John F. Kennedy’s influence continues through the lives of his family members who have followed in the patriarch’s footsteps of public service.
Carolyn Kennedy—the last living child, and the last direct link to her father’s legacy—obtained her first public office Oct. 16 as the first female United States ambassador to Japan.
Picture-perfect, and just three days before the 50th anniversary of her father’s death, she was carried in a horse-drawn carriage to Japan’s Imperial Palace. There, she met Emperor Akihito and presented her credentials, as well as the resignation of her predecessor John Roos.
Several Japanese television broadcasters showed the procession live, and thousands lined the streets to welcome the former president’s daughter.
“The Japanese people feel closest to her father of all presidents, and in that sense I would like to offer my hearty welcome,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, quoted in the Tokyo Times.
“This appointment has a special significance as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of my father’s presidency,” Kennedy told a Senate committee in September while under consideration 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.”
Carolyn Kennedy, 55, is married with three children. She had mostly shunned public life until recent years when she became involved in supporting then-Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for president, where she served as co-chair of Obama’s vice presidential search committee.
A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School, Carolyn Kennedy is an attorney and an editor of nine best-selling books on constitutional law, American history, politics, and poetry. She has also raised over $280 million to support public school reform, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum website.
Carolyn Kennedy’s brother John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., died in a plane crash in 1999, with his wife and her older sister.
JFK, and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, had three children, one of whom, Patrick, died less than two days after a premature birth.
Patrick Joseph Kennedy is the son of JFK’s youngest brother, the late longtime Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Patrick Kennedy was the youngest member of his family to hold elected office, joining the Rhode Island House of Representatives at 21. After two terms there, he went on to serve 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, retiring in 2011, finally leaving Congress bereft of a member of the Kennedy family.
He continues to advocate for mental health reform, for placing mental health care under the umbrella of health insurance, which Obama’s signature health care law achieved.
Patrick Kennedy and his wife Amy Kennedy welcomed the birth of their second child, Nora Kara Kennedy, this week, Nov. 19.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, JFK’s niece, is an attorney, and formerly lieutenant governor of Maryland from 1995 to 2003.
She made an unsuccessful run for governor of Maryland in 2002. She has also been involved in raising money for the Democratic Party and its causes with the progressive nonprofit American Bridge.
After leaving office, Townsend wrote a book, “Failing America’s Faithful: How Today’s Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way.”
She has also been an adjunct professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, a visiting fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and a Nitze senior fellow at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.