As US Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy touches down in Canberra later this week to take up her diplomatic post, she has vowed to ensure Australia and the US will work closely for peace, unity and prosperity in the region.
She will also be the first US ambassador to Australia with the unprecedented celebrity of America’s most high-powered, influential political family.
In a pre-recorded speech on Wednesday before her highly anticipated arrival on Friday, Ms Kennedy, 64, spoke about her late father, former president John F Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963 when she was just five years old.
She lamented that he never got to visit Australia, a country she is now eager to embrace.
“I know that our countries are the strongest of allies and that our parents and grandparents fought side by side for more than 100 years.
“Their sacrifices have made it possible for us to live in two of the world’s greatest democracies, countries that share a commitment to individual freedom, the rule of law and economic opportunity.
“For me, it goes beyond that. In 1943, my father’s PT boat was sunk by a Japanese destroyer. If not for the help of two Solomon Islanders and an Australian coast watcher, he and his crew would not have survived.
“He wanted to be the first sitting president to visit Australia, so I am honoured to carry his legacy forward in my own small way.”
Ms Kennedy first came to Australia on her honeymoon in 1986 after her marriage to Edwin Schlossberg, an exhibit designer she met while working at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
They “fell in love” with the country and the people they met along the way and in 2014, they brought their three children – Rose, Tatiana and John – out for a visit.
During that trip, she was serving as US ambassador to Japan from 2013 to 2017 under the Obama administration.
“We always dreamed of coming back … we fell in love with the people we met, the places we went and I can’t wait till my new grandson comes to visit,” she said this week.
Best-selling author, attorney, diplomat, educator
Ms Kennedy captured the world’s imagination as she grew up in the spotlight of the Kennedy era, pictured in key moments of history as she grieved the death of her father, then her mother Jacqueline in 1994.
When her brother John F Kennedy Jr was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1999 alongside his wife Carolyn Bessette, she became the sole surviving member of the immediate Kennedy clan.
She forged a career as a public speaker, at not-for-profits, raised millions of dollars for New York’s public schools and was never far away from supporting Democratic campaigns (she says she has admired President Biden since she was a senate intern in 1974).
Her famous pedigree opened doors but, as she acknowledged this week, it was her father President Kennedy who “inspired a generation to public service” and “they transformed America, fighting for civil rights, serving in the inner cities and outer space”.
“They passed that commitment on to their children and grandchildren.
“In our family, that commitment began at home and for me it began with the women in our family.
“My grandmother was a woman of deep faith and patriotism, she made sure that her children and grandchildren understood there is nothing more rewarding than helping others.
“My mother believed that words and ideas could change the world,” she said.
‘A critical time in the history of our two countries’
Her four-minute introduction video then got down to business.
What will Ambassador Kennedy be working on during her diplomatic posting in Canberra?
Her enormous celebrity will no doubt see her invitation list skyrocket (we may even see her on a red carpet given her love of the Met Gala), but it will be developing a close working relationship with the federal government that is a top priority.
“I look forward to working closely with … the government to advance our shared democratic values, strengthen our commitment to a healthy, peaceful and prosperous Indo Pacific and advance the transition to a green energy world.
“No one is more committed to advancing peace and stability, fighting climate change and increasing American economic engagement in the region in the Biden-Harris administration and I am proud to be a member of the team.”
Ms Kennedy says she wants to learn about First Nations culture and traditions, the incredible natural environment and abundant natural resources.
“This is a critical time in the history of our two countries. What we do together in the next few years will determine the future of the region and the planet and I can’t wait to get started.”
And if you see her? “Please come up and say hello!”