The Kennedys

Caroline Kennedy eyed for possible post

By Carol Eisenberg

November 11, 2008 at 1:32pm

Will she or won’t she?

The possibility of a more public profile for Caroline Kennedy, who stepped out of the shadows to play a prominent role in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, is a subject of intense political speculation.

Her name has come up as a possible pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, or perhaps to Ireland - an appointment that would recall the career of her grandfather, the late Joseph P. Kennedy, an ambassador to Great Britain.

The only surviving child of slain President John F. Kennedy, the 50-year-old author and philanthropist would carry the torch of Camelot to a new administration which has emulated elements of her father’s style.

Given her lifelong aversion to publicity, however, many think it is more likely she would use her close relationship with the president-elect to press the names of other possible appointees - for instance, of Joel Klein, New York City schools chancellor and the husband of her close friend, Nicole Seligman, or of her cousin, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer.

Kennedy’s stumping for Obama and work as an adviser vetting a running mate was a radical departure for a mother of three who has spent most of her life trying to avoid the spotlight.

“We both normally shy away from getting involved in politics,” she said of herself and talk show host Oprah Winfrey at a Los Angeles rally. “We needed to step out of our lives and into this moment in history.”

Kennedy has lived so privately that back in 2000, when she made a brief appearance at the Democratic National Convention to support Al Gore, PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer seemed at a loss about what to say: “There aren’t many people who know much about this young lady,” he remarked.

Kennedy was 5 when her father was assassinated, moving to Manhattan with her mother and brother soon after to lead a cloistered life on the Upper East Side. She attended the Covent of the Sacred Heart, before heading to Harvard, interning in her uncle’s Senate offices during the summer.

While studying at Columbia Law School, she worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she met her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, an artist who had trained with Jasper Johns and Buckminster Fuller. In 1986, the couple married in Cape Cod with her cousin, Maria Shriver, as maid of honor.

In the years since, she has written several books, including a scholarly tome about the right to privacy. But her focus has been on raising her three children: Rose, 20, Tatiana, 18; and Jack, 15.

“Caroline was always reluctant to step out of the background, and that was her preferred role,” Laurence Leamer, author of The Kennedy Women, told Canada’s Globe and Mail. “She was afraid. There was fear for her family, fear for what politics can do to people on various levels.”

Since the death of her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, in 1994 and of her younger brother, John, in a plane crash in 1999, she has gradually assumed a more prominent civic role.

She is the honorary chairwoman of the America Ballet Theatre, following in her mother’s footsteps. She loaned her name to an exhibit of her mother’s wardrobe at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She also hosts the annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, a nationally televised gala honoring achievement in the performing arts.

Many believe that her willingness to take on a high-profile role in the Obama campaign reflects a new stage in her life when her children are almost grown and she feels freer to devote herself to her family’s legacy.

Elizabeth Mehren, a professor of journalism at Boston University and former Los Angeles Times reporter who covered the Kennedy clan, suggested that Kennedy feels less need to protect her children - and herself - at this stage of their lives.

“She’s in her 50s and she’s stepping out,” Mehren told the Globe and Mail. “She waited a long time.”

Paul Kirk, a former national Democratic Party chairman who serves with Kennedy on her father’s library board, attributed her new engagement to a desire to make a difference.

“You can’t ring a bell quietly,” Kirk told USA Today. “She realizes she bears some responsibility to keep the legacy going.”

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