HomeLearning CenterWhere Her Father Became a Hero, Caroline Kennedy Redefines Diplomacy

Where Her Father Became a Hero, Caroline Kennedy Redefines Diplomacy

Originally published by Damien Cave for the New York Times

On a drizzly August morning, Caroline Kennedy waded into the turquoise waters between two deserted islands in the South Pacific, trying not to scratch her feet on sprouts of coral.

“Look how beautiful this is,” she said.

“Your father did this swim,” said her son, Jack Schlossberg.

Together they stood in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands, facing a mile-long jaunt to an islet called Olasana — a place John F. Kennedy, Caroline’s father, landed almost exactly 80 years earlier as a junior Navy officer. He crossed the same waters to save himself and 10 members of his crew after a Japanese destroyer split their torpedo boat, PT-109, in the predawn darkness of Aug. 2, 1943.

Ms. Kennedy knew her swim offered just a glimpse of that ordeal. She was there on a short official visit as the U.S. ambassador to Australia. J.F.K. had survived for nearly a week, swimming many miles between three islands with the enemy all around, dragging an injured comrade to land and, eventually, being rescued thanks to a message he carved on a coconut and the bravery of Solomon Islanders and Australians who helped them reach an allied base.

She also knew the popular lessons of that experience. Courage, leadership, responsibility for others: these were the building blocks of the J.F.K. story that elevated him to the presidency, and that she has dedicated decades to promoting.

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