Whether one has made a career in the Foreign Service, or in the world of business or elsewhere, being asked by the president to represent America as ambassador to another nation is the honour of a lifetime.
Many distinguished Americans have served as an ambassador: Shirley Temple went on to a long Foreign Service career culminating with ambassadorships to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. The economist John Kenneth Galbraith served as President John Kennedy’s ambassador to India. And today, President Kennedy’s daughter Caroline is ambassador to Japan. The rank of "ambassador" was first used by the United States in 1893. Nowadays, at the top of U.S. embassies around the world are diplomats who hold the title of "ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the United States of America". Before 1893 they were called "ministers".
The U.S. Constitution gives the Senate the power to advice and consent on nominations to top government offices. That means a Senate majority must confirm the president’s choice.
Before nominating a candidate, the White House checks his or her qualifications, finances, career and personal life. Then the Senate Foreign Relations Committee scrutinizes nominees privately and then during a public hearing. If all goes well, the committee approves the nomination and sends it to the full Senate for a vote.
Benjamin Franklin, who was a minister to France from 1776–1785, is sometimes called the nation’s first diplomat. When Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and a future president of the U.S., arrived in Paris in 1785 to take Franklin’s place, the French foreign minister asked: “It is you who replace Dr. [Benjamin] Franklin?” Jefferson replied, “No one can replace him, Sir; I am only his successor.”
John Adams, the second President of the United States, also served as a diplomat in Europe.