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The Kennedy Center

U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith

VSA Founder

Seated portrait photograph of Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, founder of VSA

Jean Kennedy Smith was nominated by President Clinton to serve as Ambassador to Ireland on March 17, 1993, and was confirmed by the Senate on June 16, 1993. Since 1964, she has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, which provides grants to promote awareness and advocacy in the field of intellectual disabilities. Ambassador Smith was a member of the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts from 1964 to 2012, and now serves as an Honorary Member of the Board of Trustees. She has also served on the Board of the International Rescue Committee and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

In 1974, Ambassador Smith founded VSA, the international organization on arts and disability. Her book, Chronicles of Courage: Very Special Artists, written in collaboration with George Plimpton, was published by Random House in April 1993.

Ambassador Smith has received a number of honorary degrees, including ones from New York University, Fordham University, The National University of Ireland, and Dublin City University. She has also received various awards, including the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service from the American Institutes for Public Service; the Margaret Mead Humanitarian Award from the Council of Cerebral Palsy Auxiliaries; the 1995 Irish American of the Year Award from Irish American Magazine; the 1997 Rotary One International Award from the Rotary Club of Chicago; the 1997 Terence Cardinal Cooke Humanitarian Award; and in 2011 President Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom.

Ambassador Smith is a resident of New York State. Her husband, Stephen E. Smith, died in 1990. She has four children.

Jean Kennedy Smith at the 2010 International VSA Festival Opening Ceremony: Phil Wolf. Thank You

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In thanks for her 48 years of service on the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, this video was produced and shown to Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith at the May 7, 2012 Board of Trustees Meeting, David Rubenstein, Chairman.