Caroline Kennedy rode a pony in the White House garden, Nikita Khrushchev gave her a puppy, and the singer Neil Diamond dedicated a hit to her. Now, she is supposed to be helping President Joe Biden confront China — as the ambassador to Australia.
The American Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a dynasty as “a family … that is very powerful or successful for a long period of time.” The Europeans have their aristocracies; however, there are no aristocracies in the U.S. The country was born from a revolution and the founders had no intention either of imitating family pedigrees or claims to power based on them in their new nation.
In practice, that has not always worked out. Even if there is no aristocracy in the U.S., there are still financial and political dynasties. The most well-known family that, quoting from Merriam-Webster once more, has been “very powerful for a long period of time” in the U.S. is the Kennedy family. Since immigrating from Ireland in the mid-19th century, it has produced senators, members of Congress, ambassadors and a president. The Kennedys have shaped America’s politics and touched society with their luster and tragedies like no other family.
Her Life Is Connected to History, Power and Personal Misfortune
All elements of the Kennedy myth come together in Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, who was nominated as the U.S. ambassador to Australia by President Joe Biden this week. There is the father, President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. There is the mother, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, née Bouvier, who remarried Aristotle Onassis, and who was an example of elegance and strength for a whole generation. There are the uncles, Bobby Kennedy, an attorney general and presidential candidate who was also assassinated in 1968, and Ted Kennedy, a powerful senator. And there is the brother, John Jr., who died in a plane crash in 1999. You can barely pack more American history, political power and personal misfortune into one single life.
Kennedy was born in 1957. Her childhood looked like that of a daughter of the liberal East Coast elite: private schools, apartments in Washington and New York, trips to Europe, summer vacations at Cape Cod. She rode her pony in the White House garden, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave her a puppy, singer Neil Diamond wrote his hit “Sweet Caroline” in 1969 after he had seen her photo.
The Kennedys Are Still a Political Force with the Democrats
Kennedy later studied at Harvard, earned a law degree from Columbia Law School and started working for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She met the artist and curator Edwin Schlossberg there, whom she married and with whom she had three children. The couple have since separated.
Aside from her extensive cultural and social involvement, Kennedy, whose fortune is in the triple-digit millions, has always contributed politically as well. She is the incumbent head of the family, represents the Kennedys which are still a political force in the Democratic Party — unlike the Bush family and the Republicans today. In 2008, Caroline surprised the party by endorsing the young political climber Barack Obama who, as she wrote at the time, reminded her of her father. That endorsement was painful for Hillary Clinton, Obama’s opponent during the primaries. Obama won the election, and as a way of saying thank you, appointed Kennedy ambassador to Japan in 2013.
Now, Kennedy is supposed to be representing the U.S. in Canberra. The assignment is not easy. Biden wants to counter the growing influence of China in the Pacific region. Australia plays an extremely important role in its strategy as an ally as the recently forged alliance, AUKUS* shows. An ambassador who knows the region, who belongs to the most prominent, democratic dynasty and whose surname guarantees that the president will pick up the phone in the White House when she calls — the Australian government could hardly wish for more.
*Editor’s Note: AUKUS is a trilateral security agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States formed on Sept. 15.