Nearly 50 years after an assassin killed President John F. Kennedy, his daughter was triumphantly received as America’s ambassador to Japan in the country that made her dad a hero. Caroline Kennedy arrived at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo Tuesday in an ornate, horse-drawn carriage — befitting the Princess of Camelot’s role as American royalty — to present her credentials to Emperor Akihito.
Meanwhile, back at home, images of her standing stoically at her father’s funeral were being replayed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death this week.
Kennedy, 55, is the first female US envoy to Japan, America’s fourth-largest trading partner.
Though it was a Japanese destroyer that sank John Kennedy’s PT-109 boat during World War II, JFK as president wanted to heal the rift between the two countries and “be the first sitting president to make a state visit to Japan,” Caroline Kennedy had told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“That symbolizes so much more than just a normal diplomatic relationship,” Secretary of State John Kerry said last week at a state dinner in honor of the new ambassador.
“This is a symbol of reconciliation, a symbol of possibilities, a symbol of people who know how to put the past behind them and look to the future and build a future together.”
Caroline Kennedy was appointed ambassador after helping President Obama’s re-election campaign.
“Honored to present my credentials to His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. What a memorable day!” Kennedy tweeted later, sharing a photo of her alighting from the carriage at the palace’s Pine Hall.
In a meeting with reporters, Kennedy described the ceremony as “wonderful.”
“I am honored to serve my country,” she said.
The appointment was a soft landing after her failed attempt to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate after Clinton became Obama’s secretary of state.
Despite critics who said Kennedy doesn’t have the gravitas to follow in the footsteps of other former US ambassadors to Japan, including Walter Mondale and Tom Foley, she has said she is well aware of the responsibilities.
“This appointment has a special significance as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of my father’s presidency,” she told a Senate committee in September before being confirmed for the post.
“I am conscious of my responsibility to uphold the ideals he represented — a deep commitment to public service, a more just America and a more peaceful world.”
Kennedy was one of several new world diplomats to meet with the emperor, but the only one whose arrival was broadcast on national TV.
Kennedy handed the emperor a letter from Obama with her credentials, along with a letter of resignation from her predecessor, John Roos, according to the Imperial Household Agency.
The emperor usually receives about 40 new ambassadors each year.
Thousands of Japanese lined the streets of Tokyo to catch a glimpse of the new ambassador as she waved from the century-old carriage.
Japan is also home to the Navy’s 7th Fleet and 50,000 American troops.
Kennedy is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this week.
Text by Leonard Greene and Post Wires, November 20, 2013