News & Stories

2015 Graduation Speaker: Caroline Kennedy

Posted Oct 22 2014

Caroline Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to Japan and a 1988 graduate of Columbia Law School, will be the featured speaker at SIPA’s graduation ceremonies in spring 2015, Dean Merit E. Janow announced today.

Kennedy is the first female U.S. Ambassador to Japan. She was nominated by President Obama in July 2013 and assumed office on November 19, 2013.

Upon taking office, Kennedy was warmly welcomed by Japanese officials and the public alike.

“I think that my story in a way is a great metaphor for the U.S.-Japan alliance,” Kennedy told ABC News in April. “Countries that were once adversaries and enemies in war are now the best of friends and allies.”

Kennedy has spent much of her adult life in public service, working on behalf of educational, artistic, and other causes.

She served as vice chair of the board of directors and honorary director of the Fund for Public Schools in New York City, and as chief executive of the Office of Strategic Partnerships of the New York City Department of Education.

Kennedy has served as president and director of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, director of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the NAACP, and as a member of the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She has also served on numerous additional nonprofit organizations, boards, and foundations, and was as a member of the Obama for America Vice Presidential Search Committee in 2008.

In addition to her Columbia law degree, Kennedy has a B.A. from Harvard University. She is the daughter of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America, and First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. 

“I look forward to [Ambassador Kennedy’s] insights around public service, leadership, and foreign policy,” said Dean Janow in her announcement.  “I know [students] will join me in warmly welcoming Ambassador Kennedy back to campus to celebrate the remarkable class of 2015.”

SIPASA president Jenna Barzelay MPA ’15 commented on the selection:

“It is hard to think of a public servant with a more illustrious legacy than Caroline Kennedy,” she said. “She has spent her career leveraging her unique background to work on issues in the public realm, especially in education. The insight she will provide about her work experiences, culminating now in her role as U.S. Ambassador to Japan, will be inspirational to SIPA graduates.”

As in years past, the selection was informed by a SIPASA-administered survey that collected student input on possible graduation speakers.