President Obama has nominated Caroline Kennedy to be the first female ambassador to Japan, ABC News has learned.
Senior administration officials confirmed the news today shortly before the White House went public with the naming. Japanese media had indicated an announcement was imminent earlier this month.
Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, is among the most well known surviving member of that family and is largely credited with having helped to launch President Obama into the office formerly occupied by her father. Her endorsement of the senator from Illinois over Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign helped Obama clinch the Democratic nomination, and she helped woo female voters by stumping for the White House hopeful in key states. She also was part of the team responsible for selecting then Sen. Joe Biden as running mate.
She is an attorney and author but has lived relatively secluded compared with other family members in recent years. She recently served as the president of the Kennedy Presidential Library and at Harvard’s institute of Politics, but she’s also quietly volunteered for New York City’s public school system sharing poetry with students.
In a recent interview with ABC’s David Muir, she said she was open to the position in Tokyo. Rumor that she would be picked for the job has circulated for months.
“I’ve supported the president for, you know, since the early days, so that would be great. Nobody’s asked me so we’ll just have to wait,” she said of the suggestions at the time.
Japan is one of several American allies who prefer to have political heavyweights at the embassy. Past U.S. ambassadors include former Vice President Walter Mondale, House Speaker Tom Foley, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, former White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker and John “Tom” Schieffer, brother of CBS anchor Bob Schieffer. Kennedy doesn’t have any known connections to the Pacific nation.
The 55-year-old was also considered a contender for Hillary Clinton’s replacement as senator from New York at one point, a position once held by Robert F. Kennedy. She withdrew from consideration because of a “private family matter.” A book on the life of her uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, suggests her children may have been the reason for the decision.
Kennedy’s nomination came along with two other proposed additions to the administration’s staff: Marcel Lettre as Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Department of Defense, and Robert M. Simon as Associate Director for Energy and Environment, Office of Science and Technology Policy.
“These fine public servants both bring a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles,” the president said in a written statement. ”Our nation will be well-served by these individuals, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”
If confirmed by Congress, Kennedy would replace sitting Amb. John Roos, who has held the position since 2009.