Caroline Kennedy was just short of her sixth birthday when her father was assassinated on November 22, 1963. The following year, Caroline, her mother, and brother settled on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where she attended school. Kennedy graduated from Radcliffe College and worked at Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she met her future husband, exhibit designer Edwin Schlossberg. She went on to receive a J.D. degree from Columbia Law School. Most of Kennedy's professional life has spanned law and politics, as well as education reform and charitable work. She has also acted as a spokesperson for her family's legacy and co-authored two books on civil liberties with Ellen Alderman.
Early in the primary race for the 2008 presidential election, Kennedy and her uncle Ted endorsed Democratic candidate Barack Obama for President; she later stumped for him in Florida, Indiana, and Ohio, served as co-chair of his Vice Presidential Search Committee, and addressed the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
After Obama selected United States Senator Hillary Clinton to serve as Secretary of State, Kennedy expressed interest in being appointed to Clinton's vacant Senate seat from New York, but she later withdrew from consideration, citing "personal reasons." Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand ultimately replaced Clinton as the junior New York Senator. In 2013, President Obama appointed Kennedy as the United States ambassador to Japan.
Caroline Bouvier Kennedy was born on November 27, 1957, at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan to John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy. A year before Caroline's birth, her parents had a stillborn daughter named Arabella. Caroline had two younger brothers: John Jr., who was born just before her third birthday, and Patrick, who died two days after his premature birth in 1963. Caroline lived with her parents in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. during the first three years of her life. When Caroline was three years old, the family moved to the White House after her father was sworn in as President of the United States.
Caroline frequently attended kindergarten in classes that were organized by her mother, and she was often photographed riding her pony "Macaroni" around the White House grounds. One such photo in a news article inspired singer-songwriter Neil Diamond to write his Top Ten hit song, "Sweet Caroline"—which he revealed when he performed it for her 50th birthday. As a small child, Caroline received numerous gifts from dignitaries, including a puppy from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and a Yucatán pony from Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. Historians described Caroline's childhood personality as "a trifle remote and a bit shy at times" yet "remarkably unspoiled." "She's too young to realize all these luxuries", her paternal grandmother, Rose Kennedy, said of her. "She probably thinks it's natural for children to go off in their own airplanes. But she is with her cousins, and some of them dance and swim better than she. They do not allow her to take special precedence. Little children accept things".
On the day of JFK's assassination on November 22, 1963, nanny Maud Shaw took Caroline and John Jr. away from the White House to the home of their maternal grandmother, Janet Lee Bouvier, who insisted that Shaw be the one to tell Caroline about her father's death. That evening, Caroline and John Jr. were brought back to the White House, and while Caroline was in her bed, Shaw broke the news to her. Shaw soon found out that Jacqueline had wanted to be the one to tell the children, which caused a rift between the nanny and Jacqueline. On December 6, two weeks after the assassination, Jacqueline, Caroline, and John Jr. moved out of the White House and back to Georgetown. Their new home soon became a popular tourist attraction and they later moved out from Washington to a penthouse apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City the following year.
In 1967, Caroline christened the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy in a widely publicized ceremony in Newport News, Virginia.
Over that summer, Jacqueline took the children on a six-week "sentimental journey" to Ireland, where they met President Éamon de Valera and visited the Kennedy ancestral home at Dunganstown. In the midst of the trip, Caroline and John were surrounded by a large number of press photographers while playing in a pond. The incident caused their mother to telephone Ireland's Department of External Affairs and request the issuing of a statement that she and the children wanted to be left in peace. As a result of the request, further attempts by press photographers to photograph the threesome ended with arrests by local police and the photographers being jailed.
Uncle Robert F. Kennedy became a major presence in the lives of Caroline and John following their father's assassination, and Caroline saw him as a surrogate father. When Bobby was assassinated in June 1968, Jacqueline sought a means of protecting them, stating: "If they're killing Kennedys, then my children are targets ... I want to get out of this country". Jacqueline Kennedy married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis several months later and she and the children moved to Skorpios, his Greek island. The next year, 11-year-old Caroline attended the funeral of her grandfather, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. Her cousin, David, asked her about her feelings towards her mother's new husband and she replied, "I don't like him".
In 1970 Jacqueline wrote her brother-in-law Ted Kennedy a letter stating that Caroline had been without a godfather since Bobby's death and would like him to assume the role. Ted began making regular trips from Washington to New York to see Caroline, where she was in school. In 1971, Caroline returned to the White House for the first time since her father's assassination when she was invited by President Richard Nixon to view the official portrait of her father.
Onassis died in March 1975, and Caroline returned to Skorpios for his funeral. A few days later she and her mother and brother attended the presentation by French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing of the Legion of Honor award to her aunt, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Later that year, Caroline was visiting London to complete a year-long art course at the Sotheby's auction house, when a car bomb placed under the car of her hosts, Conservative MP Sir Hugh Fraser and his wife, Antonia, exploded shortly before she and the Frasers were due to leave for their daily drive to Sotheby's. Caroline had not yet left the house, but a neighbor, oncologist Professor Gordon Hamilton-Fairley, was passing by when he was walking his dog and was killed by the explosion.
Kennedy attended The Brearley School and Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City and graduated from Concord Academy in Massachusetts in 1975. She was a photographer's assistant at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. In 1977, she worked as a summer intern at the New York Daily News, earning $156 a week (~$600 in 2013 dollars adjusted for inflation), "fetching coffee for harried editors and reporters, changing typewriter ribbons and delivering messages." Kennedy reportedly "sat on a bench alone for two hours the first day before other employees even said hello to her"; and, according to Richard Licata, a former News reporter, "Everyone was too scared." Kennedy also wrote for Rolling Stone about visiting Graceland shortly after the death of Elvis Presley.
In 1980, she earned a Bachelor of Arts from Radcliffe College at Harvard University. During college, Kennedy had "considered becoming a photojournalist, but soon realized she could never make her living observing other people because they were too busy watching her."
In 1988, she earned a Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School, graduating in the top ten percent of her class. After graduating, Kennedy was hired as a research assistant in the Film and Television Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She later became a "liaison officer between the museum staff and outside producers and directors shooting footage at the museum", helping coordinate the Sesame Street special Don't Eat the Pictures. On December 4, 1984, Caroline was threatened when a man telephoned the museum and stated his name and address while reporting that a bomb had been planted there. Three days later, he was arrested for the threat.
While working at the Met, Kennedy met her future husband, exhibit designer Edwin Schlossberg; they were married in 1986 at Our Lady of Victory Church in Centerville, Massachusetts. Kennedy's matron of honor was her first cousin Maria Shriver; Ted later walked her down the aisle. Kennedy is sometimes incorrectly referred to as: "Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg", but she did not change her name at the time she married. Kennedy has three children: Rose Kennedy Schlossberg (b.1988), Tatiana Celia Kennedy Schlossberg (b.1990), and John Bouvier Kennedy Schlossberg, known as Jack (b.1993).
Raised in Manhattan and somewhat separated from their Hyannisport cousins, Caroline and John Jr. were very close, and especially so following their mother's death in 1994. After John Jr. died in a plane crash in 1999, Caroline became the sole remaining survivor of the former President's immediate family. Caroline preferred not to have a public memorial service for her brother, and decided that his remains would be cremated and his ashes scattered into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, where he met his fate. John Jr. bequeathed Caroline his half ownership of George magazine, but Caroline believed that her brother would not have wanted the magazine to continue following his death, and the magazine ceased publication two years later.
Kennedy owns her mother's 375-acre (1.52 km2) estate known as Red Gate Farm in Aquinnah (formerly Gay Head) on Martha's Vineyard. The New York Daily News estimated Kennedy's net worth in 2008 at over $100 million. During her 2013 nomination to serve as Ambassador to Japan, financial disclosure reports showed her net worth to be between $67 million and $278 million, including family trusts, government and public authority bonds, commercial property in New York, Chicago and Washington, and holdings in the Cayman Islands.
Kennedy is an attorney, writer, and editor who has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations. She wrote the book, "In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights In Action" in collaboration with Ellen Alderman, which was published in 1991. During an interview regarding the volume, Caroline explained that the two wanted to show why the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution was written. She attended the Robin Hood Foundation annual breakfast on December 7, 1999. Her brother John had been committed to the organization, which Caroline spoke of at the event. In 2000, she supported Al Gore for the presidency and mentioned feeling a kinship with him since their fathers served together in the Senate. Kennedy spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention which was held in Los Angeles, California, the first time since the 1960 Democratic National Convention, where her father had been nominated by the Democratic Party for the presidency.
From 2002 through 2004, she worked as director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships for the New York City Department of Education, appointed by School Chancellor Joel Klein. The three-day-a-week job paid her a salary of $1 and had the goal of raising private money for the New York City public schools; she helped raise more than $65 million. She served as one of two vice chairs of the board of directors of The Fund for Public Schools and is currently Honorary Director of the Fund. She has also served on the board of trustees of Concord Academy, which she attended as a teen.
Kennedy and other members of her family created the Profile in Courage Award in 1989. The award is given to a public official or officials whose actions demonstrate politically courageous leadership in the spirit of John F. Kennedy's book, Profiles in Courage. In 2001 she presented the award to former president Gerald Ford for his controversial pardon of former president Richard M. Nixon almost 30 years prior. She is also president of the Kennedy Library Foundation and an adviser to the Harvard Institute of Politics, a living memorial to her father. Kennedy is a member of the New York and Washington, D.C., bar associations. She is also a member of the boards of directors of the Commission on Presidential Debates and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and is an honorary chair of the American Ballet Theatre. Kennedy represented her family at the funeral services of former presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. She also represented her family at the dedication of the Bill Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas, in November 2004. Kennedy attended the fiftieth anniversary ceremony of the March on Washington on August 28, 2013.
In August 2017, after her post as Ambassador to Japan ended, she was elected by Boeing to serve on their board of directors.
On January 27, 2008, Kennedy announced in a New York Times op-ed piece entitled, "A President Like My Father," that she would endorse Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Her concluding lines were: "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president—not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."
Federal Election Commission records show that Kennedy contributed $2,300 to the Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign committee on June 29, 2007. She previously contributed a total of $5,000 to Clinton's 2006 senatorial campaign. On September 18, 2007, she contributed $2,300 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign committee.
On June 4, 2008, Obama named Kennedy, along with Jim Johnson and Eric Holder, to co-chair his Vice Presidential Search Committee. (Johnson withdrew one week later.) Filmmaker Michael Moore called on Kennedy to "Pull a Cheney", and name herself as Obama's vice presidential running mate (Dick Cheney headed George W. Bush's vice presidential vetting committee in 2000—Cheney himself was chosen for the job). On August 23, Obama announced that Senator Joe Biden of Delaware would be his running mate. Kennedy addressed the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, introducing a tribute film about her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy.
Caroline Kennedy was among the 35 national co-chairs of Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. On June 27, 2012, Kennedy made appearances in Nashua and Manchester, New Hampshire, to campaign for the re-election of President Obama.
There has been media speculation that she is a possible candidate for the 2020 Presidential primaries and election.
In December 2008, Kennedy expressed interest in the United States Senate seat occupied by Hillary Clinton, who had been selected to become Secretary of State. This seat was to be filled through 2010 by appointment of New York Governor David Paterson. This same seat was held by Kennedy's uncle Robert F. Kennedy from January 1965 until his assassination in June 1968, when he was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Kennedy's appointment was supported by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, State Assemblyman Vito Lopez, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, and the New York Post editorial page.
She was criticized for not voting in a number of Democratic primaries and general elections since registering in 1988 in New York City and for not providing details about her political views. In response, Kennedy released a statement through a spokeswoman that outlined some of her political views including that she supported legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, was pro-choice, against the death penalty, for restoring the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, and believed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should be re-examined. On foreign policy, her spokeswoman reiterated that Kennedy opposed the Iraq War from the beginning as well as that she believed that Jerusalem should be the undivided capital city of Israel. Kennedy declined to make disclosures of her financial dealings or other personal matters to the press, stating that she would not release the information publicly unless she were selected by Governor Paterson. She did complete a confidential 28-page disclosure questionnaire required of hopefuls, reported to include extensive financial information.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Kennedy acknowledged that she would need to prove herself. "Going into politics is something people have asked me about forever", Kennedy said. "When this opportunity came along, which was sort of unexpected, I thought, 'Well, maybe now. How about now?' [I'll have to] work twice as hard as anybody else..... I am an unconventional choice..... We're starting to see there are many ways into public life and public service". In late December 2008, Kennedy drew criticism from several media outlets for lacking clarity in interviews, and for using the phrase "you know" 168 times during a 30-minute interview with NY1.
Shortly before midnight on January 22, 2009, Kennedy released a statement that she was withdrawing from consideration for the seat, citing "personal reasons". Kennedy declined to expand upon the reasons that led to her decision. One day after Kennedy's withdrawal, Paterson announced his selection of Representative Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the Senate seat.
On July 24, 2013, President Obama announced Kennedy as his nominee to be United States Ambassador to Japan to succeed Ambassador John Roos. The prospective nomination was first reported in February 2013 and, in mid-July 2013, formal diplomatic agreement to the appointment was reportedly received from the Japanese government.
On September 19, 2013, Kennedy sat before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and responded to questions from both Republican and Democratic senators regarding her potential appointment. Kennedy explained that her focus would be military ties, trade, and student exchange if she was selected for the position. She was confirmed in October by unanimous consent as the first female U.S. Ambassador to Japan and was sworn in by Secretary of State John Kerry on November 12. Kennedy arrived in Japan on November 15 and met Japanese diplomats three days later. On November 19, NHK showed live coverage of Kennedy's arrival at the Imperial Palace to present her diplomatic credentials to Emperor Akihito.
In December 2013, she visited Nagasaki to meet with survivors of the 1945 atomic bombing of that city. On August 5, 2014, she attended a memorial ceremony for victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima; she was the second U.S. ambassador to attend the annual memorial. This was her second visit to Hiroshima, having visited in 1978 with her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy.
On January 17, 2014, Kennedy made comments on Twitter that were critical of Japan's practice of dolphin drive hunting, expressing concern about the "inhumanness" of the practice and stating that the United States government opposes drive-hunt fisheries. A senior official connected with the seasonal dolphin hunt invited Kennedy to see for herself that the tradition was painless to the dolphins, but she later said during an appearance on the Today Show that she had "no regrets" for her characterization of the dolphin drive hunting, explaining her opinion was not hers alone. Kennedy was joined by Yoko Ono, Susan Sarandon, and Ricky Gervais in opposition to the practice and calling for an end to the hunt. Some Japanese officials called Kennedy's characterization hypocritical considering the amount of meat that Americans consume.
In February 2014, Kennedy visited the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, the site of the large military bases of United States Forces Japan, and was received by protests against the American military presence and placards with "no base" written on them. The protesters are opposed to the American military presence citing various concerns over sexual assaults and the environmental impact of the base. Kennedy subsequently met with Okinawa's governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, who was re-elected in 2010 in opposition to the base. She pledged to reduce the burden of the American military presence in Okinawa.
Kennedy visited the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station in May 2014, accompanied by her son John Schlossberg. The plant had been damaged by the powerful earthquake that occurred in March 2011. Damage caused the release of a radioactive plume that contaminated air and water as far south as Tokyo and led to the evacuation of thousands of U.S. military family members. After the tour, Kennedy stated the U.S. had done all it could to support Japan following the earthquake.
She accompanied Akie Abe on a tour of the USS Olympia on February 12, 2015. Lieutenant Erik Edwards called Kennedy "a terrific representative of her country". In April 2015, Kennedy visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which displayed the impact from the 1945 atomic bombing. Kennedy called her visit a "solemn honor" and also planted dogwood trees on a road, participating in a U.S. project to spread 3,000 dogwood trees across Japan.
On August 6, 2015, Kennedy accompanied US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Rose Gottemoeller to the memorial for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan by the United States in World War II. It marked the 70th anniversary of the bombing, and Gottemoeller became the first senior American official to attend the annual memorial. Kennedy was only the second US ambassador to attend. With representatives of 100 countries in attendance, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe reiterated Japan's official support for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Kennedy resigned as the United States Ambassador to Japan shortly before Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. She formally left Japan as Ambassador on January 18, 2017.
Kennedy and Ellen Alderman have written two books together on civil liberties:In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights In Action (1991)
The Right to Privacy (1995)
On her own, Kennedy has edited these New York Times best-selling volumes:The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (2001);
Profiles in Courage for Our Time (2002);
A Patriot's Handbook (2003);
A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children (2005).
She is also the author of A Family Christmas, a collection of poems, prose, and personal notes from her family history (2007, ISBN 978-1-4013-2227-4). In April 2011, a new collection of poetry, She Walks In Beauty – A Woman's Journey Through Poems, edited and introduced by Caroline Kennedy, was published. She launched the book at the John F Kennedy Library & Museum at Columbia Point, Dorchester, MA.