US President Joe Biden plans to send Democratic Party royalty to Canberra as his next ambassador, nominating the daughter of assassinated President John F Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, for the role.
An attorney, editor and author, Ms Kennedy shied away from public life until backing Barack Obama’s presidential run, after which she considered running for the Senate, but ended up being President Obama’s pick for Ambassador to Japan from 2013 to 17.
The arrival of JFK’s sole surviving child in Canberra, if the US Senate ratifies her nomination, is sure to send a ripple of excitement through the national capital’s diplomatic community.
But the much-heralded nomination also comes as the US reinforces the alliance with Australia to counter the influence of an increasingly belligerent China, and follows the signing of the AUKUS pact and the nuclear submarines deal.
She will no doubt seek to bolster the US-Australia relationship even further. Observers from her time in Tokyo say Ms Kennedy was a highly energised ambassador who built strong networks within the community through events and outreach.
In a statement, Ms Kennedy called Australia “a country that is vital to our future security and prosperity.”
“I look forward to collaborating with the government of Australia to strengthen our alliance, improve global health and increase vaccine access during this terrible pandemic and to address the urgent climate crisis,” she said.
“I am excited to get to know the Australian people, learn about their fascinating country and share with them what I love most about America.”
The nomination comes nearly a year into the Biden presidency, which has faced delays to its diplomatic appointments due to Republican Party obstruction.
The White House briefing on the nomination said Ms Kennedy played a critical role in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, culminating in the historic visits of President Obama to Hiroshima and Prime Minister Abe to Pearl Harbor.
She advanced the realignment of US forces in Okinawa, promoted women’s empowerment in Japan, and increased student exchange between the US and Japan.
In 2017, she founded the International Poetry Exchange Project to virtually connect students in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and the Bronx through the power of the spoken word.
In November 2021, she was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Rising Sun, the highest honour for which foreigners are eligible in recognition of her efforts to strengthen the US-Japan alliance.
The briefing said that before going to Japan, Ms Kennedy was at the forefront of education reform efforts in New York City, creating public-private partnerships to promote arts education, school libraries, and performing arts spaces.
She served as the CEO of the Office of Strategic Partnerships at the NYC Department of Education from 2002 to 2004, vice-chair of the Fund for Public Schools from 2002-2010, and served on the Board of New Visions for Public Schools.
Ms Kennedy has published 11 New York Times best-selling books on law, civics and poetry and serves as the Honorary President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
She is a Director of the Carnegie Corporation and a member of the Board of Advisors of the International Rescue Committee.
Ms Kennedy was just five years old when an assassin killed her father in Dallas, Texas, on 22 November 1963.