01/23/2009 04:24 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Success of Kirsten Gillibrand and the Trashing of Caroline Kennedy

The good news is that a woman, and a young woman, at that, has been appointed to Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate seat. Kirsten Gillibrand is a good choice on many counts, in addition to her gender. She comes from upper New York State which seems to be a plus for the Governor, and she has proven her electability having recently been elected to her second term. More importantly, she will be a powerful role model for young women with young children, sending the message that; they too, can serve in public office.

The bad news is that Caroline Kennedy got trashed in the process. She did not deserve to experience such public embarrassment. Why did an anonymous aide to Governor David Paterson allow himself to be quoted "she was never under serious consideration"?

Caroline Kennedy deserved serious consideration. She may have made mistakes in the way she rolled out her candidacy, but the constant refrain that "she wasn't qualified" does not compute. What are the qualifications for a United States Senator?

Do you have to be a traditional politician to make the grade? I cannot help but conclude that a man with her credentials would have been given serious consideration.

She would have brought a passion for public service to the United States Senate which can always use an infusion of that rare ingredient in its mix. She has proven herself to be a skilled writer, an intelligent person, and a committed reformer for education.

She deserved better treatment than she received from politicians. the pundits and the press. It is my hope that she will find another avenue to express her desire for public service, not only as a volunteer, but also as a significant player.

In the meantime, congratulations to Senator Gillibrand. Her appointment allows the Senate to maintain its meager percentage of women -- 17 percent. In addition, her appointment makes a powerful statement about the ability of young women with young children to serve in public life. We need more.

This was originally posted at Chelsea Green.

Madeleine M. Kunin is the former Governor of Vermont and was the state's first woman governor. She served as Ambassador to Switzerland for President Clinton, and was on the three-person panel that chose Al Gore to be Clinton's VP. She is the author of Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead from Chelsea Green Publishing.