Election Integrity Spotlighted at JFK Profile in Courage Awards
California and Ohio Secretaries of State Join Former Governor of Mississippi as Honorees
Boston MA, May 12, 2008 – Debra Bowen, Secretary of State of California, and Jennifer Brunner, Secretary of State of Ohio, were presented the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™ today by Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy in recognition of their courageous leadership in challenging the reliability of their respective states’ electronic voting systems in a bid to ensure the integrity of every citizen’s vote.
Former Mississippi Governor William Winter was also honored as a profile in courage for his extraordinary leadership in championing educational opportunity and racial equality for generations of Mississippi citizens.
“With our nation immersed in the process of electing the next President of the United States, our confidence in the integrity and reliability of the voting system is of the utmost importance to our democracy,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “Secretaries of State Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner have each demonstrated exceptional leadership as they work to ensure the electorate is provided with a full and accurate count of the vote. Our political system depends on voter trust. Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner’s efforts to earn that trust have made them true profiles in courage.”
“Governor William Winter gives testimony to President Kennedy’s belief that politics can truly be a noble profession,” Kennedy continued. “His lifetime of public service, both to his country and his beloved state of Mississippi, has been distinguished by its devotion to equality and justice. His life-long dedication to ensuring equal opportunities in our nation’s educational system embodies what it means to be a profile in courage.”
“Secretary of State Debra Bowen of California and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner of Ohio understand the vital importance of the right to vote,” said Senator Edward M. Kennedy. “Facing uncertainty, voting irregularities and a disenchanted electorate, both of these officials stepped up to the plate, overcame intense resistance, and insisted on reform in electronic voting to prevent mistakes in the voting process, and make sure that all votes are promptly received and counted.”
“We commend the courageous leadership of Governor Winter on racial reconciliation and school reform in Mississippi,” continued Senator Kennedy. “That was no easy challenge in his state at the time, and he was defeated in his first two campaigns for governor. But he persisted, was elected Governor in 1979, as a true integrationist. He used his time in office brilliantly to pass a historic bill on equal education for all school children in the state, half of whom were African American.”
The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences. The award is named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers, incurring the wrath of constituents or powerful interest groups, by taking principled stands for unpopular positions. 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. 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.
Secretary of State, California
After a $450 million investment by California counties in electronic voting systems aimed at modernizing elections, newly elected Secretary of State Debra Bowen ordered an independent review of the new voting technologies to ensure they adequately protected the integrity of the vote. When the study revealed troubling flaws in the systems, Bowen strictly limited the use of direct-recording electronic voting machines, and imposed significant security and auditing requirements on systems to be used in California’s February 5 presidential primary election. Bowen’s decision was met with resistance by voting system vendors, who criticized the study’s design, and many county elections officials, who contended the switch to paper balloting would result in massive delays in the reporting of election results.
Secretary of State, Ohio
A series of voting irregularities in several major Ohio counties that use electronic voting systems led newly elected Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to order that paper ballots be provided to any voter who requested one during the state’s March 2008 presidential primary. Furthermore, after a study of the state’s new electronic voting systems – just two years old and representing millions in public investment – found that the systems made by several major voting machine manufacturers could be compromised, Brunner called for the replacement of all of the state’s electronic voting systems with paper ballots and optical scan technology before the November 2008 presidential election. Brunner’s proposal brought pointed and persistent criticism from partisans around the state; opponents of the move objected to the cost and questioned the necessity of returning to paper ballots.
Former Governor, Mississippi
As Governor of Mississippi in the early 1980’s, William Winter called the state legislature into special session to pass a landmark education reform proposal aimed at bringing uniform quality and racial tolerance to public education in Mississippi. Winter's Education Reform Act of 1982 was among the most significant pieces of legislation of its kind ever passed; among other reforms, it mandated statewide public kindergarten, compulsory school attendance, higher standards for teacher and student performance, and the creation of a lay state board of education. But the measure was hotly contested, and had been twice defeated before Winter led its passage just before Christmas, 1982. Less than two years later, Winter ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate. However, he continued to serve as a champion of public education, saying “the right to receive an adequate education is one of the most basic civil rights of all.” In 1997, Winter was appointed to President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race, and in 2005, he helped to lead Gulf Coast recovery efforts following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.
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.
Bowen, Brunner and Winter 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. Al Hunt, Washington Executive Editor of Bloomberg News, chairs the 14-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; Elaine Jones, director-counsel emeritus 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; Shari Redstone, President, National Amusements, Inc; John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University; 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 Houston Mayor Bill White; Superintendent of Schools for St. Bernard Parish, Doris Voitier; former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora; U.S. Representative John Murtha; 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; the Peacemakers of Northern Ireland who negotiated the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement; 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.
A Special Profile in Courage Award was presented to 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