WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate late Wednesday approved Caroline Kennedy, the sole surviving child of assassinated President John F. Kennedy and an early supporter of President Barack Obama, as the next ambassador to Japan.
On a hectic day in which Congress voted to end a government shutdown, the Senate gave the final nod to Kennedy and 22 other nominees unanimously without roll call votes.
Kennedy, who was days away from her sixth birthday when her father was assassinated 50 years ago next month, will step into the most public role of her adult life after largely shying away from the family profession of politics.
The former first daughter encountered no opposition at her confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she read well-rehearsed lines on U.S. government policy toward Japan and voiced excitement at nurturing relations with its top Asian ally.
Kennedy told the hearing that her father, who was seriously wounded when his patrol torpedo boat, the PT-109, was rammed by a Japanese destroyer near the Solomon Islands during the war, had hoped to pay America’s first state visit to Tokyo. Due to his death, the trip was not carried out until 1974, when Gerald R. Ford visited.
“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 told the committee.
Kennedy said she also hoped to highlight her role as the first female U.S. ambassador to Japan, which consistently ranks lower than other wealthy nations in terms of the number of women in politics and business.
Kennedy’s nomination has been hailed in Japan, although several U.S. experts have voiced concern at having a diplomatic novice in Tokyo at a time when tensions are high between Japan and increasingly assertive China.