Kennedy Seeks Public Life After Years of Protecting Privacy

"She was never unattended. The attention and the security were a constant reminder of her father's death," Heymann said.

In 1967, at age 10, her uncle and surrogate father Robert Kennedy was assassinated, and her mother married Aristotle Onassis a few months later and considered moving the family to Europe.

"If they're killing Kennedys, my kids are number one targets," Jackie Kennedy Onassis told White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger. "I want my children out of this country."

The family remained in New York where Caroline attended high school at Manhattan's Sacred Heart, where she was "incredibly shy and introverted and would often recede into a corner," said Heymann.

Her husband, designer Edwin Schlossberg, has been credited with maintaining the privacy Kennedy sought in her youth and sheltering the couple's three children.

Caroline Kennedy: Public Figure?

As an adult, Kennedy has worked as a fundraiser for the New York City Department of Education and written or edited several books. It was not until this spring, however, with her endorsement of then-Sen. Barack Obama's bid for the presidency, that Kennedy actively sought the political spotlight.

"It took Obama's candidacy for her to come out of that shell," said Sorensen. "Once she decided that the election of Sen. Obama was important in terms of the furtherance of the country and the furtherance of her father's ideals, she endorsed him and joined the campaign."

Only Kennedy knows why after years of shunning public life, she decided to actively pursue the Senate appointment. But with the death of her brother John Kennedy Jr., who many assumed would one day run for office, and with her uncle Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., in ill health, some believe she feels obligated to carry the family mantle.

Kennedy has been endorsed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton.

She is in a unique position to ascend to the Senate without having to do all the things candidates normally do to get elected, the very public events that she has long despised.

"In a political age where celebrity is important, where name recognition and the ability to raise money are important, Kennedy meets those criteria," said political analyst Stu Rothenberg. "But being a senator is a lot of work, and you have to really want it. It doesn't seem she has the fire in her belly."

If she takes over the seat that Clinton vacates to become Obama's secretary of state, Kennedy would assume the position in the fourth year of a six-year term.

"She may have gotten a pass with not having to run an actual campaign, but she will have to in two years," Rothenberg said. "She can't avoid an election entirely. If she gets the seat, she will have essentially been coronated. It's an ideal scenario for someone like Kennedy. But she's still going to have to go back and forth from Washington and do real work.

"Being a senator is a very public job. It's giving speeches and kissing babies and eating matzo ball soup in New York and debating financing bills in Washington," he said. "I don't get the sense that it's really for her."

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