Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora and U.S. Representative John Murtha Honored with the 2006 JFK Profile in Courage Award
Boston MA, May 22, 2006 – In what marked the 50th anniversary celebration of the publication of John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage, Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy today presented former U.S. Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora and U.S. Representative John P. Murtha (D-PA) with the 2006 Profile in Courage Award.
Mr. Mora was recognized for the moral and political courage he demonstrated in waging a three year behind-the-scenes battle with military and civilian leaders over U.S. military policy regarding the treatment of detainees held by the United States as part of the war on terror. Congressman Murtha was recognized for the difficult and courageous decision of conscience he made in November, 2005, when he reversed his support for the Iraq war and called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the conflict.
“Alberto Mora and Congressman Murtha’s extraordinary acts of conscience will be remembered by Americans for generations to come,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “These two courageous individuals exemplify my father’s belief that each of us has the power to make a difference in our world. We are all inspired by their acts, and for standing up for what they believe despite the consequences. The United States is fortunate to have public servants with such integrity.”
"This year's award winners are two unique public officials whose courageous actions in speaking truth to power have made a significant difference for our country and have been an inspiration to all of us," said Senator Kennedy. "It's an honor to pay tribute today to Alberto Mora and Congressman John Murtha. They're profiles in courage, and I'm sure President Kennedy would be proud of their service."
The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have withstood strong opposition to follow what they believe is the right course of action. The award is named for President Kennedy’s book, Profiles in Courage, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers to fight for what they believed in. The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the Profile in Courage Award in 1989 to honor President Kennedy’s commitment and contribution to public service. It is presented in May in celebration of President Kennedy’s May 29th birthday.
Alberto J. Mora
In December 2002, Alberto J. Mora, then general counsel of the United States Navy, was alerted by Navy investigators to reports that detainees held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay were being subjected to cruel and unlawful interrogation practices. Mora, whose civilian position accorded him a rank equal to that of a four-star general, soon came to learn that the cruel and abusive practices of United States military interrogators at Guantanamo were the result of significant policy shifts at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Over the next three years, Mora waged a campaign inside the Bush Administration to prevent military and civilian leaders from codifying any policy that might implicitly or explicitly sanction the mistreatment of Guantanamo detainees as part of the war on terror.
Mora, a Republican who had led a distinguished career in public service and international law prior to his appointment to the Navy, argued that a policy allowing cruelty toward prisoners at Guantanamo left the door open for American military personnel to engage in torture of the kind that was later exposed at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq. Mora did not know of the abuse at Abu Ghraib when he warned Pentagon and other administration officials that the mistreatment of terror suspects and other prisoners would carry grave political consequences for the United States, and might expose U.S. interrogators and policy makers to criminal prosecution. In a 2004 internal memo to the Navy inspector general, Mora outlined his efforts to prevent the Administration from grounding policy in what he believed were flawed legal arguments that would permit the mistreatment of detainees and set off politically and morally disastrous chain reactions. The memo was made public in February 2006. Accounts of widespread prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo have continued to escalate. Earlier this year, Alberto Mora retired from his service to the U.S. government and returned to the private sector.
For his moral courage and his commitment to upholding American values, Alberto Mora is honored with the 2006 Profile in Courage Award.
John P. Murtha
In November 2005, John P. Murtha, a Vietnam War veteran and the ranking Democrat and former chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, galvanized debate about the war in Iraq by calling for the phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from the conflict. Murtha, who had voted in favor of the Iraq war, argued that American soldiers had become targets and “a catalyst for violence” in Iraq. His unexpected and dramatic reversal of support for the war put him at odds with military leaders, the Bush Administration, and many members of his own party.
While he was cheered in some quarters, Murtha’s call for an exit strategy sparked an angry backlash from war proponents, who accused him of wanting to “surrender to the terrorists.” Some complained that his comments were demoralizing to American troops serving in the conflict. Many of his fellow Democrats were reluctant to support him as long as public sentiment about the Iraq war remained opaque. Some critics publicly questioned whether Murtha deserved his Vietnam War decorations and demanded that his military records be opened to public inspection. Murtha refused to back down, instead stepping up his critique of the Administration’s handling of the Iraq war and demanding accountability.
As a combat veteran and a retired Marine Corps colonel with 37 years’ service in the U.S. military, Murtha’s decision to withdraw his support for the Iraq war carried particular weight. His decision to speak out against a protracted conflict shifted public sentiment about the war and generated a substantive national debate on the progress, policies and objectives of the U.S. presence in Iraq. Murtha continues to call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. He will seek re-election to the U.S. Congress in November 2006.
For his political courage and his dedication to principled public service, John P. Murtha is honored with the 2006 Profile in Courage Award.
Described by one recipient as the Nobel in Government, the Profile in Courage Award is represented by a sterling-silver lantern symbolizing a beacon of hope. The lantern was designed by Edwin Schlossberg and crafted by Tiffany & Co.
In selecting a recipient, the Profile in Courage Award Committee considers public servants who have demonstrated the kind of political courage described by John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Kennedy wrote:
In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience – the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men – each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient – they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.
Mora and Murtha were chosen as the recipients of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s prestigious award for political courage by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political, and community leaders. John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, chairs the 13-member Profile in Courage Award Committee. Committee members are Michael Beschloss, author and presidential historian; David Burke, former president of CBS News; U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi); Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund; Antonia Hernandez, president and chief executive officer of the California Community Foundation; Al Hunt, Washington managing editor of Bloomberg News; Elaine Jones, former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts); Paul G. Kirk, Jr., chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine); and Patricia M. Wald, former judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. John Shattuck, chief executive officer of the Kennedy Library Foundation, staffs the Committee. Mr. Shattuck is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and a former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic.
Past recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award are Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko; United States Army Sergeant Joseph Darby; Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin; former Texas Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff; Afghan physician and human rights activist Dr. Sima Samar; former North Carolina State Representative Cindy Watson; former Oklahoma State Senator Paul Muegge; former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes; former South Carolina Governor David Beasley; former Georgia State Representative Dan Ponder, Jr.; United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan; former Palos Heights, Illinois, Mayor Dean Koldenhoven; former U.S. President Gerald Ford; former California State Senator Hilda Solis; U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona; U.S. Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin; Garfield County, Montana Attorney Nickolas Murnion; Circuit Court Judge of Montgomery County, Alabama Charles Price; former Calhoun County, Georgia School Superintendent Corkin Cherubini; former U.S. Congressman Michael Synar of Oklahoma; U.S. Congressman Henry Gonzalez of Texas; former New Jersey Governor James Florio; former Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker, Jr.; former U.S. Congressman Charles Weltner of Georgia; and former U.S. Congressman Carl Elliott, Sr. of Alabama.
Special Profile in Courage Awards have been presented to the Irish Peacemakers, eight political leaders of Northern Ireland and the American chairman of the peace talks, in recognition of the extraordinary political courage they demonstrated in negotiating the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement and America’s public servants who demonstrated extraordinary courage and heroism in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement has also been presented to U.S. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Kennedy Presidential Library and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service. For more information about the Profile in Courage Award and the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, visit www.jfklibrary.org.
Brent Carney: (617) 514-1662