Caroline Kennedy inched closer to her reward for the early support she lent then-candidate and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, coasting through her Senate confirmation hearing Thursday to be the next ambassador to Japan.
Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, noted her late father, a veteran of Pacific front in World War II, wanted to be the first sitting president to visit the former Axis power and she relished in the symbolism of her appointment to the post in the 50th anniversary of his presidency.
"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 said.
The former first daughter was gently quizzed by Democrats and Republicans on U.S. relations with Japan and issues facing the strategic Asian ally. Kennedy would be the first female ambassador to the nation at a time when Japanese leaders are looking to invite more women into a traditional, male-dominant economy.
"Japan is launching a bold economic program which includes a major focus on women in the workforce, what has come to be called Womenomics," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., while introducing Kennedy. "I'm confident that Caroline Kennedy will serve as a role model for Japanese as well as American women."
Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — a panel her father served on while a U.S. senator — Kennedy noted the important economic ties between the two countries and noted Japan's critical positioning as an Asiatic leader as Western nations focus on burgeoning superpowers in the East.
"I will work closely with the leadership in the U.S. military to further strengthen our bilateral security relationship," Kennedy said. "At the same time, Japan is an indispensable partner in promoting democracy and economic development in the region, as well as in global humanitarian efforts and peacekeeping."
Kennedy shocked the political world in January 2008 with a New York Times op-ed endorsing Obama over former first lady Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primary. Previously, she had not publicly announced backing of any candidate other than her uncle, former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Her nomination to ambassador of Japan is seen partly as a "thank you" from Obama, though Democrats and even Republicans spoke glowingly of her despite few foreign policy credentials in her background. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., predicted she will be a "great ambassador to Japan and, candidly, the kind of ambassador that they're used to having in Japan."
Kennedy has not ventured into public office, though she flirted with the idea when Obama appointed Clinton to secretary of state, leaving Clinton's U.S. Senate seat vacant. She abruptly pulled out of the running, however. She currently serves as chairwoman of the Senior Advisory Committee of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University.