From Jessica Yellin
CNN Chief White House Correspondent
(CNN) — Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy and a prominent Democratic backer, was nominated by President Barack Obama Wednesday to serve as U.S. ambassador to Japan.
She would become the first woman to hold the post if she’s confirmed by the U.S. Senate. A top supporter of Obama’s, she served as the co-chair of his vice presidential search committee in 2008.
CNN first reported in April that Kennedy had been asked to serve as ambassador and was being vetted for the role.
She’s the only surviving member of JFK’s immediate family and has largely shunned the limelight and scrutiny associated with her famous last name. After publicly expressing interest in running for the U.S. Senate seat in New York vacated when Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, she ultimately decided against making a bid, citing “personal reasons.”
She made speeches at the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions, both times recalling her famous relatives – in 2008, her speech served as a tribute to her uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and in 2012 she noted that “like my father’s election in 1960, this is one of those elections where the future of our country is at stake.”
After receiving degrees at Harvard and Columbia, Kennedy served in a variety of roles at New York non-profits, including the John F. Kennedy Library and the American Ballet Theatre.
The current U.S. ambassador to Japan is John Roos, who assumed the role in 2009. He was the first American ambassador to attend commemoration ceremonies for the American atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He also led America’s embassy through the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and the ensuing nuclear aftermath.
The United States is Japan’s largest economic partner as well as a military ally. The U.S. military presence on Japan’s Okinawa Island has remained a point of diplomatic tension between the two nations. Some of the island’s residents have complained about noise from the base, in an urban area. Many others were incensed by the misconduct of U.S. troops stationed there, including the 1995 rape of 12-year-old Japanese girl by three U.S. military personnel.
Opposition to the presence of U.S. troops in Okinawa runs so deep that it contributed to the resignation of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in 2010. He had promised to move the base but later announced that the base would stay, a decision he called “heartbreaking.”
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