MOUNT DESERT — A love letter to Northeast Harbor was delivered last Wednesday by Mark Brzezinski in an online talk arranged by the Northeast Harbor Library.
Brzezinski is the son of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as a counselor to President Lyndon Johnson and as President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor.
The family’s connection to Mount Desert Island goes back to the early 1960s, when Zbigniew and his wife, Emilie, were invited to spend a weekend with David and Peggy Rockefeller at their home in Seal Harbor. The Brzezinskis fell in love with the area and in 1967 bought a 30-plus-room house on South Shore Road in Northeast Harbor, which Zbigniew later named Tranquility Base. The family has spent part of every summer there for more than 50 years.
Zbigniew, who was born in Warsaw, Poland, died in 2017 at the age of 89.
During his long career as a scholar and diplomat, he wrote two dozen books on international affairs and foreign policy.
“Those books may have been published in New York and London, but they were written on South Shore Road in Northeast Harbor,” Mark Brzezinski said. “My dad needed the intellectual space and the energy to put into words those ideas on how the United States would beat the Soviets and win the Cold War and then come up with a post-Cold War plan…
“My father was one of the most influential Americans when it came to this country’s foreign policy and the way we engaged the world in the last half-century.”
Mark Brzezinski said his parents instilled in him and his siblings “a deep and enduring love” for Mount Desert Island and Northeast Harbor.
“We started coming up when we [children] were very young, and the house became a North Star for my entire family. When summer would roll around, we would think of Northeast Harbor and getting out to the islands and doing all the hikes and going on the carriage paths.
“We always talk about the grounding that we shared through our parents’ gift to us, and that was having this awesome summer experience in Northeast Harbor.”
Brzezinski said a large part of the village’s enduring appeal is “the sense of community that is very genuine.”
“There is an integrity, a realness, a naturalness. People do things their way, and it is a wonderful way of life. My dad loved that and wanted to share it. And we have tried to share it with our children, as well.”
Brzezinski recalled that when his parents bought the house in Northeast Harbor, “It was literally falling apart, and I don’t think they ever put another dollar into it.”
His sister, Mika, inherited the house. She and her husband, Joe Scarborough, who are co-hosts of the “Morning Joe” program on MSNBC, made a virtual “guest appearance” at Mark’s Northeast Harbor Library talk.
Speaking of the house on South Shore Road, Mika agreed with her brother that their parents “did not update it at all.”
Over the past few years, she and Scarborough have undertaken some renovations.
“We have tried to keep all the Maine charm,” Mika said. “We tried to retain the character and the narrative of the house.”
Mark Brzezinski told his online audience last Wednesday that a biography of his father is being written by Edward Luce, the U.S. national editor of the Financial Times.
“I told Ed that to really understand what made this man tick, you’ve got to get up to Northeast Harbor.”
Following in his father’s footsteps, Mark Brzezinski has made his own mark as a diplomat and foreign policy advisor. He was a member of President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council and served for four years as U.S. Ambassador to Sweden under President Barack Obama.