Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin & Former Texas Senator Bill Ratliff
Named 2005 Profile in Courage Award Recipients
Army Specialist Joseph Darby to Receive Special Award
BOSTON (March 10, 2005) - Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Former Texas State Senator Bill Ratliff have been named the recipients of the 2005 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, it was announced today by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
Shirley Franklin, the first African American woman to serve as mayor of a major U.S. southern city, was recognized for her courageous leadership in restoring fiscal stability and ethical government to Atlanta. Facing an $82 million deficit upon taking office in 2001, Mayor Franklin formed an unprecedented alliance between Republicans, the business community and state government, raised taxes, cut the city payroll, and imposed a strict code of ethics. Four years later, Atlanta enjoys a budget surplus.
Bill Ratliff, former Texas Lt. Governor and state senator, was honored for a distinguished career as a courageous bipartisan leader in his state. Senator Ratliff's most recent act of courage was to fight for a fair and democratic electoral process, becoming the only Republican legislator to object to his party's redistricting plan. This principled action was the culmination of a distinguished career in Texas politics. Ratliff largely wrote and secured passage of landmark education legislation. He also worked to improve health insurance and access to Medicaid, while maintaining an inclusive style of governing in an era of sharp partisan politics.
U.S. Army Specialist Joseph M. Darby has been awarded a Special John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Darby is recognized for standing up for the principles imbedded in the rule of law when he took action to expose the torture and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. The Profile in Courage Award Committee recognized that although the courage demonstrated by Darby was somewhat different than that required by elective office, it was nonetheless deserving of recognition.
Franklin, Ratliff and Darby will be formally presented with the Profile in Courage Award by Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on Monday, May 16.
"Shirley Franklin and Bill Ratliff are an inspiration to all who serve in government, and to all Americans, for their principled and bipartisan leadership, and their willingness to make the difficult and unpopular decisions necessary for good governance," said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. "Not only has Franklin restored fiscal stability to her city, she has restored trust and confidence in government as well. Bill Ratliff showed great courage when he put his long and distinguished career of service at risk for the principle of fair and democratic elections which are the heart and soul of a successful democracy. Each has demonstrated political courage worthy of our gratitude."
Of Darby's recognition, Ms. Kennedy said, "Individuals who are willing to take personal risk to further the national interest and uphold the values of American democracy should be recognized and encouraged in all parts of government. Our nation is indebted to U.S. Army Specialist Joseph Darby for standing up for the rule of law that we embrace as a nation."
It was announced earlier this week that Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko will be presented with a 2005 Profile in Courage Award at a separate ceremony hosted by Ms. Kennedy and Senator Kennedy in early April when Yushchenko visits the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
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 American statesmen, the obstacles they faced, and the special valor they demonstrated despite the risks.
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.
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.
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin
Shirley Franklin is the first African American woman to serve as mayor of a major southern city. When Franklin took office in 2001, Atlanta was burdened by an $82 million budget deficit, a festering sewer crisis, and the public distrust of an electorate that had grown weary of the deeds and misdeeds of its elected leadership. Franklin responded to the city's budget shortfall by slashing 1000 city jobs and pressing the City Council into passing a 50% property tax increase. She also cut her own salary and staff, and implemented the strictest ethics rules in the state to counter the swelling official corruption that had plagued her predecessor. In 2003, she requested another tax hike to meet city expenses and to pay for sewer repairs to an outdated sewer system overflowing into local rivers. To address the century-old neglected sewer system, Franklin formed an unprecedented alliance between state and local officials, eventually negotiating a $500 million state loan that had initially been rejected by the Georgia Senate. Although she has taken several measures that many politicians would see as career-ending, Franklin has remained remarkably popular among Atlanta voters, who find her candor and straight-shooting calls for burden-sharing a welcome and refreshing change.
Former Texas State Senator Bill Ratliff
Senator Ratliff has five times made Texas Monthly magazine's prestigious "Best Legislators" roundup since coming to the Legislature in 1989. As Chair of the Texas Senate Education Committee, he secured passage of a controversial law dubbed "Robin Hood" by its opponents. This bill redistributed a percentage of property taxes from wealthy school districts to poorer ones. During his third legislative session, he completely rewrote Texas' outdated public education code on his laptop computer. Later as chair of the powerful finance committee, he twice oversaw the state's $100 billion-plus budget. During his 2001 legislative session, many attributed the spirit of civility directly to the new Lieutenant Governor's calm and inclusive leadership style. Among the most recent session's achievements were much needed schoolteachers' health insurance plan and easier access to Medicaid.
When Texas Republicans announced plans to draw new district lines in Texas for the second time since the 2000 census, Senator Ratliff broke ranks with his party and opposed the redistricting plan. As the sole dissenting Republican, Ratliff nearly derailed his party's efforts to pass it. Ratliff's vote denied the GOP the two-thirds majority it needed to carry out the plan. But Ratliff's action led Lt. Governor David Dewhurst to abandon the two-thirds rule, which prompted eleven Democrats to flee the state to New Mexico, where they remained for weeks in order to deprive Senate Republicans of a quorum.
Anticipating Dewhurst's decision, Ratliff said, "It is a serious mistake, because if that should happen, the Texas legislature will slide down that slope of a completely partisan operation on both sides." Four months after the standoff ended, Ratliff announced his resignation, and he requested a special election to fill his seat two years before his term expired. The GOP eventually won the battle to draw new district lines.
U.S. Army Specialist Joseph M. Darby
U.S. Army Specialist Joseph M. Darby, of Corriganville, Md., is credited with alerting officials to the alleged torture of Iraqi prisoners by members of his 372nd Military Police Company, based in Cumberland, Md. Darby was commended in a military report for promptly alerting superiors in January after discovering photographs of fellow 372nd Military Police Company personnel taking part in abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. Darby's tip led to an investigation of practices at the facility that have outraged people around the world and changed the tenor of America's war effort in Iraq. Darby wrestled with the consequences of reporting the abuse in Abu Ghraib and finally spoke out, he said, because what he saw was so "morally wrong." In August 2004, Darby and his family were forced to move out of their Maryland home and into protective custody due to death threats against them.
Darby's wife, Bernadette, says her husband's act of whistle blowing angered many people in their Western Maryland community. "People were mean, saying he was a walking dead man, he was walking around with a bull's eye on his head. It was scary," she told Reuters. Despite the threats, she believed her husband made the right choice exposing the torture and abuse. "Joe is the type of person to take what is going on around him and be like, 'How would I feel if that was my wife?'... He just could not live with himself knowing that that was happening and he did not do anything about it," she said.
Franklin, Ratliff, Darby and Yushchenko 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 fourteen-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; U.S. Representative Nancy Johnson (R-Connecticut); 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.
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.
Past recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award are 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 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.
Press contact: Tom McNaught (617) 514-1656