Rafu Wire Services
WASHINGTON — Former champion figure skater Michelle Kwan, a two-time Olympic medalist, was nominated by President Joe Biden to be ambassador to Belize on Dec. 15.
Kwan, 41, a native of Torrance, was one of eight people Biden said he intends to nominate for various posts. Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy and U.S. ambassador to Japan under President Barack Obama, was appointed ambassador to Australia.
A silver medalist in the 1998 Olympics and a bronze winner in 2002, Kwan has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver with a focus on international relations and a master’s degree from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
She worked on Biden’s presidential campaign and had reportedly been lobbying for an ambassadorship.
“If confirmed, I will be very proud to serve my country,” said Kwan, who now lives in Rhode Island. “Belize is full of incredible history and culture, and has been a tremendous partner to the United States. I look forward to working with the Belizean government on economic issues, to put an end to this pandemic, and to address the root causes of migration.”
Besides her Olympic medals, Kwan won five world championships and nine national titles, the last in 2005. She currently serves as the treasurer and a board member of Special Olympics International.
Her post-skating career also includes State Department roles as a senior adviser at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and adviser to the Office of Global Women’s Issues, where she assisted with the U.S.-China Women’s Leadership Exchange and Dialogue.
In addition, she was a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and the Council on Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports initiative at the State Department.
“Michelle Kwan has had a distinguished career in public service, diplomacy, and sports,” the White House said in a statement. “She became the first public diplomacy envoy in 2006 and for a decade, traveled extensively on behalf of the U.S. Department of State to engage youth around the world on social and educational issues.”
Kennedy threw her support behind Biden relatively early in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary process. In a Boston Globe editorial to announce her endorsement, she praised Biden for his long career as a public servant and fondly recalled him visiting Tokyo as vice president while she was ambassador.
Kennedy in a statement offered gratitude to Solomon Islanders and Australian coast watchers in the Pacific who rescued her father during World War II after his crew’s motor torpedo boat was sunk by a Japanese destroyer in August 1943. The incident was dramatized in the 1963 movie “PT 109.”
“If confirmed, I will work hard to repay this debt,” she said. “I look forward to collaborating with the government of Australia to strengthen our alliance, improve global health and increase vaccine access during this terrible pandemic and to address the urgent climate crisis. I am excited to get to know the Australian people, learn about their fascinating country and share with them what I love most about America.”
Biden appointed another member of the Kennedy clan, Victoria Kennedy, an attorney and the widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy, to serve as his ambassador to Austria. The Senate confirmed her nomination in October.