Senate Panel Gives Warm Reception to Ambassador-Designate Caroline Kennedy
By DONNA CASSATA, Associated Pres
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former first daughter Caroline Kennedy said Thursday that she would be humbled to carry forward her father’s legacy if confirmed by the Senate to be the next U.S. ambassador to Japan.
Testifying before the Foreign Relations Committee, the soft-spoken Kennedy described the crucial bond between the United States and its Asian ally, especially in promoting trade and ensuring strong military ties. She spoke of her own public service and work with the New York City school system.
She noted the significance of her nomination on the 50th anniversary of her father’s presidency, focusing on his tenure rather than on John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.
“I am conscious of my responsibility to uphold the ideals he represented — a deep commitment to public service, a more just America and a more peaceful world,” Kennedy said. “As a World War II veteran who served in the Pacific, he had hoped to be the first sitting president to make a state visit to Japan. If confirmed as ambassador, I would be humbled to carry forward his legacy in a small way and represent the powerful bonds that unite our two democratic societies.”
Kennedy faced gentle questioning from Republicans and Democrats on the committee, signaling that she faced no obstacles to confirmation. Her hearing lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.
“You have a good sense of what national interests are,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the senior Republican on the panel. Corker told Kennedy she would be a “great ambassador.”
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia noted the unusual symmetry: President Kennedy was honored for his military service fighting Japanese naval forces during World War II; decades later, his daughter would be the top diplomat in Japan, now a close ally.
Kaine said it was reminder that hostilities need not be permanent.
President Barack Obama chose the attorney and best-selling book editor for the diplomatic job. If confirmed, she would be the first woman in a post from which many other prominent Americans have served to strengthen a vital Asian tie.
New York’s two senators, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, introduced Kennedy to the committee. Schumer noted that Kennedy and her daughter Tatiana made a three-mile swim in the Hudson River last weekend for charity, swimming from Nyack to Sleepy Hollow.
Her testimony came before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a panel on which her father served when he was a Massachusetts senator in the late 1950s.
Attending the hearing was Vicki Kennedy, widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Caroline Kennedy helped propel Obama to the Democratic presidential nomination with her endorsement over Hillary Rodham Clinton — the only time she’s endorsed a presidential candidate other than her uncle Ted in 1980.
Japan is one of the United States’ most important commercial and military partners and has been accustomed since the end of World War II to having renowned American political leaders serve as envoy. Former U.S. ambassadors to Japan include former Vice President Walter Mondale, former House Speaker Tom Foley and former Senate Majority Leaders Mike Mansfield and Howard Baker.
Kennedy, 55, doesn’t have their foreign policy heft or any obvious ties to Japan, a key ally in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. She would replace John Roos, a wealthy former Silicon Valley lawyer and top Obama campaign fundraiser.
Kennedy’s confirmation to the post by the Senate would bring a third generation of her family into the U.S. diplomatic corps. Her grandfather Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ambassador to Britain, while her aunt Jean Kennedy Smith was ambassador to Ireland under President Bill Clinton.
Caroline Kennedy was five days shy of her sixth birthday when her father was killed, and she lived most of the rest of her life in New York City. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, got a law degree from Columbia University, married exhibit designer Edwin Schlossberg and had three children.
Kennedy is president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and chairs the senior advisory committee of the Institute of Politics at Harvard. She has served on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations, helped raise millions of dollars for New York schools and edited numerous bestselling books on history, law and poetry.
She considered running for political office after Clinton resigned the New York Senate seat to serve as Obama’s secretary of state. But Kennedy eventually withdrew herself from consideration to fill the seat, once held by her uncle Robert F. Kennedy, citing unspecified personal reasons.
Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate seat.
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