France, where I met a young American participant by the name of Hillary Rodham. She was brilliant. But the French participants, myself included, found her to be overconfident. She would constantly say “When my husband is president of the United States,” and we would look at her awkwardly, thinking “What American naivety, believing anything is possible.” The husband in question was none other than the then governor of Arkansas. A certain Bill Clinton!

What major difference did you notice between the French and American mindsets?

Having participated at length in the Foundation’s activities on both sides of the Atlantic, I am still struck by the well-known cultural differences. The French tend to prefer discourse and words, while the American approach is more pragmatic. But through increased exchanges, the impact of U.S. higher education on our own elites has grown so much that there is an obvious Americanization of the French Young Leaders. Unfortunately, I do not think the French have had the same effect!

Interview published in the May 2020 issue of France-AmériqueSubscribe to the magazine.