Caroline Kennedy appeared to be well on her way Thursday to become the first woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to Japan, after members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee showered her with praise and said she is well-suited for the job.
Ms. Kennedy, the only living child of former President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated nearly 50 years go, told the Senate panel that she would be "humbled" to join the diplomatic corps and said she can think of no greater honor than representing the nation in an official capacity overseas. She said the job would offer her the chance to improve diplomatic and economic ties between the United States and Japan, and cool rising tensions in the region.
"If confirmed, I look forward to working with the committee, and with other members of Congress to advance the interests of the United States, protect the safety of our citizens and strengthen the bilateral relationship to the benefit of both our countries," Ms. Kennedy said.
President Obama nominated Ms. Kennedy, 55, to the post in July — continuing a long-standing tradition in which presidents award high-profile political supporters with diplomatic posts abroad.
Lawmakers on the committee thanked the Kennedy family for their legacy of public service and signaled that Ms. Kennedy, a married mother of three, will have a smooth ride to final confirmation.
"Your background, your experience, your versatility, your intellect, the legacy of service your family stood for in American history makes you exactly the kind of person we need to serve the interest of the nation as ambassador to Japan," said Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican and the ranking member on the committee, said, "You are going to be a great ambassador to Japan."
For her part, Ms. Kennedy said this is an important moment in U.S.-Japan relations and said she hopes to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks and to support the peaceful resolution of the maritime security issues in the region, including the territorial disputes between Japan and China.
Ms. Kennedy said she is humbled to be tapped for a post that was held by former Senate Majority Leaders Mike Mansfield, a Democrat, and Howard Baker, a Republican, as well as former Vice President Walter F. Mondale and former House Speaker Tom Foley, both Democrats.
"If confirmed, I will try every day to live up to the standard they set in representing the United States and advancing our relationship with Japan," she said, adding that, "I can think of no greater honor than to represent my country abroad."
Ms. Kennedy's grandfather Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. served as ambassador to Britain under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and her aunt, Jean Kennedy Smith, served as ambassador to Ireland under President Clinton.
A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School, Ms. Kennedy is an attorney and author who serves as president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and who has served as director of several organizations, including the Fund for Public Schools, a public-private partnership founded in 2002 that aims to attract private funding for public schools in New York City.
For much of her life, Ms. Kennedy steered clear of the public limelight that came with being a member of "Camelot."
That changed, though, after her brother John F. Kennedy, Jr., was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed in the waters near Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
Ms. Kennedy spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention and played in important role in the 2008 presidential race by endorsing Mr. Obama in a op-ed for The New York Times titled "A President Like My Father."
"I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them," she wrote. "But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."
Ms. Kennedy's support — along with that of her uncle, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy — helped boost Mr. Obama's credibility among rank-and-file Democrats and power him to victory over then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary.
Ms. Kennedy considered taking a stab at the Senate seat that was left open after Mrs. Clinton became secretary of state, but she ended up taking a pass, citing personal reasons.
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